Stephen Groessel photos
In the medical assistant program at Fox Valley Technical College Regional Center in Chilton students practice on one another the drawing of blood.

Harder said she teaches different tricks for dealing with patients who are fearful of needles and the sight of blood, ways of putting them at ease. Class lectures focus on the care of patients from kids to the elderly, on veins that roll, difficult patient types, on calling in reinforcements, and fainting resolved by taking blood from patients lying down. Lots of hands-on experience equips students working in an emergnecy room to put aside stress amd be at the top of their game, she said.

While one can be book smart and pass exams, Harder said one has to have a compassionate heart and put others first, being patient with the elderly and resisting rolling one’s eyes when encountering amusing and challenging moments.

Medical assistants are assigned to an area clinic or hospital for a six week period of internship where they gain real world practical experience. “It is there that they put everything they have learned into practice,” Harder said. Medical assistants are given five years to take state board exams through which they become certified medical assistants affording them a wider range of employment. Harder said study guides are provided on what they need to know.

Nursing assistants too work in hospitals and emergency rooms. The step beyond nursing assistant status is certified nursing assistant and the rank of licensed practical nurse follows that.

Every program at the Regional Center has an advisory committee made up of people who work in that particular industry who look at the curriculum and make recommendations. A lot of the recommendations are adopted,

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Schnell said. If a recommended change in the curriculum is adopted, a team of instructors sits down and incorporates the changes. Such recommendations have been helpful in the employment of students. “Our placement rate has been very good” Schnell said.

Plans are under way to hold a health fair at the Regional Center in August on the different health occupations and services in the area. Not only will the medical lab be showcased but all else that is offered here. The fair is an opportunity to learn what the need is out there. We want people to tell us what that need is and we will fulfill it. That is our goal, said Schnell.

Soft skills taught

Soft skills or so-called people skills are a huge part of the medical assistant program. Bedside manner and communication skills are practiced by the students on one another in role playing settings. Feedback is reported on how one felt he or she was treated, what the comfort level was, and whether a happy face was displayed, all measured by another’s attitude and body language. The conversation between the medical provider and the patient must be warm, and absent of intimidation, Schnell said.

A mandatory orientation which students receive before embracing any course of study is a screening process to determine one’s aptitude. That especially applies to the medical field where students sit down with career specialists and counselors. For instance prospective medical assistant students meet a few times with someone regarding their expectations. They are asked, “Can you handle working with blood, bodily functions and the like?”

Students need to realize up front what is involved in terms of time commitment. During the nine months of instructional time, students won’t have a whole lot of free time. If one is juggling a home life and a part-time job with classes and homework one needs to be very dedicated, Schnell said.

For the most part, students armed with dedication and commitment do well in this field, Schnell said. She added that learning disability students can receive help from support services at the Appleton site. When necessary, students need to be willing to ask for help.

Harder added that as instructors their job is to help students see the picture underneath and gain an appreciation of one’s body; have respect for it and how we can abuse it and yet how it bounces back. Students are taught about the function of the body’s organs and the role of nutrition.

In the end, Harder said success is having lots of passionate instructors who care and want to be here, viewing their work as more than a job. They know the students by name and give more time than they are piad for just so the students are successful.