CMA Program Launches Health Care Careers

Kacie Haithcoat

Growing up, Kacie Haithcoat supported her mother through two bouts with breast cancer. Each time, her mom was treated at MU Health Care’s Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. The nurses’ compassion and concern made a big impression on Haithcoat, who started to consider a career in health care.

Now, she is a certified medical assistant at Ellis.

“I’ve worked with the nurses who took care of my mom,” Haithcoat said. “They’re still here, and they remember her, which says a lot about the nurses.”

Haithcoat completed a 10-month CMA training program offered by MU Health Care’s Career Institute in a partnership with Columbia College. MU Health Care covers the cost of hands-on training and online coursework. After earning their certification, the participants are guaranteed a full-time CMA job at MU Health Care with the understanding they will stay for two years.

CMAs assist doctors and nurses with administrative and patient care tasks. It is a similar position to a licensed practical nurse.

“They usually work with providers helping with clinic visits, checking patients in, doing vital signs and administering medications,” said Tiffany Nash, LPN, the clinical instructor and practicum coordinator of the CMA program.

The Career Institute offers training for several other positions, but the CMA program is the largest. New groups start in August and January, usually with about 10 students per group. Haithcoat heard about the program during her senior year at Battle High School in Columbia when Nash visited for a career day in 2018. Haithcoat decided it would be good preparation for becoming a nurse, which is her next goal.

CMA students must complete classes in medical terminology and anatomy and physiology, among other courses.

“There’s a lot of medical terminology I now know from working in the clinic and going through the program,” Haithcoat said. “There was this big ol’ book we had to go through for our medical terms, and we had to put the words together and take them apart. That was really, really helpful. Procedure-wise, it helps you triage what needs to be done and when it needs to be done.”

Peter Callan, MU Health Care’s senior director of talent, said the CMA program initially was just for MU Health Care employees, expanded for two years to include Columbia Public School graduates such as Haithcoat, and is now dedicated again to current employees who want to grow and move up in the organization.

As students complete the program, they interview with the clinical managers of multiple units to find the best match for their skills and interests. Haithcoat was thrilled when she was chosen to work at Ellis Fischel because of the connection she felt to the employees. She mostly works in the urologic oncology clinic but can help out in all of Ellis’ 11 clinics.

“Kacie has been a great addition,” said Kristin Barnes, RN, supervisor of Ellis Fischel’s outpatient clinics. “She wants to learn everything she can about all of our clinics and learn from the nurses. If she has administrative time, she’ll help someone do their work in clinic before she finishes what she’s doing. And she’s very good with the patients. She really cares about them.”

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