Medical assistants are responsible for performing a wide variety of different clerical as well as clinical duties. They commonly work in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors and other medical professionals. A medical assistant is different from a physician assistant. The role of a physician assistant includes examining, diagnosing and treating under the supervision of a physician.
Many medical assistant position require candidates to hold a degree or certificate focused on medical assisting or a closely related field. Completion of these programs can lead to higher pay and better job opportunities. Check out the programs below which offer free information:
Medical Assistant Job Responsibilities
Administrative duties of medical assistants can include greeting patients, keeping medical records, answering the telephone, completing insurance forms, making appointments, handling correspondence, scheduling hospital and laboratory services and assisting with billing. Overall, the responsibilities of a medical assistant can be split between secretarial and clinical duties.
Under state laws, medical assistants usually have varying clinical duties. These duties can include taking vital signs, retrieving patient history, speaking with patients about treatments, conducting general lab tests, assisting with exams, preparing lab specimens, sanitizing medical supplies and disposing of materials that have been used. Medical assistants may also inform patients about different treatments, including diet and medication. They may also prepare and administer medication, submit prescriptions, allow refills under the supervision of a physician, take blood samples, prepare patients for X-rays, perform electrocardiograms, remove sutures and adjust dressings. In addition, medical assistants may organize, maintain and buy materials and instruments. Cleaning waiting and exam rooms may also be part of the duties of a medical assistant. Medical assistants must remain flexible in their duties.
Some medical assistants specialize and have additional duties, depending on the area of their specialization. Medical assistants may be employed in a wide array of areas. Approximately 60% of medical assistants are employed in doctor’s offices. Around 10% work in specialized offices, such as podiatrists and chiropractors.
Medical assistants are responsible for helping patients to feel comfortable as well as verifying instructions of the physician. Medical information must be kept confidential. Medical assistants must have good visual perception and be able to work well with their hands.
Some medical assistants may be promoted to office managers with experience. Others choose to advance to instruction in medical assisting or obtain further education and training to become medical technicians or nurses.
Due to an increase in the elderly population, the employment outlook for medical assistants is considered to be good, with the field growing faster than other occupations. This employment field is expected to continue growing through 2012. The expansion is this field will be fueled by a variety of factors that will include an increase in medical centers, clinics and group practices. Such facilities will need support staff, particularly medical assistants who can remain flexible and perform both secretarial and clinical tasks. Medical assistants who are trained through an accredited program and who are certified will have the best chances for employment.
Medical Assistant Training and Education Requirements
Students interested in a career as a medical assistant can receive training through recognized programs, such as a vocational school. Medical assistant programs are often offered by community and junior colleges. One year of training is necessary to obtain a certificate through a training program while two years of training is required for an associate’s degree. A medical assistant training program curriculum often covers a variety of subjects, including medical terminology, physiology, anatomy, typing, transcription, accounting, record keeping, insurance processing and more. Medical assistant students will also learn diagnostic procedures, lab methods, drug and medicine principles, basic first aid and administration of medicine. Students must practice related to communication with patients, ethics and health laws. Internships may be required for students to complete accredited programs. Internships may be completed in hospitals and clinics, providing valuable hands-on experience for medical assistant students.
Medical Assistant training programs are approved by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Formal training is not mandatory for this profession but is preferred by most employers who are interested in hiring medical assistants.
Medical Assistant Salary and Wages
Several factors can affect the amount of money earned by medical assistants, including level of abilities, experience and location. The median annual earnings for medical assistants was $23,940 in 2002. Earnings typically increase with experience and/or with training and certification.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Medical Assistant Certifications
Medical assistants are not required to be licensed; however, some practices do require a course or test to be taken before performing tasks like x-raying. Employers are often more likely to hire medical assistants who have passed a national exam. The Certified Medical Assistant credential is offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants. There is also a Registered Medical Assistant credential that is offered by the American Medical Technologists. Other possible certifications include the Podiatric Medical Assistant Certified credential, through the American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants. Three degrees of credentials are honored by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology; the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant, Certified Ophthalmic Technician and Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist.
Medical Assistant Professional Associations
Professional Associations for medical assistants include the following:
- American Association of Medical Assistants
- American Medical Technologists
- American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants
- Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology