Georgia Highlands College is trying to fill a severe gap in the medical field.
For spring semester, the college's Center for Continuing and Professional Education will launch its Health Careers Training Institute and will add three new programs — clinical medical assistant, pharmacy technician and phlebotomy technician — to its already-successful certified nursing assistant program, which is a prerequisite for entering GHC's nursing program.
Director of Continuing Education George White said one of the main reasons his department exists is workforce training.
"Allied health jobs continue to be in demand," he said. "Clinical medical assistant, pharmacy technician and phlebotomy technician were selected for several reasons."
Local employers reached out to the college "expressing an interest in a phlebotomy program, asking if we would consider offering one," White said.
As for the pharmacy technician and clinical medical assistant positions, there is "currently a training gap in Bartow County and beyond," he said.
"Pharmacy technician training used to be a diploma program offered at the local technical college," he said. "In recent years, the program has been moved to a non-credit certificate program offered only online. While online training has its place, not every student is suited for online, self-paced learning."
Also, White said, the GHC programs include externships and national certification, if the student passes the exam.
"I know of no other training program in the area that includes these important components at our price point," he said.
And finally, the three programs "appeal to the nontraditional student," White said.
"Not every student has the luxury of attending class from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday for two years," he said. "These programs are short-term and are offered on Saturdays or in the evenings. Successful completers will be career-ready in three to nine months, depending on the program and student availability for externship."
White found a need for affordable, short-term allied health training in Bartow, Cobb, Cherokee, Douglas and Floyd counties after examining other local college programs.
“What sets GHC’s Health Careers Training Institute apart from other local training programs is the affordability," he said. “Additionally, tuition for all three programs includes externships, where students will receive hands-on, realistic, on-the-job experience.”
Tuition for the programs ranges from $1,599 to $2,399, and students will have the option of enrolling in an interest-free payment plan due to GHC's partnership with Georgia-based Career Training Solutions, which specializes in allied health certificate training, White said.
"Career Training Solutions recruits and trains instructors, with GHC participating in the selection process and having final say over whether or not a candidate is hired," he said.
A degree or diploma is not required to be employed as a clinical medical assistant, pharmacy technician or phlebotomy technician, White said.
"However, most employers are looking for training and experience," he said. "Because each of these programs includes an externship, in addition to the classroom training, students are getting hands-on experience in the workplace."
As for enrollment requirements, White said he recommends all students have their high school diploma or GED and a clean background since many employers require a high school education and a background check.
Pharmacy technician applicants are required to register in Georgia and must undergo a background check. For clinical medical assistants and phlebotomy technicians, a diploma or GED is required for national certification.
The training programs will be offered at the Cartersville campus as well as the Douglasville location and Heritage Hall in Rome beginning in January, and students may begin registering immediately, White said.
Classroom training for the two technician positions is 10 weeks — 70 hours — with a 40-hour externship, and the clinical medical assistant program is 18 weeks of classroom training, followed by a 160-hour externship, White said.
"Students can expect to complete the pharmacy technician and phlebotomy technician programs and be employment-ready in as little as three to four months," he said. "The clinical medical assistant program takes approximately seven to nine months to complete."
Once they finish the program, students will receive a certificate of completion and will be able to sit for national certification exams, which are covered in registration fee, through the National Healthcareer Association.
Those who pass their credentialing exam will become a certified clinical medical assistant, a certified pharmacy technician or a certified phlebotomy technician.
Anyone interested in learning more about these programs is invited to a free open house Thursday at 6 p.m. at GHC's Cartersville campus at 5441 Highway 20.
During the event, which should last 45 minutes to an hour, students will receive a brief overview of each program and information on the payment plan, be able to register for classes and enjoy giveaways and light refreshments.
"The information session is ideal for students who are undecided on which program to take," White said.
For more specific information and to meet the instructor, students should plan to attend one of the program-specific information sessions: phlebotomy technician, Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. at Heritage Hall; clinical medical assistant, Jan. 12 at 10 a.m. at the Cartersville campus; and pharmacy technician, Jan. 12 at noon at Cartersville.
For more information or to register for the free session, call 888-308-0737.