Medical Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
A medical assistant works with physicians, particularly in outpatient or ambulatory care facilities which can include medical offices and clinics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this career is growing faster than average. The growth can be credited to a predicted increase of physicians; offices and outpatient care facilities, improvements in technology and a continuously increasing number of elderly patients looking for medical treatment.
Duties & Responsibilities
Medical assistants perform both administrative and clinical duties, as they are trained to do. While duties and responsibilities will vary depending on the size of the facility, the specialty, the location and the state law, here's a list of what's expected of a medical assistant:
- greeting patients
- answering phones
- using computer applications
- updating and filing medical records of patients
- coding and filing out insurance forms
- scheduling appointments
- arranging hospital admissions and laboratory services
- managing correspondence, billing and bookkeeping
- ordering supplies and equipment for the medical office
- taking medical histories of patients
- explaining the treatment procedures to patients
- preparing patients for examination
- authorizing prescription refills (as directed)
- drawing blood
- taking electrocardiograms
- assisting physicians during examinations
- collecting and preparing laboratory specimens
- performing basic laboratory tests
- preparing medical instruments
- sterilizing medical equipment
- removing sutures and changing dressings
- informing patients about medication and special diets
- preparing and administering medications based on the physicians' directions
- prescribing a specialized diet
- advising on treatment plans
A medical assistant helps a patient feel at ease when they come into the office of physicians. They also explain the instructions of physicians to patients.
Employers prefer – and some insist – that medical assistants they hire are certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Graduates of medical assisting programs are offered certification by the AAMA and these are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
The AAMA requires candidates seeking certification to have completed a medical assisting program that has been accredited. A lot of these programs take two years to complete which leads to an associate's degree. These types of programs are offered by community and junior colleges but vocational schools also offer them. There are programs that only last a year which awards a certificate to those who can complete.
Candidates for certification also need to complete an unpaid work experience program (this is referred to as a practicum) as well as pass an exam. In addition, a medical assistant needs to get re-certified every five years.
Those seeking certification can also obtain it through American Medical Technologists (AMT). They have they same requirements needed by the AAMA but they don't require candidates to pass an exam if they have worked in the field of medical assisting for three of five years. In addition, an exam isn't needed if a candidate has passed a certification exam previously.
Lastly, some medical assisting jobs require their candidates to have a certification in basic life support. Candidates who have gone through this training can respond to life-threatening situation such as choking, drowning and heart attacks.
Medical assisting is becoming a competitive job market. Although you can get a job in this profession without a certification, most employers want their applicants to possess one. This just means that getting a certification is best when you want to get the best chances for your career.
Earning a medical assistant certificate helps students prepare to work in healthcare settings, as well as become part of a medical team. Through certification, students learn how to perform duties they will eventually do when they begin professional work. Certification candidates particularly learn to perform routine clinical and administrative tasks such as taking the vital signs of a patient, collect patient data, change dressings, bookkeeping, request laboratory tests and managing schedules. Students seeking a career as a medical assistant should also take courses in anatomy, physiology, nutrition and patient care.
The American Association of Medical Assistants require those who want to be medical assistants to complete a two-year associate degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
A graduate of an accredited medical assisting program will be required to take the AAMA certification exam in order to become a Certified Medical Assistant. This certification needs to be renewed every five years.
Although courses accredited by the CAAHEP or the ABHES provide the widest path for advancement for graduates, those who want to get to work more quickly can take a one-year medical assistance program offered by vocational schools; this kind of program honors its graduates with a diploma or certificate which is valid for employment in entry-level medical assistant jobs.
Participating in a practicum also helps students get the training needed to become a professional medical assistant. The tasks they do will be similar to what's expected of them in a medical setting. Plus, students will also be shadowing experienced medical assistants when they perform their clinical and administrative duties. This experience teaches them the necessary skills needed in the professional environment.
It also helps that the practicum an aspiring medical assistant takes is related to what they want to specialize in. For example, those who wish to look after patients living with heart ailments should go for a practicum with a cardiologist.
There are certain skills every medical assistants need to succeed at their job. Since they greet patients when they come into the facility, it is through them that patients form a first impression as well as the last. Because of this, it helps if a medical assistant has excellent interpersonal skills. Not only that, they need to be able to effectively communicate with patients and those they work with. Other required skills include strong analytical skills and attention to detail.
Medical assistance programs that are credited will have coursework lecturing them on subjects such as human anatomy, insurance procedures, medical terminology and pharmacology. Those who go for the one-year certificate program should make sure that their understanding of the subjects mentioned beforehand is comprehensive.