Medical AssistantAccording to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), a medical assistant usually works in an outpatient facility or a location dedicated to ambulatory care. The United States Department of Labor says that medical assistant careers are on the rise and the demand for this career will likely increase through the year 2018. The medical assistant will, mainly, work with physicians in both the clinic and in the office. While the exact job description for a medical assistant can vary from one area to another or even among different companies, some common office and clerical tasks a medical assistant performs are:

While the exact job description for a medical assistant can vary from one area to another or even among different companies, some common office and clerical tasks a medical assistant performs are:

  • Greeting patients as they arrive
  • Manage patient appointments
  • Manage telephones
  • Manage patient records
  • Completing insurance forms

Meanwhile, some clinical tasks performed by medical assistants include:

  • Getting patients ready before an examination
  • Measuring vitals such as heart rate and breathing
  • Changing bandages
  • Collecting samples for lab testing
  • Discussing treatments with patients
  • Taking blood samples
  • Administering medications
  • Assisting the physician
  • Authorizing prescription refills per physician’s instructions

Another important (if unofficial) aspect of medical assistants is to bridge the gap between the patient and physician. While we should all trust our physicians the truth is that many patients will have questions or concerns they are reluctant to mention to the physician. Others may be secretly frightened about an upcoming procedure. The medical assistant takes the time to discuss these concerns and relieve the patients’ fears. The medical assistant also takes this time to explain the physician’s instructions for the patient both before and after the procedure.

As you can see, the medical assistant is a very important part of the hospital or healthcare provider’s clinic. A recent survey from Healthcare Intelligence Network shows that the medical assistant is considered to be among the top five professionals in the Patient-Centered Medical Home team. It is important to ensure that medical assistants are adequately trained and prepared to handle the needs of the patients. For this reason, the AAMA offers a certification program for medical assistants. In fact, many employers in the health and wellness industry insist that a medical assistant be AAMA-certified before they are hired.

In order to become a medical assistant in the United States you will need approximately nine months to a year of study and training depending on the area you plan to work as a medical assistant. Most major universities and colleges offer a medical assistant program and students are eligible for federal financial aid and student loans. If you do not wish to go into debt over your education there are some employers who will provide funds for your education in exchange for you agreeing to work at their site for a predetermined length of time.

Medical Assistant Programs

     According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistant jobs are on the rise and offering a median salary of about $30,000 per year. The unemployment rate among medical assistants is considerably lower than the national average and in many US jurisdictions one only needs a high school diploma before beginning to train as a medical assistant. Even better- the programs to become a medical assistant generally take several months to a year. It is an exciting job with a variety of duties ranging from maintaining patient files to taking vital signs and even draw blood or renew prescriptions (depending on the jurisdiction).

Online Medical Assistant Programs

     There are many legitimate educational institutions that offer online courses for the Medical Assistant program. You will need to check which schools are accredited for the state(s) you want to work in as a medical assistant but every state in the US has at least one accredited school that offers online classes for this profession. There are also plenty of schools which are qualified for federal financial aid and student loan programs. Even better, many established hospitals and health care providers offer financial assistance to students and in exchange the new medical assistant works for them for a predetermined amount of time.

Medical Assistant Schools

     Many major universities and community colleges offer a Medical Assistant program of some sort. As noted above, the programs in most states do not require any previous education or training beyond a high school diploma or equivalent. These programs are also eligible for federal financial aid, federal student loans and possibly even funding from health care providers. A Medical Assistant program in most states only requires about 9 to 12 months for completion. Some schools even offer job location services to help you begin your career right after you graduate.

Medical Assistant Degrees

     It is relatively fast and easy to get a Medical Assistant degree from an accredited educational institution. You will need to apply to the school of your choice and have your high school diploma or your state’s equivalent certificate. You will need some basic math skills. Reading comprehension is also a critical skill. You must be able to multi-task. Some days you will be going through years of medical files and other days you will be in contact with patients. A caring attitude is a must-have, but you should also be able to disconnect yourself emotionally from your patients. If you can do all of these things then you should consider earning a degree as a medical assistant.

Medical Assistant Certification

     In the United States the certification of medical assistants is handled by the AAMA, the American Association of Medical Assistants. They offer an exam for you to take after you graduate from an approved Medical Assistant program. The cost of this exam ranges from $125 to $250 depending on how recently you graduated and whether you are a member of the association (which does offer some compelling benefits.) You will need to provide documentation of course completion. After that, you set a date for the exam and begin studying. Certification is a positive addition to your job profile and should be considered.