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Medical Assistant Career Overview

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Among health services professionals with crucial roles in the day-to-day running of healthcare facilities, medical assistants rank highly as some of the most important. Through administrative and clinical tasks, they ensure that medical facilities run smoothly and that the doctors and nurses can handle the situation.

As a career path, being a medical assistant is especially appealing thanks to the ease and speed of getting started in the field relative to others. Being a nurse, for instance, requires at least four years of postsecondary education. Medical assistants only need a high school diploma and an optional 12-month training to become certified.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical Assistance is a rapidly growing field with a growth rate of almost twice the national average. But what exactly do medical assistants do? Medical assistants perform administrative and clinical tasks in any health-related environment.

As the name implies, a medical assistant’s job is to assist healthcare personnel. As their duties are administrative and clinical, versatility and flexibility are usually of great importance for a medical assistant.

Among general tasks, you’ll find a medical assistant performing include taking a patient’s vitals, recording historical data and updating patient Information, and injecting and administering vaccines as directed by the doctor.

Specialization Options for Medical Assistants

As a medical assistant working in a large facility, you can choose between a handful of areas of specialization within the field. These include:

Clinical Medical Assistant

While medical assistants are often tasked with both clinical and administrative duties, in a larger medical facility, it pays to specialize to increase efficiency. Clinical medical assistants perform basic laboratory tests and sterilize medical equipment.

Administrative Medical Assistant

Administrative medical assistants focus on administrative tasks instead of clinical ones. This includes recording and updating critical information, scheduling appointments, and filling insurance forms.

Obstetric Medical Assistant

An obstetric medical assistant works with an obstetrician or any medical personnel in the OB-GYN department. Among other things, they may help with breast exams, pregnancy care, and minor surgical procedures.

Ophthalmologic Medical Assistant

An ophthalmologic medical assistant works in the office of an ophthalmologist. Their duties may include administering eye medication or helping with eye surgery.

Where do Medical Assistants Typically Work?

Generally, one tends to find medical assistants working in clinics, either private or public. They are also found in hospitals and a handful of other medical environments.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 58% of medical assistants work in a physician’s office, 15% are in state, local, or private hospitals, and 9% work in outpatient facilities.

4 percent of medical assistants work in chiropractic services.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do on a Day-to-Day Basis?

The exact day-to-day duties of a medical assistant vary based on several factors, not the least of which is the kind of setting they find themselves in - clinical or administrative. For instance, you’ll often find a medical assistant performing a few of the following duties during the day in an organizational setting.

  • Greeting and welcoming patients
  • Scheduling examinations, appointments, and follow-ups for patients
  • Taking messages for medical staff
  • Recording, maintaining, and updating patient Information
  • Coding and filing insurance forms
  • Arranging admissions or diagnostic services with affiliate facilities
  • Bookkeeping

Conversely, you’ll find a medical assistant in a clinical setting performing a few of the following duties during the day.

  • Preparing samples for use in laboratory tests
  • Drawing blood from patients
  • Measuring and recording vitals
  • Taking electrocardiograms
  • Dressing wounds and changing wound dressings when it’s time.
  • Removing stitches
  • Preparing patients for x-rays
  • Administering injection as directed by the physician
  • Teaching patients everything they need to know about their upcoming procedures

Work Environment

Even though all medical assistants belong to the same field, their experiences on the job may differ significantly based on the environment they find themselves in. Some work environments, for example, are highly fast-paced, while some are much slower.

An example of the former is a public hospital where medical assistants are expected to be active and on the move throughout their shifts. However, administrative medical assistants in a private clinic tend to fall into the latter category with much fewer tasking routines.

Also, depending on the exact facility, medical assistants may be expected to work night shifts, weekend shifts, and during the holiday.

Education, Certification, and Licensing

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest appeals of being a medical assistant lies in the fact that you can simply get started with a postsecondary degree. If you choose, you may also get certified to increase your prospects.

There are options regarding medical assistant certification. You may choose between any of the five different agencies.

  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) awarded by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) awarded by the American Medical Technologists (AMT)
  • The National Center for Competency Testing awards a National Certificate Medical Assistant (NCMA),
  • The National Healthcareer Association awards the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) certificate, and lastly
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) also awarded by the National Healthcareer Association

Some states require medical assistants to get licensed before they can practice. Licensing requirements also vary from state to state, with some requesting completion of a specialized education program, taking and passing a national certification exam, submitting a completed application form, paying an application fee, and completing a mandatory background check.

Salary and Career Outlook

Wages for medical assistants differ based on several factors. Usually, the most significant factors include education range, certification, experience level, and the exact place of employment.

There are more than 700,000 medical assistants in the United States, and they all earn an average of $38,190 a year.