Demand for Medical Assistants Drives Success of HCDE Adult Education Collaboration with Dean’s Staffing

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October 15, 2020 by HCDE-Texas

At 47, Charissa Nealey found the long hours she worked to make ends meet at minimum wage jobs were taking time away from her children. As she applied for medical assistant positions, most employers wanted to see a certification.

She enrolled in a free, virtual, six-week medical assistant certification course which is a collaborative between Harris County Department of Education Adult Education and Dean’s Professional Services. She had taken the exam and failed four times in the past. Within six weeks, Nealey gained her certification after studying for the rigorous exam.

 

Salary ranges for her new profession will be $12-$28 an hour with the certification. She can work in hospitals, doctors’ offices or specialty clinics.

 

“As a woman who has learned a lot within these last couple of years of life, the only way for you to fail is when you don’t try,” she said. “Your children see what you do, not what you say.”

Lakisha Hunter is the HCDE Adult Education teacher who coteaches the Medical Assistant Certification course with a licensed vocational nurse. As instructor, Hunter works with students on test-taking skills, resume writing, interviewing, and reviewing the 17 modules required to pass the test.

HCDE Adult Education provides classes in GED preparation, English as a second language and other workforce development programs in construction and medical fields throughout Harris County. Programs are supported through the Texas Workforce Commission.

The medical assistant certification class is now virtual and is offered online in the evenings, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday so that students may still work while preparing for their certification.

“You get the flexibility of being home, but because you are in your personal environment, it’s important for students to stay focused,” Hunter said.

Projected growth in the medical assistant profession is fueled by the aging baby-boomer population. From 2019-2029, it’s estimated that there will be a 19 percent demand in growth for the profession.

Deans Staffing Education Director Josh Allen says the three-hour exam is rigorous and has an average national pass rate of 76 percent. A two-year partnership with HCDE and Dean’s has resulted in approximately 200 students passing the test, averaging an 86 percent pass rate, well above  the national average, according to Allen.

Many candidates in the class already have experience in the medical field, Allen said, who has 11 years of experience in the hospital industry himself. After passing the test, his company helps students gain employment.

The pairing between HCDE Adult Education and Dean’s Staffing is a synergy of sorts as the medical instruction teacher and the adult education study skills teacher debrief each day and talk about which students need assistance with material review and learning strategies.

“We look for students who are dedicated with a sense of commitment and motivation,” Allen said. “You can have a bad day, but we really need someone with perseverance who will see this to the end.”

The medical assistant program can lead to further opportunities as many institutions such as hospitals provide career advancement for their employees. As the latest student to pass the test, Nealey looks at the opportunity as a medical assistant certification as a steppingstone.

“I’m a single parent, and with a medical assistant certification I can work in many medical jobs,” Nealey said. “It’s a great accomplishment to be able to learn something within a six-week span and earn a certification.

“This certificate has upped the ante on what I needed to do with my life—it really has.”

(To inquire about future classes in the medical assistant certification program, go to www.hcde-texas.org/adulteducation .)

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