Medical Assistants are often one of the first health care staff patients meet when they visit a doctor’s office or hospital for outpatient services. They have both administrative and clinical duties.
Description of health care career information and the daily work:
As a Medical Assistant you will work in an outpatient/ambulatory environment in a hospital, private physician office or community health center. Patients’ first impressions of your skills and service orientation are critically important. Medical Assistants help patients to feel comfortable in the doctor’s office and to understand physicians’ instructions. If you have good communications skills and are often appreciated for your caring manner, then you may be well suited for a health care career in medical assisting.
You will assist nurses and physicians in a variety of clinical and administrative functions. Your duties will vary from office to office, depending on office location, size, and specialty. In small practices, you are usually a “generalist”, managing both administrative and clinical duties and reporting directly to an office manager, physician, or other health care practitioner. If you are in a larger practice, it is likely you will specialize in a particular area under the supervision of department administrators.
# Administrative duties may include: Using computer applications
# Answering telephones
# Greeting patients
# Updating and filing patient medical records
# Scheduling appointments
# Handling correspondence, billing and bookkeeping
Clinical duties vary and may include:
# Taking medical histories
# Explaining treatment procedures to patients
# Preparing patients for examination
# Assisting the physician during the exam
# Collecting and preparing laboratory specimens
# Performing basic laboratory tests
# Preparing and administering medications as directed by a physician
# Removing sutures and changing dressings
If you choose to specialize, you may have additional responsibilities. Podiatric medical assistants make castings of feed, expose and develop x-rays, and assist podiatrists in surgery. As an ophthalmic medical assistant, you help ophthalmologists provide medical eye care.
Most Medical Assistants work a regular 40 hour week. Part-time, evening, or weekend work is also available.
Education Requirements, Licensure/Certification:
During High School you should study health, biology, mathematics, and computer applications. Volunteer experience in health care is also desirable.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required plus a certificate or diploma from a one-year program or an associate degree from a 2-year program that is accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health and Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Training programs for Medical Assistants include both classroom work and an externship that provides hands-on experience in a healthcare facility.
Upon completion of an accredited training program, individuals may become a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) by taking a national examination administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants. Advanced certification as a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) is available through the American Medical Technologists for Medical Assistants who have been working for at least five years in the field.
Formal training in medical assisting, while generally preferred, is not always required. Some medical assistants are trained on the job, although this is less common than in the past. Employers prefer to hire experienced workers or certified applicants who have passed a national examination, indicating that the medical assistant meets certain standards of competence.
The earnings of Medical Assistants vary, depending on their experience, skill level, and location. Nationally, the median annual earnings were $23,940 in 2002. The hourly range from $11.33 to $17.82
Career Path or Opportunities for Growth:
There are many career avenues you can take from your position as a Medical Assistant. You may wish to move into a supervisory position in your office, clinic or health center. Or, you may decide to specialize as a Medical Assistant in a podiatry or ophthalmology practice. Many Medical Assistants go on to enroll in Radiology, Respiratory Care, Medical Technology or Nursing Programs.
Graduates of medical assisting programs accredited by either the CAAHEP or the ABHES are eligible to take the CMA Certification Exam.