Medical assistants have many responsibilities. It is an in demand career that requires years of education and passion for helping others. These assistants are used for administrative aid and to perform clinical responsibilities in certain areas of the medical field. Medical assistants are sometimes
confused with physicians but there is a difference. Physicians assistants are able to examine and diagnose patients (under the supervision of the physician). Medical assistants are more commonly used to keep order in medical offices and to ensure that things run accordingly throughout the day.
An assistants most basic task is more of like a receptionist. They answer phones, book appointments and greet patients along with a few other ordinary duties. The responsibilities of each assistant varies from office to office. Clinical medical assistants are another type of assistant who have some more duties that can vary according to state law. Certain tasks for these assistants may include preparing a patient for an examination, taking down vital signs or explaining an upcoming procedure.
These assistants are a key component to smoothly running medical office. To perform well in this field you have to be comfortable interacting with others at all times. You will be given a lot to handle at once, so be organized and responisble is also necessary. Most medical assistants are full time workers, pulling in 40+ hours, but there are also positions for part-time employees or those looking for work at night or on weekends only.
Training and Education
Education and training for this career can be obtained in a vocational-technical high school, or a junior or community college. Most programs usually take 1 or 2 years to complete. One year for a certificate, two years for an associates degree. Some of the courses may include anatomy & physiology and record keeping and accounting, along with many others. Although this formal type of training is preferred in most cases, it is not necessary. Medical assistants can get on the job training without having a certificate or diploma. If you do choose this career without prior training, you will most likely spend your first few months in training sessions and learning from co-workers.
There is room for advanement in this field. Some assitants go on for more education in order to become nurses or other types of health care provider. Others may decide to teach courses to train otheres for this career. Some may also find themselves moving up into a management position or continuing on to another type of support occupation.
Medical Assistant: Employment Availability
The employment for health assistant is believed to grow much faster than average; faster than average means an increase of 21 percent or more. Health assistant is one of the fastest growing occupations over the 2006-16 decade. Job opportunities are excellent, especially for people with formal training or experience, and certification. Medical assistants work primarily in outpatient settings which is a rapidly growing area of the health care industry.
Employment of medical assistants is expected to grow 35 percent from 2006 to 2016 which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Throughout the years there are many technological advances in growth of medicine and aging in population. If these technological advances continue to increase so will the need for all health care workers, such as Health assistants. There is also an influential increase in the number of group practices, clinics, and other health care facilities that need a large work force, particularly medical assistants because medical assistants can handle both administrative and clinical work. This increase also increases job growth.
People who are looking to work as a medical assistant should find great opportunities. Medical assistants are perceived to account for a very large number of new jobs. Many other opportunities will come to from the need to replace workers leaving the occupation. Those with formal training or experience and with certification should have the best job opportunities.
Salary and Related Jobs
Earnings of medical assistants vary, depending on their experience, skill level, and location. Median annual earnings of wage and salary for medical assistants were $26,290 in May 2006. The middle fifty percent in this group earned between $21,970 to $31, 210. The lowest ten percent earned less than $18,860 and the highest ten percent earned more than $36,840.
The location of where medical assistants work greatly influence their overall salary. In a general medical and surgical hospital, the median annual earnings for a medical assiatnt was $27,340. The median annual salary for medical assistants working in outpatient care centers were $26,840. In offices of physicians, medical assistants typically earned $26,620, in offices of chiropractors, the median annual earnings were $22,940 and in an optometrist office, they earned $22,850 annually.
Medical assistants carry out duties similar to the tasks completed by other workers in medical support occupations. Administrative medical assistants do work similar to that of medical secretaries and medical transcriptionists. Clinical medical assistants perform responsibilities similar to those of occupational therapist assistants and aides; surgical technologists; physical therapist assistants and aides; and nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides.
This is a booming career that leads into other great opportunites for those pursuing advancement in it. Medical assistants are in demand at the moment and the need for them is only going to continue to grow. Although there is a less than decent salary, there are still many possibilities to climb the career ladder which is why its no wonder so many people today are training to become medical assistants.
Over 5 years in the field
What sparked your interest medical assisting?
I saw a TV commercial about medical assisting that caught my eye. At the time, I was a single mother and I needed to find a way to make a decent living in order to support my daughter. It was the quickest and best way to get out of poverty.
I went to Maric College and took their certificate program in medical assisting which was about 10 months long. I was a horrible student in high school, but in college, I got good grades; I did really well. It was hard work, but because I was paying for school and because I was so motivated to learn, it was very satisfying.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love what I do; I enjoy the versatility of medical assisting. I can contribute to the way the office operates. I especially like working directly with patients. Working with patients who absolutely adore me definitely motivates me to provide excellent care. I’ve worked with some elderly women who told me that they preferred my blood draws over others because I’m so gentle. Blood draws can be very painful, and they gave me great feedback.
When I worked for a doctor whose specialty was hepatology, I did medication side effect management with patients who were discouraged because the medication they were taking was making them feel sick. They needed someone to understand and listen to them. They felt they could talk to me more easily than the doctor sometimes. I had the time to make them feel comfortable. I had a patient cry when I left that job, she said,
“I want to hear the results from you.” As a medical assistant it’s easy to build relationships with the patients.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
I’m often the one to deal with upset patients. I have to remain calm and hear them out. Let them decompress. Help problem-solve. If they had trouble parking, I’ll give them parking vouchers. If they’re complaining that they had to wait a long time to see the doctor, I’ll make sure they get the first appointment of the day next time.
Also, sometimes doctors and nurses can be set in their ways. If they don’t want to listen to feedback and change how an office operates, it can be challenging.
Any misconceptions about the career?
Patients often think medical assistants are nurses. I have to make it clear to patients that I’m not a nurse. We have different licensing. A medical provider such as a doctor or nurse must order everything I do. When I call a patient with test results I’ll say, “I’m calling with your results. The doctor says…”
What is your advice for people interested in the field?
If you’re interested in becoming a medical assistant, talk to a medical assistant and ask a lot of questions. Shadow someone for the day. Make sure you go to an accredited school and be careful that you have transferable credits. It’s important to become a certified medical assistant. Some medical assistant schools train their students to take the exam while in school.
When you get out of school, it’s best to get your feet wet in a family practice or internal medicine practice. You’ll lose your skills if you don’t get hands-on experience. It’s important to be well rounded. As a medical assistant you learn everyday. You learn from your patients as well as your co-workers.
The first time one of my patients died, I was crushed. You have to be prepared to deal with losses. But in an outpatient practice your experience with patients isn’t as concentrated as it is in a hospital. You see your patients once a week, once a month or twice a year.
What type of personality is a good fit for the job?
You must be a good listener. You need be a caring, empathetic person. Non-judgmental. It helps to be outgoing since you’re working with people all day long. But you have to gauge the patient’s personality and match their mood. Sometimes if I get the sense that they’re talkative and outgoing, then I ‘m chattier. If someone is really sick, then I’m quiet and calm, and I just take care of them.
Being highly organized is really important. You have to be a good multi-tasker, that’s crucial to the job. Also you have to be professional. Sometimes medical assistants are too casual. Seniors don’t appreciate it. You have to be respectful.
Any closing thoughts?
It’s definitely a rewarding job. There is room for growth. If you decide to move up, you can go to school to become a nurse or a physician assistant. You’ll have an advantage over people who are going straight into nursing from high school. Or you can move into a management or supervisory role.