Healthcare Certificate Programs Ready Students for Job Market

People wanting to enter the healthcare field quickly can take advantage of three certificate programs offered by Jackson State Community College.

Students can become certified as a clinical medical assistant, patient care technician, or medical coder after taking the required courses and then passing a national certification exam, said Chrystal Taylor, MALS, RN, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for Health Sciences.

“Typically, students can be ready for the national certification in one year, after taking six to eight courses,” she said. “It’s a good way to enter the job market.” The programs are also attractive for people already working in healthcare who want to be certified in a particular area, she added.

The three certificate programs can also lead to associate degrees with about another year of classes.

Classes in each area begin again Oct. 14 as Jackson State starts the second seven weeks of its first semester. Students can enroll through the college’s Admissions Office.

Each of the programs prepares the student for different careers in the healthcare field, Taylor explained.

A certified clinical medical assistant, for example, can run the front office for a small medical practice as well as assist with direct patient care. Students in this program can also focus on becoming EKG technicians and phlebotomy technicians where they can work in hospital, clinic, and home healthcare settings.

A certified patient care technician usually finds a job in assisted living or long-term care facilities or a hospital, providing basic patient care such as feeding and bathing.

The Medical Coding Certificate Program, the newest of the three, is designed for students pursuing an entry position in medical coding. This career includes compiling, processing, and maintaining medical records for a hospital or clinic and meeting specific medical, administrative, ethical, legal, and regulatory requirements.

All three programs offer hands-on learning in the form of a clinical rotation in healthcare facilities, Taylor said. Students who do well in their clinical rotation often are hired by the facility.

Taylor weaves soft skills like promptness, a good work ethic, and dressing appropriately into each course. Students leave the program with a well-polished resume, she added.

She has high expectations for her students, she said. “I want students to perform in class the way they should perform in a clinical setting.”

The purpose is to help students acquire the skills and knowledge they need to get a job and start that new career, she explained. “The jobs are there. The healthcare job market is definitely growing.”

OTA student receives OTF Scholarship of Distinction

Tonya Mutter, a second-year Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) student at Jackson State Community College, was recently awarded a scholarship of distinction by the Occupational Therapy Foundation. Tonya currently represents JSCC as the TNOTA Student Representative and maintains a 3.891 GPA while working to support her five children as a single mother.

Mutter started her quest for an occupational therapy assistant degree at Jackson State Community in June 2018. She knew that she needed an education so she could get a job that pays enough to support her family and to help her save for retirement.

“I was tired of struggling,” said Mutter, who has five children ages 13, 15, 17, 19, and 23.

She and her husband were doing fine until he died in a car accident in 2008. Since then, Mutter has tried to support her family on low-paying and part-time jobs that included being a pre-kindergarten assistant, school bus driver, and working on a farm harvesting and packing produce. She found her ticket back to school with the Tennessee Reconnect program that covers tuition for adults who never completed a post-secondary degree.

Mutter decided to work in health care as an occupational therapy assistant because she wants a career that helps others. Because of her son’s cerebral palsy, she added, “It will never be just me. I want to provide the best I can for him – and for the rest of my family. My son’s medical needs, along with my own, have impressed upon me a great desire to help others recover from disabilities and inspire them to enjoy life as much as possible.”

Counselor gives students “a safe place to talk”

When Jackson State Community College students struggle with anxiety, anger, depression, or other mental health issues, they have someone ready to help them — Student Counselor, Jessica Barron.

“I offer students a safe place to talk,” Barron said. “I don’t judge; it’s just a time to talk candidly about academic and personal life stressors.” Besides listening, she offers resources and coping skills to help students appropriately manage their feelings.

Jackson State contracts with Pathways Behavioral Health Services to provide free, confidential mental health services for students. Barron, who has been the counselor at Jackson State for a year, is seeing more students this semester, partly because word is spreading about her services and also because of COVID-19.

“Everything is different now,” she said. With most classes only online, students are staying in one place, they don’t have the personal interaction they’re used to.

