A medical assistant (MA) is a “certified/non certified” non licensed position in medical care that allows a medical assistant to perform various clinical and administrative work in order to provide physicians, clinicians, doctors and various other health care professionals with additional support related to basic medical tasks and office responsibilities.
Medical assistants are able to track and report patient vital signs and fluctuations, update patient charts, administer injections (in certain states), hand out or deliver medications, perform STAT exams, operate basic medical equipment, handle and maintain paper and electronic medical records, collect blood, urine and tissue samples for lab testing, collect additional useful patient data and prepare medical instruments for use while under the supervision of a licensed medical professional.
In short medical assistants can perform most tasks required of them as long as they are properly trained and educated, and under the supervision of a licensed health care expert.
Responsibilities of a medical assistant:
- Explain treatment procedures
- Assist the physician during patient examinations
- Measure, monitor and record patient vitals
- Administer medication
- Draw blood
- Collect bodily fluid samples such as urine and saliva
- Remove sutures and change dressings
- Take electrocardiograms
- Prepare and handle medical equipment and tools
- Operate and manage clinical computer programs/applications
- Answer phone calls
- Greet patients
- Schedule medical appointments
- Update and maintain patient medical records
- Manage coding and billing
- Assist patients with medical forms
- Handle and perform bookkeeping
Medical assistants need to have a good technical knowledge of their work tasks and responsibilities, and be able to accurate and efficiently handle, modify and add patient data to the office computers.
They may work in various roles such as being a phone operator, desk clerk, billing administrator, medical record keeper, screening assistant, medical coordinator and as a close medical assistant to a physician where they can monitor vital signs and collect samples among some of the other tasks explained earlier.
Health care facilities that are interested in hiring a medical assistant generally look for individuals who are self motivated, out going and well-organized.
Unlike some of the other fields of health care those that work as medical assistants can generally begin working with little more than a high school diploma.
Many facilities offer on the job training; however skills such as basic computer literacy, telephone skills, adequate typing ability, excellent record keeping and personal communication skills can dramatically improve ones ability to obtain a job in this profession.
With that said there are a couple of certification programs individuals can participate in if they feel strongly about starting a career as a medical assistant.
Certification programs typically last 1 – 2 years and individuals taking the program may be able to earn an associate degree as a medical assistant, which will allow medical assistants to perform more complex job tasks and potentially earn a higher income.
Medical assistant programs
To become a medical assistant, you must first find a college, vocational school or training facility that offers a degree or certificate for medical assisting.
It is important to choose a comprehensive program that includes hands-on training so that you will be adequately prepared for the real-life duties of a medical assistant.
Most online programs can offer the same training that can be found in a traditional college, so do not let this deter you from selecting an online medical assisting program.
Just make sure that the program offers some sort of hands-on clinical training or an internship.
The average medical assistant program lasts for one to two years.
No matter what kind of training you receive, the program should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
Graduating from an accredited program is a requirement for any medical assistant who wishes to become certified or registered by the American Association of Medical Assistants or any other agency that regulates the certification of medical assistants.
Becoming certified or registered is currently optional, but it can result in higher pay and better job opportunities.
Many employers require that medical assistants have some sort of certification.
In order to remain certified, continuing education credits must be earned every few years.
The United States has four different agencies that offer medical assistant certification.
They are the AAMA, AMT, NCCT and the NHA.