The medical industry offers a large variety of entry level positions that will require minimal training. The position of the medical assistant can provide an individual with a career that provides job security and financial stability. A medical assistant, also known as an MA, can provide a range of healthcare services in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, private practices and hospitals. While the specific duties for this position will vary, according to the type of facility, an MA may perform clinical or administrative tasks, while also interacting with both medical staff and patients.
Different Types of MA Positions
Working as an administrative MA will involve updating a patient’s health record, ordering diagnostic tests, making appointments, processing insurance forms and bills and reordering medical supplies.
A clinical MA can perform such duties as updating a patient’s medical history, sterilizing instruments, arranging hospital admissions, preparing and obtaining testing specimens, taking a patient’s vital signs and assisting the physician with exams. They are also qualified to administer medication and provide wound care.
While there are some healthcare employers that will provide on the job training programs, the majority of employers will give preference to applicants that have had formal training for this position. An additional way an applicant can stand out from the competition is to obtain certification as an MA, earning the title of certified or registered medical assistant.
The formal training programs will help a student to learn the knowledge and skills that are necessary to qualify for an entry level position. Some programs are also designed to prepare students for the certification exam. Other requirements for this position can include the ability to clearly communicate and perform their duties in a confidential and professional manner.
This healthcare job is one of the ten top growing careers in the country and is estimated to grow by more than thirty percent in the next five years, due to the technological advances made in the medical industry, in addition to the continual need for medical attention among the rising senior citizen and middle-aged population. Other factors will include the increasing need for preventative care for medical conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
Education Options for MAs
Certificate programs for this position can be completed in four to twelve months, depending on each individual school. Topics that are covered will include managing electronic records, administering medication, prepping patients for medical procedures assisting with EKGs, analyzing and obtaining samples, bookkeeping, filling out insurance forms and patient interaction.
Individuals that are interested in obtaining a higher level of education can choose to pursue a degree for this position. This will involve the two year associate’s degree, which will include general education classes in social sciences, biology, math and English. Most programs will feature a valuable externship that will take place during the final two months of a program. This hands on training will enhance a graduate’s value with a potential employer, by offering them the experience medical facilities seek.
After an individual has completed a certificate program, they will be qualified to take the CMA or RMA exams. The classes dedicated to exam material will help a student to brush up on the topics that are covered.
The Nature of the Work Based on Specialty
The MAs will perform clinical and routine tasks in order to keep the offices of podiatrists, physicians, clinics, optometrists and chiropractors, running smoothly. This position should not be confused with that of the physician’s assistant, who works by examining, diagnosing and treating patients under the supervision of an MD. The duties of the MA will vary from place to place, depending on the location of employment, specialty and size of the facility. In smaller practices, the medical assistant will typically handle both administrative and medical tasks and will report to an office manager or physician. Those individuals that work in a larger practice will tend to specialize in a particular area under the supervision of a department supervisor.
The MA that primarily works in an administrative position will greet patients, answer phones, and handle correspondence with patients and insurance companies and process billing payments.
The clinical tasks an MA is qualified to handle will vary according to the state they reside in and will usually include explaining treatment procedures, assist physicians during minor medical procedures and recording vital signs. Additional duties will include disposing of contaminated medical supplies and instruments, preparing and administering medication, authorizing prescription refills, removing sutures, changing dressings and taking electrocardiograms.
Assistants that work in a specialty field will have additional duties. The MA that works in a podiatrist’s office will assist the physician during a surgery, take x-rays and make castings for feet. Working in an ophthalmologist’s office will involve helping the physician to provide medical eye care, record results from vision tests, apply eye dressings and record patient information. They will also administer medication, apply eye drops and maintain surgical and optical instruments.