Online learning also can be particularly hard on students who are not self-starters, she said.

“Without the professor keeping them on track, they lose focus and motivation. They don’t have the accountability and encouragement of face-to-face interaction with their teacher.”

“Jackson State knows the stress people are feeling with COVID, combined with the transition from in-person to online college classes has been exceptionally hard for many,” said Linda Nickell, JSCC dean of students. “The college works to provide as much support for students as possible, and free counseling is an important tool to help with their success.”

Barron is available to students from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. She’ll see them through video chat or talk to them by phone. “It depends on their preference,” she said.

She also offers Green Jay Nation weekly “Chirp and Chatter” Zoom meetings at 2 p.m. each Wednesday and Thursday. It’s an open forum that any student can join, she said. “It’s an outlet to process their thoughts and feelings in a supportive environment.”

Barron, who graduated from North Side High School, attended Jackson State and credits the college with helping her find her calling in social work.

She went on to graduate from Union University with a bachelor’s degree in social work and earned her master’s degree in social work from Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss.

Barron has experience with clients battling depression, anxiety, and other mental health diagnoses. She specializes in trauma therapy and is trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues related to trauma.

Her services at Jackson State are free, and students can reach her at or at 731-424-3520, ext. 50260.

Barron encourages students to contact her if they need help. “A lot of people right now … just need someone to listen. If you need to talk, I’m available.”

Federal program to reimburse training tuition for certain online courses at Jackson State

Jackson State Community College is offering online courses to foster workforce development through a federal initiative focused on helping businesses provide additional training for employees.

The program provides reimbursement for training programs to businesses that enroll their employees, but they need to apply as soon as possible. The courses align with the new federal Incumbent Worker Training Program, which is funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and created to provide grants to train and retain employees by providing skills upgrades and process improvement training.

The federal government announced the program in late August. Since then, Jackson State has been working in conjunction with area employers to create courses that they can use to train their workers.

“When these announcements are made, we look at what are the demands in the area and what we can do to fulfill those for the employers,” said Kimberly Johnson, director of Workforce Development at Jackson State.

The courses through the Incumbent Worker Training Program need to be completed by the end of November when the invoices are due for submission and reimbursement. Because of that, Jackson State created a list of online courses that apply to a variety of workers in various sectors that will fit the timeframe.

“A ground-based classroom is what employers typically want, but that would be impossible based on the timeframe and current conditions,” Johnson said. “But we have many online courses that are instructor-led and designed for people who are really trying to get in-depth training.”

Existing businesses can apply for reimbursement through the State of Tennessee, and the amount depends on the number of employees. Jackson State can help guide them through the process. The reimbursements are first come, first served; funding is limited; and some classes are starting at the beginning of October.

“They need to get their application in with the state as soon as possible,” Johnson said. “The quicker they get it in, the better chance they have to get reimbursed for that training. We recommend they submit the application upfront with the Local Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) and together we’ll make sure that we can give them the most they can get.”

Contact Johnson at 731-425-8826 or for information about the program, as well as which courses are available.

LIFELINE Battle of the Colleges is Back!

During the month of September, JSCC’s blood drive battle against area colleges will be held at Lifeline Blood Services at 183 Sterling Farm Drive. Appointments are preferred and can be made by calling 731-427-4431. Remember, you can also complete the medical questionnaire on the day you go to donate. Additionally, LIFELINE is still doing free antibody checks for COVID-19.

Please, please announce and encourage students, family members, friends, etc. to all go donate during September to help support JSCC. There will be a sign-in sheet for the college your wish to represent. We can make a difference in the community….and it’s always nice to be able to keep the trophy on our campus too.

“Not having the event on JSCC’s campus will make this the most difficult challenge yet,” said Leah Gray, JSCC blood drive organizer. “It will test our strength and motivation, but I know that we will rise to the challenge and keep the trophy on JSCC’s campus.”

If you have any questions, contact Leah Gray at Thank you in advance for your donation!