You are curious about medical assisting (MA) and have heard some promising things about this growing field. But before you feel confident about going for this degree, you want to know the steps it takes to get there.
Actually, let’s back up a little first. Before certification, and while earning your degree, you’ll complete a medical assistant internship, which can also be known as an externship. Whether getting hands-on experience before you’re certified excites, scares or just plain annoys you, it’s important you know what the internship experience is like before making any decisions.
The MA internship: the basics
An internship is like a new job – both are a little scary on the first day, when you have no idea what’s going to happen. Knowing the experience of others can be helpful. We reached out to two people at Rasmussen College to get a good idea of what the experience is like both from those that help facilitate it and those who have recently experienced it.
When do MA internships take place?
Before you even start a degree program it’s important to know about the timing of the internship. Internships generally happen near the end of your coursework, after you’ve spent plenty of time in the classroom. At Rasmussen College, internships happen year-round because students are on different schedules, says Melissa Johnson, Rasmussen College MA program coordinator.
How do students prepare for the internship experience?
How will you know you’re prepared to tackle an internship? Easy – your coursework will help you. At Rasmussen College, Johnson says “PATH” is important in the classroom. PATH stands for professionalism, attitude, time-management, and hygiene. Students have to grade themselves every week on these four areas to mentally prepare themselves. The goal is that the classroom experience will mimic the clinical environment so that students are not only comfortable with their skills, but are professionally prepared as well.
Teachers are an important part of internship prep, too. Soon-to-be graduate Danielle Maggiolo said that her teachers really worked to help her be ready for the clinic experience.
How does internship placement work?
Students can be placed in any clinic that Rasmussen College has an affiliation agreement with, including specialty clinics, Johnson says. However, where a student is placed is not just left to chance. A quarter before the internship, students will fill out a form indicating their internship preferences.
“I became really close with my teachers,” says Maggiolo. “I felt like they knew what I needed. I was placed in a midwife clinic, which was one of my top three choices and within the geographical area where I was looking.”
How much responsibility are students given during their MA internship?
The responsibilities students are given depends on the clinic. Students will likely shadow other MAs, observing their work. Johnson says the MA-in-training will be probably be given responsibilities such as rooming a patient, answering phones or perhaps even drawing blood under supervision.
Maggiolo started with shadowing and then moved on to rooming patients, blood-draw and administrative work.
“With the responsibility I was given, I felt like I was part of the staff and that I was learning exactly what I needed to learn without being treated like I was just a student,” she says.
How do students balance an MA internship and classes?
Students will need to complete all of their core courses before they are eligible for the internship. The internship is a 240-hour of commitment along with a capstone course, and although it’s not easy, Johnson says most students find a way to balance everything.
“If you’re dedicated, you can do it,” agrees Maggiolo, mother of two. During her internship, she was also working a 20-hour-a-week job and still thrived. “I even got A’s in my courses that quarter! If I can do it, anybody can do it."
Will an internship result in a job offer?
Though there are no guarantees, Johnson says that if the student has done well in their internship and the clinic has an opening, students often will be offered a position. If there is no opening at that specific clinic, the supervisor will often help the student get a job at another clinic.
“I was offered as a job a week before I was done,” Maggiolo says. “I think if you put all your effort into it, keep a positive attitude and show them that this is what you really want, getting a job is attainable.”
Is MA the right career for you?
As you can see, a lot goes into a medical assistant internship, from timing and schedule juggling to the actual duties you’ll have at the clinic. If you’re interested in becoming an MA, an MA internship will certainly get you on the right path.
Now that you have had a peek into what a medical assistant internship looks like, you may be ready and excited to jump right into your education. But there’s also a chance you still have some lingering questions. If you need a better idea of what it takes to be an MA, read up on the skills you’ll need to succeed and feel confident in the career.