Medical assisting is an in-demand job in the state of Alabama. At Enterprise State Community College there is a joint program sponsored by the Wiregrass Center of Excellence that brings the medical assisting program at Wallace Community College closer to schools in areas such as Enterprise and its surrounding communities.
With this joint academic venture students take college courses at ESCC that allow them to get a head start on courses toward a medical assisting degree at Wallace Community College.
“I think it's a great opportunity for students that maybe don't have these courses at their specific high school to be able to take advantage of such an opportunity that we've got here at ESCC,” said Dr. Brent Hanchey, director of the Wiregrass Center of Excellence.
The first class students take is medical terminology and for the students it’s somewhat like learning another language. The course will last a semester and then students will move into another course that they can take towards their medical assisting degree.
Students come dressed for the part as part of the preparation they take on to become medical field employees. “But they all have to come dressed in their scrubs,” said Hanchey. “It gives the appearance of being a simulated workplace. They have to come dressed in their scrubs.”
Medical assistants, according to Hanchey, involves, “providing a means of communication between patients, doctors, and other healthcare providers. That includes verifying information by interviewing a patient, recording their medical history, preparing patients for examinations by performing physical tests, taking their blood pressure, taking their weight, temperature and pulse.” They are the first point of contact usually when a patient comes into a doctor’s office.
In terms of tiers, if a student doesn’t want to work towards becoming a nurse but wants to work in the medical field this is something that they can do that will give them entry.
The medical terminology course is fast paced and includes learning a large amount of information. This is the first college class that many enrolled in the terminology course have taken so there has been some anxiety about their first college class, said Hanchey.
“But we are there to undergird them and make sure that they are doing well in their courses,” said Hanchey. “This is kind of a step between going from high school to college that we can provide to them, like I said, to undergird them to make sure they are successful.”
For now the students have Dr. Hanchey and Angela Brockman, career coach, to help them along the way. “We're hoping that this will kind of protect and nurture them until we do push them out of the nest, and then they can go on to college and be successful.”
The course instructor uses Blackboard, a learning management system to communicate with students and for them to get their assignments turned in. Along with getting students prepared for college level learning, the medical assisting program allows the industry to grow within the state.
“It's allowing us to really fill the workforce gap that exists in the medical industry by having this medical assisting program here on the campus at ESCC,” said Hanchey. “Because there is a huge workforce gap, and I think the demand is going to be there, based on the numbers for them to fill the 285 medical assistant positions that they need on an annual basis. This will be by year 2024, so that's eight years out. That's a while.”
Hanchey described the position as a win-win for both the students and the industry.
Kayleigh McDurmont, a student in the class said, “At the first month, we were just kind of like in our own little groups but now we all interact. That's so fun to learn and meet other people that enjoy the same thing as you. I love it.”
Brandie Yeomans, course instructor, has taught the course for six years. She’s the first teacher from Wallace Community College teaching the medical assisting course to the area students on ESCC’s campus.
“For these students in the Enterprise area, this is our first opportunity to get to work with them,” Yeomans said. “It has been great. They have great soft skills.”
Yeomans has been impressed with the student’s work ethic and attentiveness in class, even with diving in to such a difficult course.
“It is a lot of material,” said Yeomans. “It is kind of fast paced because there is so much to cover. For these students that are in high school taking on a college class in addition, that is such an amazing thing to say. They're really stepping out of the box and doing something out of their comfort zone to try to better themselves. Some of these students are even in AP, or accelerated honors type classes.”
Along with six years of teaching Yeomans has 20 plus years of experience in the field and uses that knowledge and practice to instill lessons that are appropriate to the student’s learning.
“I can come in and tell them about funny little stories or quirkyisms that help them remember certain things,” Yeomans said. “I can relate to things that I'm teaching in the textbooks with real life scenarios. I also have a child their age. I know what I need to say for them to have that light to go off. It’s real fun that I get to share the things that I've done and I've learned, maybe even some things that I've learned from not doing the right thing as a young person. How to be better, right?”
Yeomans instruction goes beyond the classroom. She encourages them daily about being sage in their lives. “Every day they leave, they hear, ‘Make wise choices.’ Right? Make wise choices,” she says to her students.