Dear Program Directors, 

I wanted to provide an update to the email that was sent on March 9, 2020, as I know that all of you are making adjustments and responding to institutional requirements in responding to COVID-19.  We are in an environment in which requirements and restrictions are changing on an hourly basis. 

First, I wanted to let you know that the MAERB office will be moving to an online environment due to the restriction put in place in the city of Chicago. Please be assured that we will be providing you with the same support that we would provide if we were seated behind our usual desks.  Jim Hardman (jhardman@maerb.org) and I (smarino@maerb.org) will be responding to all the emails, so please continue to send us your questions and concerns as you deal with the impact of COVID-19 and its effect on your community.  Bethany, Tasha, and Irene will not be available, but Jim and I will be monitoring their emails, so we will respond to whatever questions you have.   

I would like to reiterate some of the points that I made in the email that I sent to you all on Monday, March 9, 2020, as we are learning more about the situations that Program Directors are encountering.  

  • Many of you are being asked to put more of your didactic material online so that students do not need to come to class meetings. This would not require MAERB approval as long as none of the psychomotor and affective competencies in the following content areas are taught online:  Anatomy & Physiology; Infection Control; and Protective Practices.  Program Directors have told us that they are putting into place a variety of options: 1. Giving students incompletes and planning for educational sessions after the term ends so that the students can achieve the competencies; 2. Holding individual sessions for students to limit mingling so that students can achieve the competencies; 3. Altering schedules so that the competencies are taught later in either the term or the program with the goal of making sure the competencies are covered.  I am sure that there are other options, so I will continue to keep you updated. 
  • Some programs are extending the academic term so that students can complete the necessary in-person affective and psychomotor competencies for their coursework. This would not require MAERB approval as it is an institutional decision, and the accreditation requirements are being fulfilled. 
  • Some programs are finding that the practicum time frame needs to be extended due to clinics limiting the participation of students during this period.  Other programs have shifted the timeframe of when the students are doing the practicum, extending the overall time that the student spends in the program.  This would not require MAERB approval as it is an institutional decision, and the accreditation requirements are being fulfilled.  We have been notified that some institutions are changing their program requirements to ensure that students are able to complete the practicum.  For example, programs that require a 240-hour practicum are shifting the requirement to 160 hours.  As long as the students achieve a 160-hour practicum, they fulfilling the requirements of a CAAHEP-accredited program, so it is up to your institutional processes and practices if there is the need to make a shift. 
  • We have been asked if it is acceptable to use simulation hours to substitute for practicum hours.  The MAERB does not allow the use of simulation hours for practicum hours.  The students need the actual experience on a clinical site to get credit for practicum hours. 
  • Some institutions have closed for a one to three-week period, and the program is put on hold, delaying students’ progress, and students are put on a formal leave of absence.  MAERB would need to be notified, but it would be an institutional decision and would not require MAERB approval. 
  • Several institutions have extended their spring breaks from one week to two weeks, using a “wait and see” attitude about what happens next.  MAERB does not need to be informed about that shift. 
  •  And the list could continue, based upon the circumstances.  We will keep you informed as other items might come up. 

As you know, for students to graduate from a CAAHEP-accredited medical assisting program, students need to fulfill all the requirements of the program, the school, and the CAAHEP Standards.  At the same time, institutions can adapt in setting up different time frames and modalities.  Please feel free to contact me (smarino@caheep.org) with any specific questions about your situation.  But the central point is that the institution and program can adapt and adjust as long as students can fulfill the central requirements of a CAAHEP-accredited medical assisting program. 

I would like to formally acknowledge how amazing the community of CAAHEP-accredited programs has been in facing this challenge. It has been a period in which people have had to adjust to new realities, and they have done so gracefully and thoughtfully.  You have heard me say this before, but it always bears repeating: It is a pleasure and an honor to serve this community. 

Sarah R. Marino