The Medical Assistant
Are you extremely versatile and able to switch between office duties and patient duties?
A Day In The Life
Job Description: Never a dull moment.
Most mornings will likely begin in the office. There is always paperwork for the medical assitant to do, and in the few minutes before the first patients begin to arrive, it makes sense to seize the moment of quiet and get some of it done.
In fact, there are a lot of times where you feel like a glorified secretary. However, unlike most secretaries, you have a much deeper knowledge of anatomy, prescriptions, medical terms and even medical insurance filing codes.
The first patients have arrived by now and are waiting for their paperwork to fill out. You hand it to them and give them instructions on how to fill it out. As they begin filing out the record, you check with the doctor to make sure she is ready for her patients and prep the exam room to make sure it has clean papers on the examination table.
When all is ready, you escort the patient back to the exam room and check their weight, temperature, blood pressure and ask them a few questions to make sure that you have their basic information entered into the computer correctly.
As the day wears on you may find yourself faxing prescriptions, assisting the doctor with bandages, transporting samples, and, if you have had the additional training, you may even be called on to take some blood samples.
While you will also be summoned to assist in the examination rooms, some of the hardest work you will do as a medical assistant will be in the office. Here are some of the more common tasks:
- Faxing, printing and copying
- Filling out forms and submitting to insurance companies
- Discussing claims with insurance companies
- Contacting other healthcare providers to request patient histories
- Contacting patients with the status of their results
- Using proper medical charting form to maintain patient records
Unfortunately, Sometimes It Is All Paperwork
Medical Assistants = The Nurse, Redesigned
This demand is causing increased job opportunities
Medical Assistants fill a crucial role in healthcare:
- They are highly trained
- They are less expensive than nurses to hire.
- They are more easily found than nurses
We could argue that not all of the points are good points, but, for the most part, it is the truth.
It does not take nearly as much schooling to become a medical assistant as it does to become a nurse. In fact, some certification courses can be completed in less than a year. In contrast, most nurses will spend 2-4 years in school, if not more.
Additionally medical assistant's wages are typically less than that of an RN or and LPN. Which, for some of the more basic medical tasks, is a great way for healthcare providers to save money.
While they cannot legally perform as many tasks as a nurse, there are many basic functions medical assistants do such as:
- greeting and escorting patients
- weighing patients
- taking blood pressures
- taking temperatures
- assisting patients with medical devices such as splints
- listening to questions patients may have and relaying pertinent information to the doctor
- run x-rays
- some states may allow them to give injections
- follow carefully the local laws and abide by a "scope of practice"
Not only can they work in clinics, but also in hospitals and for specialists such as opthamologists, chiropractors, dermatologists and the like.
Your Career Is What You Make Of It
Future Growth Opportunities
A career in medical assisting is rarely an end-all. Most assistants will find that by specializing, they can dramatically increase their paycheck.
You will find yourself exposed to a wide variety of tasks and will constantly push up against the boundaries of your knowledge. As you continue to grow, new opportunities will continue to present themselves.
Basically, it boils down to this: are you willing to keep learning?
So much in the medical field is highly regulated.
You may discover you like drawing blood. You can go back to school to become a phlebotimist
You may enjoy taking x-rays. Perhaps your employer will pay you to become certified as an x-ray or ultrasound technician.
You may enjoy dispensing medications. Learning more about medicines may empower you to be a pharmacy aide or medication aide.
Perhaps you decide to go on and become a Nurse, Nurse practitioner, or --for the gutsy -- a Physician Assistant or Doctor
The bottom line is, if you only stay at the MA or CMA level, you will never advance much beyond the $35,000 per year mark. It is only those employees that accept the fact they have to keep learning, who will be able to progress through the medical ranks and create a decent income.
What is the Next Step?
If you are still in high school, be sure to take courses in Chemistry and Biology to ensure that you are comfortable with the concepts and help you progress more rapidly in your future studies.
For students who have their high-school diploma, you may want to look at schools to get your medical training. Be careful, as some schools charge you a lot of money and will rapidly saddle you with debt.
In fact, in some locations, on-the-job training is all you will need. So do some research before you shell out for school. A great resource for information on qualified schools out there training is the American Association of Medical Assistants which helps keep track of all of the current MA's recertification status and is a great resource for getting a good job in the medical field.
Also, you may wish to talk to try shadowing to see exactly what it is a medical assistant does throughout the day. Not only will shadowing help you appreciate the field and evaluate if it will be a good fit for you, but also you may be able to build some connections that will make it easier to land a job.
For those who have big hearts and the ability to multi-task, this may well be the perfect career.