What Is A Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant or MA is an allied health professional who supports various healthcare providers.

Medical assistants work alongside physicians, registered nurses, pharmacists, and other specialists.

However, they operate in a distinct field from other forms of medical care.

Medical assistants generally operate in clinical settings and perform standard medical procedures.

It includes recording and storing patient health data in the official medical system.

They also prepare and manage medical equipment, administer medication, and collect bodily fluids.

Collecting bodily fluids may involve urine, blood, and saliva specimens.

Finally, medical assistants record the patient’s vital signs to monitor their health status and report it to physicians.

Medical assistants perform various administrative and clinical duties to maintain a versatile role within the office setting.

Depending on the medical assistant’s role, they may perform additional procedures like giving injections.

Nevertheless, a medical assistant’s scope of practice varies by state and healthcare facility.

As a result, some states may restrict specific procedures like performing injections.

What Do Medical Assistants Do?

Medical assistants perform various clinical and administrative tasks throughout their typical workday.

For instance, they provide physicians and medical professionals with pertinent information and support.

It enables them to obtain valuable patient information and provide additional assistance and reassurance.

They also help make the patient’s medical visit as comfortable as possible.

Accordingly, they must be professional, courteous, and in tune with their patient’s emotions and states of mind.

Here is a list of some of the tasks a medical assistant may perform on a given day:

Clinical Tasks:

  • 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.

Administrative Tasks:

  • 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

Aside from clinical and administrative tasks, medical assistants must maintain excellent communication and support.

Medical assistants must be compassionate, understanding, and personable from a patient perspective.

They also need to maintain a high level of professionalism to ensure information remains safe and confidential.

Being a medical assistant is just about human-to-human relationships as it is administrative and clinically focused.

Work Schedule

Medical assistants generally work in a clinical setting during regular operating hours.

As a result, they may work between 7 am – 6 pm, depending on the healthcare clinic.

Most medical assistants work 40-hour work weeks and may operate on weekends if the clinic requires it.

Nevertheless, some healthcare facilities offer part-time hours for students and those with specific needs.

Medical Assistant Education and Training

Those interested in becoming medical assistants must first obtain a diploma, GED, or equivalent.

They must also pass a qualified medical assistant program before working as an MA.

Numerous community colleges, technical schools, and vocational schools offer medical assistant programs.

Some schools offer online courses depending on the educational institute and MA program.

It’s beneficial for those who lead busy lives or have hectic schedules.

The program length varies depending on the student’s educational background and career goals.

Students may pursue a 1-year certificate/diploma, 2-year associate’s degree, or (if available) a 4-year bachelor’s degree.

Each advancement in education enables MAs to earn increased salaries and better employment opportunities.

It also enables them to take on more responsibilities due to a broader scope of practice.

Students learn about various aspects of patient care during the program.

It includes anatomy, physiology, health sciences, medical terminology, clinical work, and procedures.

They also learn about healthcare’s legal aspects during the MA program.

Medical Assistant Program Coursework:

  • Medical law and ethics
  • Pharmacology
  • Proper patient care procedures and protocols
  • Effective communication and human relations skills
  • Phlebotomy and laboratory procedures and protocols
  • How to apply and replace bandages
  • Administrative duties and business practices
  • Computer billing
  • Keyboard skill development
  • Proper phone etiquette

And a host of other skills related to medical assisting.

Upon completing the MA program, students earn professional certification through an organization like the AAMA.

Professional certification may not be necessary to obtain a job as a medical assistant.

However, it helps medical assistants earn a good salary and land great jobs.

It proves to employees that the medical assistant is qualified and has received adequate training.

The Importance of Medical Assistants

Medical assistants play a significant role in the clinical care setting.

They perform many administrative and clinical tasks necessary to run a medical office.

It includes scheduling appointments, assisting patients with filing paperwork, recording and maintaining patient medical records, answering phone calls, performing and maintaining computer billing, and addressing primary patient concerns, among other administrative duties.

They also help streamline the medical care process by handling basic patient care procedures.

For instance, they measure and record vital signs, prepare patients for examinations, and take bodily fluids for lab testing.

As a result, it makes the physician’s job easier and allows them to work more effectively.

Improving Patient Care

If you’ve ever been to a doctor’s office, you have first-hand experience working with medical assistants.

They likely helped you file your paperwork and perform formal interviews in this case.

They also collect urine and blood samples before meeting with the physician.

Medical physicals handle many essential tasks in advance so physicians can spend more time on higher-level duties.

Physicians spend a lot of time assessing, diagnosing, and treating a patient’s medical condition.

As a result, it’s beneficial that they spend less time on less critical, time-consuming tasks.

Most physicians don’t assist patients with paperwork, ask preliminary questions, gather test samples, and record vitals.

Instead, medical assistants perform these tasks to enable physicians to help more patients more efficiently.

At the same time, the physician works with patients ready for more advanced care.

In short medical assistants allow a single physician or a small group of physicians to see and care for numerous patients.

They speed up the medical process by eliminating unnecessary medical tasks so physicians can tend to activities that require their expertise and knowledge.

Running all aspects of clinical practice would be more challenging without qualified medical assistants.

As a result, patient care would suffer, and physicians and nurse practitioners would experience higher stress levels.

Medical Assistant Course Overview

To become a medical assistant, you must first find a college, vocational school, or training facility offering an MA degree or certificate.

It’s essential to choose a comprehensive program that includes hands-on training.

That way, you will be adequately prepared for the real-life duties of a medical assistant.

Most online programs offer the same training found in a traditional college.

However, you must ensure the program offers adequate hands-on clinical training or an internship.

The average medical assistant program lasts for one to two years.

Finally, ensure the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs accredits the program.

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 optional but can result in higher pay and better job opportunities.

Many employers require that medical assistants have some certification.

To remain certified, medical assistants must also take continuing education credits every few years.

The United States has four different agencies that offer medical assistant certification.

They are the AAMA, AMT, NCCT, and the NHA.