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Night class gives locals a leg-up in medical field

November 16, 2012

Laura Smith (far right) instructs her Medical Assisting students – (l-r) Anita Haenni, Shawnee Nelson, Gabby Santana, Briana Santana, Brittany Burton, Katy Bowland and Emma Perez – in anatomy, physiology, medical terminology and various skills needed to enhance their medical professional lives. Photo by Marilyn Blake Philip

An ongoing vocational night class offers interested community members an introduction to skills needed to enter the medical assisting profession.
The current Medical Assisting: Intro to Front and Back Offices adult night class is being held 5:30-8 p.m. on Tuesdays in room 136 at Bishop Union High School. “The class was started to help people find good jobs,” said instructor Laura Smith, “to provide an introduction to the skills needed to work as a medical assistant in a variety of medical settings … I have had physician offices call me to refer students to them.”
The 13-week, tuition-free class is offered through the Regional Occupation Program of the Inyo County Superintendent of Schools. There is a required textbook and “most students find good inexpensive texts online,” said Smith.
Although students won’t earn college credit, those who complete all scholastic and attendance requirements receive a certificate of completion, which “displays the main skills learned … such as introduction to medical terminology, basic anatomy and physiology, medical office communications, patient vital signs/assessment and CPR and First Aid certification.” The certificate is honored by many medical employers, Smith added. “It is also a strong statement of the ambition and initiative of the applicant.”
Current Medical Assisting student Anita Haenni, a personal home health aide/CNA for Pioneer Home Health in Bishop, said she enrolled to beef up her resumé “for future opportunities … to be better prepared.” Classmate Gabby Santana said the class seemed interesting and plans to take “CNA classes and see where all of it leads me.” Santana added that she finds herself putting some of the terminology and skills learned in class to use in her home life.
The curriculum includes lecture and discussion, hands-on training, student presentations, a Northern Inyo Hospital field trip “and a lot of studying outside of class,” said Smith.
In addition to a lot of homework, the Medical Assisting class has other challenges. Since it meets only once weekly, explained Smith, students must be consistently self-motivated and self-disciplined. Haenni found the anatomy, physiology and medical terminology to be challenging, as did Santana. “That and getting up in front of the class to do presentations and role play,” Haenni added, “but the challenge is enjoyable.”
The class definitely has its upsides, said Smith and her students. “I love being able to share knowledge … to feel their excitement as they learn … being able to help others obtain a higher quality of life. I especially love seeing the results,” she said, adding that some of her students are now working in the medical field locally. Some of the curriculum can also be used in everyday life in terms of “general health, nutrition, first-aid skill and even how to help save a life,” she added.
According to Haenni and Santana, Smith is also one of the upsides of the class. Haenni said she enjoys Smith’s calm demeanor and ability to either answer any question or to point students in the right direction to find answers. Santana added, “Laura is a great teacher. She really cares about her students and makes class fun.”
Smith is a registered nurse and credentialled teacher with “years of experience at NIH, Inyo County Health Department and Inyo County Office of Education,” she said. Smith is also certified as a health consultant, fitness trainer and American Red Cross instructor.
The next Medical Assisting class will begin on Jan. 22. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9 and can only be done by telephone. A word to the wise, “the class is very popular,” said ROP Coordinator Sophie Kenn, who advises potential students to call early on registration day because it often fills up within a few hours. To register, call (760) 873-3262 ext. 221.

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