Serving as the first point of contact for patients, medical assistants (MAs) are among the unsung heroes of the healthcare community. These multi-skilled health professionals perform both administrative and clinical duties to keep the offices of health practitioners running smoothly. Thanks to their versatile skills, MA positions are in high demand and there is steep competition for these qualified workers, leading to higher job placement rates after graduation. According to a study by Jessica L. Friedman and Dana Neutze published in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine in May 2020, the MA turnover rate during 2017 was 59% and the per-MA cost of turnover was $14,200. The increased number of MA vacancies in healthcare facilities results in registered nurses (RNs) performing MA-level tasks, eventually leading to burnout and turnover for nurses. This, in turn, produces a domino effect of unmet patient needs, canceled procedures due to staffing shortages, and a general decrease in positive care outcomes.

Dignity Health Global Education (DHGE) and Mercy College PLUS (MercyPLUS), the newly launched online education expansion of the renowned Mercy College of Health Sciences, are launching one of the country’s only CAAHEP-accredited, online Medical Assisting programs that prepares graduates to become a Certified Medical Assistant (AAMA) to fill these shortages.

A win-win situation for future MAs and health systems alike
The Medical Assisting program presents a unique opportunity for health systems to engage future Certified MAs either from the day students enroll or during the 160 clinical rotation. “Our partners have seen great success with creating positions for ‘student medical assistants’,” says Andrew Gress, Director of Enrollment Management at Mercy College of Health Sciences. “This means that students work in the health system throughout the entirety of the program instead of just during their clinicals or after having earned their certification. They are learning the profession in the context of that health system, resulting in reduced onboarding and orientation time after graduation. It also reduces employee turnover significantly, especially when tuition reimbursement is tied to a work commitment. Starting at $10,000, the program is extremely affordable, even more so when health systems make use of their existing tuition reimbursement programs and state grants. The investment is more than worth it.”

An entry-point into a fulfilling, life-long career
“This program is a great way to get into the healthcare profession,” says Julie DeLoia, PhD, Chief Academic Officer of DHGE and a Member of the Board of Directors at Mercy College of Health Sciences. “The job opportunities for MAs are out there, with a projected growth of 19% from 2019 to 2029 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To put this into perspective, the growth projection is only 4% on average for all occupations. Earning your Medical Assistant (AAMA) Certification is a start to a lifelong profession in healthcare with a lot of room for professional growth. Many MAs are able to employ their holistic knowledge of healthcare operations to eventually manage clinics. Others use their Medical Assisting education as a stepping stone to becoming nurses or enter other areas of healthcare. It’s a fulfilling career and a good way to give back to your community and be part of the solution.”

A student-centric and employment-oriented learning experience 
DHGE’s expertise in the science of learning, coupled with MercyPLUS’s 120-year legacy in educating healthcare professionals, has created a truly student-centric learning experience. Throughout the hybrid program, high-quality 100% online coursework is paired with two hands-on, six-hour skill boot camps and 160 in-person clinical hours designed to make graduates job-ready. Graduates of the Mercy College of Health Sciences in-person program have had a 100% job placement rate (Source: 2018 graduate cohort). With the move to a hybrid format, this program will be available to many more potential students and thus supply well-qualified graduates to fill MA vacancies throughout the nation.

Immersive, practice-based online learning
“Throughout the past year, online learning hasn’t had the best reputation — seeing as in-person programs had to be moved online practically overnight, this is understandable,” says Nicole DeJong, Director of Learning Experience Design at DHGE. “That’s why we’re even more proud of the learning experience we have created for this program. It’s truly immersive and practice-based learning. For example, we employ medical office simulation software so that learners can practice the exact tasks they will do on the job in a safe environment. Additionally, we have strategies in place to build a social learning community throughout the program. Learners can exchange ideas and network across multiple health systems even before they meet in-person during their skill boot camps.”

Students are prepared to pass the Certified Medical Assistant (AAMA) Exam and find employment
“Students also have access to their personal MercyPLUS Enrollment Coach who can help with any question from ordering textbooks, to tuition reimbursement, to career advice,” adds Gress. “We want students to know that we care about their success. Our involvement in their success doesn’t end with good learning content, or even once the student graduates. Our Medical Assisting program is a holistic pathway to employment. The entire experience is geared toward gaining all the right knowledge and earning all the right skills. We prepare students to pass the Certified Medical Assistant (AAMA) Exam with several practice quizzes, and we help graduates get a job even before the program ends. To us, it’s about helping people find their place in healthcare and supporting them as they make a positive impact in their communities.”

About DHGE Dignity Health Global Education
(DHGE) is the leading healthcare workforce development company. Dedicated to providing customized educational opportunities and a student-centric experience, we develop online programs and workforce development solutions with industry, for industry. We achieve this goal by partnering with top-ranked academic institutions and thought-leading professionals.

About Mercy College PLUS
Since 1899, Mercy College of Health Sciences has been empowering students with the training, knowledge, and education necessary to become successful healthcare professionals. Mercy College PLUS continues this legacy by expanding online education designed in collaboration with industry experts. With multiple start dates per year, affordable tuition, and generous transfer credit acceptance, students can advance their healthcare careers in a manner and time that is convenient for them.