Western Piedmont Community College is preparing students to become future health care workers through the college’s medical assisting program.
The medical assisting program has been at Western Piedmont for more than 52 years, according to Rachel Bradshaw, director of allied health and new media at WPCC. The college was the first school in North Carolina to have an accredited medical assisting program, Bradshaw said.
The program itself offers students the opportunity to experience a variety of different sections in the health care field. Students are taught administrative, clinical and laboratory aspects of health care while enrolled in the program, Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw has been involved in the program for many years and has a passion for working with students on developing their careers in health care. She believes the medical assisting program offers students opportunities and support unlike any other.
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“So our program is different from a lot of others that are credited with a premier credential,” Bradshaw said. “Medical assistants train in three areas. They train in the administrative areas so they can do anything in the front office. They can make appointments, make referrals, and file your insurance, so anything in the front office. They also train in the clinical area, so they can give injections, medications, assist the doctor, set up for surgeries, do your vital signs and more.
“People think that nurses are the ones caring for them, but they’re actually medical assistants. Students are also trained in lab. They can draw blood, they can do CLIA waived testing, strep tests and they’re getting ready to learn how to do COVID-19 testing … They’re really valuable because they can work in any area in the office.”
Currently enrolled medical assisting students have endured trying times throughout their time in the program. Working through the pandemic, experiencing the loss of loved ones and more, students have had to continue to work hard through the program in order to finish strong, Bradshaw said.
Cynthia Torres, a second-year medical assisting student, really enjoys being a part of the program at WPCC. With the encouragement of a cherished family member, Torres found her passion working in health care.
“I decided to join this program because I was looking for something in the health care field,” Torres said. “My grandmother passed away a few years ago and I told her I was going to go into the medical field. I love helping people and I told her before she passed away that I would help take care of her. We just had such a special bond and so I told myself I would join the medical field and see how it goes.”
Students have the opportunity to be flexible with the career choices while enrolled in the program. Vicki Shuping, medical assisting instructor at WPCC, encourages students to apply to the program and see what resources they have to offer.
“The beauty of this program is that it gives you so much flexibility in that you cover every single area in a medical practice,” Shuping said. “Medical assisting is an excellent stepping stone. It is a rock foundation to get you where you may want to go in health care. Sometimes it takes getting into something and performing it to figure out where your niche is and where your interests lie.”
The Medical Assisting program accepts 30 students at a time and around 15 to 20 students typically graduate in the program, Bradshaw said.
The program is currently accepting new students for January enrollment at WPCC. There are seats available for the January enrollment period, but students who are interested in the program are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, Shuping said.
There also are programs available for high school students interested in health care. High school students are eligible to begin their general education classes during their senior year to complete their degree at WPCC faster, Bradshaw said.
Despite most students not knowing what field they want to go into right out of high school, the Medical Assisting program offers a variety of learning opportunities in the field of medicine. Shuping encourages students to learn more about the Medical Assisting program if they’re interested in health care.
“I encourage students that if you’re not sure where you want to be and what you want to be, start here and let us build you a foundation that will then give you the tools to help you determine where it is I want to go next,” Shuping said.
For more information on the WPCC Medical Assisting program, visit wpcc.com.
Sydni Hall is a staff writer and can be reached at 828-432-8907 or at email@example.com.