Medical assistant: it is the career you want? If you like the idea of having a career helping others in the healthcare industry but doctor, nurse or a similar profession, medical assistant might be a good career choice for you.
But what does a medical assistant do? In essence, many of the duties that need to be done in a medical office, clinic or similar healthcare environment. Medical assistants perform a wide array of clinical and administrative tasks. They perform tasks as varied as answering telephones and scheduling appointments to performing clinical tasks such as assisting in the performance of laboratory tasks. Among the duties of a medical assistant are:
- Taking and recording patient medical histories and personal information
- Measuring patient vital signs
- Helping the physician conduct patient examinations
- Giving patients injections as directed by the physician
- Scheduling patient appointments
- Preparing blood for laboratory tests
Some medical assistants perform additional duties, though not all of them perform all of these tasks. The assistant’s particular skill set, combined with the regulations on the occupation in individual states, sometimes limits or expands what tasks they can perform.
Is there more than one kind of medical assistant?
Yes, there is. Many different types of doctors and other medical professionals employ medical assistants in their offices, and as a result some have very specialized jobs. In a more general sense, there are administrative medical assistants, who chiefly perform tasks like scheduling, coding, and filling out insurance forms, but don’t do most of the clinical work.
Clinical medical assistants typically only perform the clinical tasks: sterilizing medical instruments, handling contaminated supplies, drawing blood, removing stitches, and similar work. Clinical medical assistants might not perform as many administrative tasks, however.
Podiatrist’s offices, ophalmologists, optometrists, dentists, chiropractors, and other medical professionals may employ their own assistants, each of whom will have specialized duties relating to their job, though their overall role in the office environment will obviously have similarities.
Okay…a career as a medical assistant interests me. What do I need to do?
If you’re interested in a career as a medical assistant, there are a few steps to take. First, you need to have completed your high school education: you should have either a diploma, GED, or equivalent. Medical assistants most frequently have a postsecondary training program or degree path they must follow from a community college, trade school, or career school. Those programs generally take between one and two years to complete. Some junior or community colleges have associate’s degree programs in medical assisting, and some states require those programs to be accredited by a governing body of some type.
Many states require certification, licensure, or registration to work as a medical assistant in their state. In those cases you must seek out, take, and pass the state’s exam, which is a comprehensive testing of skills and knowledge needed by a medical assistant. This is often handled through the training facilities or schools in those states, or there is an advocacy group, government department or similar group who maintains and administers those exams.
I finished training and have begun my career as a medical assistant. I’m done learning, right?
No. Medical assisting, as with many professions, is undergoing rapid, frequent changes, and to keep up with those changes the medical assistant will most likely need to pursue continuing education opportunities. These are often paid for by the employer and cover a litany of new and existing trends, technologies and processes in the field.
Here is a list of some certifying bodies accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies:
- Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants(AAMA)
- Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association
- Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association
If you are interested in a career as a medical assistant, the time to act is now. The medical assisting field is expanding quickly, and needs workers immediately. Find the career you’ve been looking for! There are many schools out there with solid training credentials who can help you develop skills that will have you in a job you love.