Without medical assistants, doctors would certainly find it difficult to effectively discharge their services. These assistants execute a wide range of clinical and administrative support tasks, leaving doctors to focus on the business of diagnosing and treating their clients. If you are interested in pursuing a healthcare-related profession that doesn’t require several years of college training, this is it!
1. What Do Medical Assistants Do?
On a day-to-day basis, medical assistants perform the following tasks:
- Scheduling patient appointments
- Welcoming patients into the facility, and recording their personal and medical information
- Measuring body temperature, pulse rate, respiration and other vital signs
- Helping patients to fill out medical insurance claim forms
- Submitting these forms to insurance companies
- Purchasing clinical supplies
- Injecting patients under the close supervision of doctors
It is important to note that medical assistants can take up different titles depending on their workplace. For example, medical assistants who are hired by podiatrists are often known as podiatric medical assistants.
2. Work Environment
Many medical assistants work 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, and often on Saturdays. Those who are employed in 24-hour healthcare facilities typically work on a shift basis.
While at work, medical assistants spend their time in the front office (reception), laboratory or consulting room. They wear specific uniforms for easy identification from other healthcare practitioners.
According to PayScale, medical assistants make between $20,871 and $37,337 per year.
4. Entry Requirements
Although you don’t need to spend years in college to get this job, you still need some post-secondary training to familiarize yourself with medical terms and learn about basic medical office operations, laboratory tests and patient examination. The best way to get this training is to pursue an associate degree in medical assisting. Below are some of the institutions offering the program:
If you are very lucky, you may be able to get hired with a high school diploma, after which you will undergo extensive on-the-job training to get you started.
5. Important Qualities
To be an accomplished medical assistant, you need:
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- The ability to follow instructions accordingly
- An interest in quality healthcare
- Good planning skills for scheduling appointments
- Good eye-hand coordination
- Good technical skills for operating laboratory equipment
- A knowledge of clinical laboratory health and safety practices
- A keen attention to detail
- A good level of physical fitness – The job may involve lifting patients
- Good analytical skills
- Good records management and organizational skills
- Excellent customer service skills
6. Career Advancement
Once you get hired, don’t get too comfortable on the job. The medical assisting field is quite dynamic, so you need to engage in continuing education. The following professional organizations offer professional certifications and opportunities for continuing education:
- National Center for Competency Testing (National Certified Medical Assistant)
- American Medical Technologists (Registered Medical Assistant)
- American Association of Medical Assistants (Certified Medical Assistant)
- National Healthcareer Association (Certified Clinical Medical Assistant)
Each organization has its own set of eligibility requirements for certification. As a newly hired assistant, you should go for one that requires little experience, such as the one offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants.
In time, you can also pursue a bachelor’s degree in medical assisting to enhance your career advancement opportunities.
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of medical assistants include:
- Doctors in private practice
- Outpatient care centers
- Independent medical and diagnostic laboratories
With vast medical assisting experience and an advanced degree in the field, you can be promoted to the position of lead medical assistant and, later on, medical office manager.
See also: How to Become a Medical Secretary
Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a faster-than-average job growth rate (29 percent) for medical assistants between 2012 and 2022. This means the profession is rapidly growing and employment opportunities are readily available.
So, if you want to contribute to the delivery of quality healthcare services without being a nurse or a doctor, go for this job.