By Talitha Basinski, MSN-Ed., RN

You’ve been accepted into a Medical Assistant (MA) program! Congratulations! Now what…?

Most MA programs have three components- didactic, lab, and clinical. Combined, these components prepare you to get a job as a medical assistant.

The didactic part is where you learn by reading, watching videos, listening to lectures, or completing assignments. Depending on the program, the didactic portion may be in person or online. During the didactic portion, you will learn about the theory behind what medical assistants do. For example, you will learn what blood pressure is, what happens when blood pressure is too high or too low, and what to do if your patient has abnormal blood pressure. Once you have learned this, you will attend an in-person lab where you will be taught how to take a person’s blood pressure.

The lab is where all of the hands-on learning happens. In the lab, you will learn to take vital signs, give injections, perform an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), and draw blood, among other things. Your professor will demonstrate the skill and help you practice until you are competent and confident.

Once the didactic and lab portions are done, you can do a clinical practicum. For this you will go to a doctor’s office or clinic and put your newly learned skills to work! Don’t worry; you will be paired with an experienced medical assistant who will help guide you through all the steps. Most MA programs will also send an instructor to your clinical site to check in with you. This is the time to let them know of any challenges you are having. MA programs can be pretty challenging and time-consuming. Good time management is key to success in an MA program. One way to manage your time includes writing due dates and lab dates on a calendar or planner. You may also want to set aside time each day to study or program reminders into your phone or calendar for assignments. If time management is not your strength, contact your professor to see what resources they may have for you in this area. And always reach out to your professor if you are struggling with the coursework. Their job is to help you succeed, so take advantage of their knowledge and experience!