Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are the “face and ears” of the office. As a medical assistant, patients will interact with you more than anybody else in the office. You set the tone! As such, you will often be the liaison between the patient and the physician, sometimes even needing to advocate on the patient’s behalf. According to the Healthcare Intelligence Network, medical assistants are a necessary member of a Patient-Centered Medical Home team.

Not interested in working in a medical office or clinic? After completing the program, other jobs that might interest you would include: Working for a health insurance or home care agency, be a phlebotomist, or an ECG technician. With some additional schooling or experience (depending on the field), you could work as a laboratory assistant, limited radiologic technician (some states don’t require additional schooling or licensing), or even become a medical assisting instructor!

Furthermore, medical assisting can be a good jumping off step into other careers. For example, many physician assistant schools require clinical experience and accept medical assisting as fulfilling that requirement.

Duties

  • Administrative duties:
    • Answering telephones
    • Coding
    • Filling out insurance forms
    • Scheduling appointments
    • Arranging for hospital, laboratory, or diagnostic admissions
    • Testing
    • Handling correspondence
  • Clinical Duties:
    • Taking medical histories
    • Explaining treatment procedures
    • Assisting the physician during an exam or procedure
    • Instructing patients on medications and nutrition
    • Performing electrocardiograms
    • Removing sutures
    • Preparing and administering medications as directed by the physician
  • Laboratory Duties:
    • Performing basic (CLIA-Waived) laboratory tests
    • Collecting and preparing specimens
    • Drawing blood (if permitted by your state laws)

Education

Medical assistants typically graduate from postsecondary education programs. Although there are no formal educational requirements for becoming a medical assistant in most states, employers may prefer to hire assistants who have completed these programs.

Programs for medical assisting are available from community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and universities and take about 1 year to complete. These programs usually lead to a certificate or diploma. Some community colleges offer 2-year programs that lead to an associate’s degree. All programs have classroom and laboratory portions that include lessons in anatomy and medical terminology.

Some medical assistants have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn their duties on the job. High school students interested in a career as a medical assistant should take courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy.

Job Outlook

Employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 23 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.  The growth of the aging baby-boom population will continue to increase demand for preventative medical services.

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