MANATEE -- Imagine 95 percent of a newly graduated class of certified medical assistants passing the national certification exam on their first try.
The nationwide average for successful first-time test takers is 69 percent.
The unusually high graduation rate was achieved by the 24-member Manatee Technical Institute 2012 class of certified medical assistants, according to the American Association of Medical Assistants.
The graduation rate was just one of a pair of rare certification events enjoyed by the local school. The MTI orthopedic technology program this year also was recognized by The National Association of Orthopaedic Technologists, which recognized only seven other U.S. programs, said Maura Howl, MTI spokeswoman.
MTI, which operates from several campuses in Manatee County, offers post-secondary career and technical education under the auspices of The School District of Manatee County.
CMAs nearly perfect
Josielynn Williams, 22, of Sarasota, said the MTI-certified medical assistant program she is taking prepares students at a high level, but even she is surprised by the 95 percent pass rate.
"The program is amazing," Williams said Friday. "We have hands-on training as well as bookwork."
Jane Arnoldi, CMA program director for nine years, developed the course from which roughly 200 have graduated. She was also a bit stunned by the high graduation rate.
"That is the highest we have ever been," Arnoldi said Friday. "We have been hovering around 89 percent. This puts us in the 96 percentile. We have reached a benchmark for our program."
"Anything is possible," Arnoldi said with a laugh when asked if the program could achieve 100 percent. "I just look at the data and see 95 percent and it leads me to believe we are doing something right. Our goal is to give them knowledge and help them be successful and to find employment."
CMA program growing
Williams, who graduated from Sarasota Military Academy, wasn't sure exactly what she wanted to do with her career until she came across certified medical assistant. CMAs give injections, draw blood, do
EKGs and urine analysis, call in prescriptions, answer patient phone calls, make appointments and schedule hospital visits, among other duties.
MTI's program is 1,300 hours, or roughly 13 months, and is held 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Right now, demand is strong for CMAs who can earn $13 to $14 an hour to start, Arnoldi said.
"Wages are all over the place," Arnoldi said. "I would say the median for a starter is $14 to start, but some are getting more. CMAs are the ones who bring you back to the treatment room and get you ready to see the doctor. They are also the ones who can do billing and coding, so they can do double duty."
CMA training includes 230 hours at a physician's office. Williams' will begin Nov. 1 at Family Health and Wellness, 6050 53rd Ave. E., Bradenton.
"What I like about it is that I can do clinical, which is taking blood or giving injections, or administrative, which is billing and coding," Williams said of being a CMA. "I am trained in both."
Like most students, Williams was a bit timid at first about using needles or giving injections.
"We started practicing on a mannequin's arm and, once we learned the safety techniques, we practiced on each other," Williams said. "An instructor was always close by. After about the third time we were all comfortable."
The MTI CMA program costs about $5,950, which includes tuition, lab fees, books, uniforms, tools and supplies, Howl said.
"There are scholarships," Howl said. "We offer federal financial aid like any college. We have PELL grants and the supplemental education opportunity grant as well as federal work study. The only thing we don't offer are student loans." The course is not offered on line.
The next CMA course at MTI starts Jan. 7 at MTI's East Campus, 5520 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., near Lakewood Ranch High School.
The National Association of Orthopaedic Technologists has approved the MTI program, so students are eligible to sit for a certification exam given by the National Board for Certification of Orthopaedic Technologists following graduation, said David Richards, MTI director and instructor of orthopedic technology.
"Here at MTI, we have created a program for the type of person who would like to be able to go into an orthopedist's office and work with patients, helping a doctor reduce fractures and putting casts on patients, taking X-rays and other duties," Richards said.
Orthopedic techs start out in Florida earning between $35,000 and $42,000 annually, which is close to the lowest in the nation for the profession, Richards said.
The fee for the 800-hour MTI program is about $6,000, Richards said. Classes meet 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays at the MTI East campus. "The last six weeks they go to a doctor's office," Richards said.
Sarasota Orthopedics, Bradenton's Coastal Orthopedics and Florida Orthopedics in Tampa are three organizations students visit for externships.
The next MTI orthopedic tech class begins Monday at the MTI East Campus.
Those interested in either the certified medical assistant or orthopedic tech programs may call MTI career counselor Ronai Krugh at 941-752-8100, ext. 2038.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.MAs