What is a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant is an important member of the healthcare delivery team. These non-licensed, allied health occupations are for those who perform administrative as well as clinical tasks around the clinic, hospital or healthcare facility. They perform supportive roles that aid the work of physicians or other healthcare practitioners. These individuals are probably the first and the last people you will see during a routine clinic visit or in a large hospital. This is a versatile career that does not require extensive education. It is fit for those who want to make a difference by caring for patients. This profession grows steadily, despite the weak economy. More and more people are entering the healthcare industry as a medical assistants. The demand for assistants who support doctors and nurses is definitely growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the employment growth for this career is seen to grow 30.9% by the year 2020.

Medical Assistant Job Description

A medical assistant helps perform clinical duties around the healthcare facility. They offers assistance to healthcare providers such as physicians, optometrists, podiatrists, etc. Here are some of the job duties performed by medical assistants:

  • Greets patients and makes them feel welcomed
  • Answering the telephone
  • Addressing inquiries either in person or over the phone
  • Prepares the patients for their healthcare visit by directing them to the examining room and providing gowns / drapes
  • Helping patients position themselves for the examination
  • Arranging supplies, equipment or instruments in examination rooms
  • Conducts patient interviews to verify information
  • Reviewing medical history
  • Taking appointments and confirming the purpose of treatment or visit
  • Giving aid to physicians during examinations
  • Preparing specimen for laboratory tests and / or performing basic laboratory tests
  • Disposing of used or contaminated supplies
  • Sterilizing and organizing medical instrument and supplies
  • Contacting pharmacies to authorize drug refills
  • Removing patient sutures and changing bandage dressings
  • Educating clients who need medical instructions and answering questions
  • Providing diet information
  • Reviewing patient treatment, examination or test results and updating patient records
  • Recording billing information and completing insurance forms
  • Placing orders for inventory, supplies and other needs as well as verifying receipts
  • Troubleshooting equipment breakdowns and keeps machines operating
  • Maintains a safe and healthy environment by enforcing standards that are in compliance with the law
  • Protects patient’s records and maintains patient confidentiality
  • Updates job knowledge and participates in opportunities that are educational and can help in their profession

The skills needed for this position include the following:

  • Health promotion
  • Clinical skills
  • Verbal communication
  • Inventory control
  • Medical teamwork
  • Procedural skills
  • Planning

How Do You Become a Medical Assistant?

Certified Medical Assistant

The good thing about this career path is that very little training is needed in order to become a medical assistant. No formal type of education is required, unlike other jobs in the medical field. It is possible to enter the job with just a high-school diploma. However, you might find it difficult to stand out from the rest of those applying for the same position. This is why entering a training program or getting certified is important. There are many short online programs for those who are interested in starting their career as a medical assistant. Networking with organizations can also look good on your resume. Those who want to stand out from other applicants should do volunteer work. Those who perform well have the chance of getting a referral. It is also important to keep up with the latest news on healthcare. This can keep you updated on which places are hiring and what cities pay more.

What is a Medical Assistant Certification?

Getting a professional certification is a way to guarantee competency as a medical assistant. Most healthcare facilities prefer individuals who are certified or who have undergone some sort of training program. This is voluntary and highly optional. However, employers increasingly prefer those who are certified. Getting a certification might help you stand out from other applicants.

The United States has four major organizations that certify medical assistants. You only need one certification in order to become a certified medical assistant. Getting certified means that you have undergone specific training that can assist you in fulfilling the role of a medical assistant. Once you have completed the program, you are eligible for a computer-based examination, which is available in the leading testing centers across the United States. Once you pass this examination, you will be certified. Those who have passed this examination can earn the title certified medical assistant (CMA).

The Medical Assistant Training Process

There is a training program that can help you prepare for a position like this. It is a certificate or diploma course which could take one or two years. It helps individuals who want to become medical assistants understand the medical terminology, the human anatomy and a few things about physiology. It also tackles very important aspects of the job that can help someone better prepare for this type of career. It also includes an internship where one can work as a student medical assistant in medical clinics in order to get hands-on-training.

In the United States, a program like this needs to be certified by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). This requires that the school or training program meet certain standards that provide the right amount of lectures, classroom time and laboratory time. Looking for programs in your local community is not very difficult.

How Much Can I Earn as a Medical Assistant?

The median annual wage for a medical assistant is about $29,100. This has increased slightly from the year before and is slowly increasing each year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top 10% of medical assistant pay an average of about $40,810 while the bottom margin were said to earn $20,880. The highest earners were found in private care physician’s offices and top hospitals. They were also clustered according by location, those who were in major cities and metropolitan areas had higher wages. The sizable growth in terms of employment puts medical assistant careers at the top of healthcare jobs.