A Guide to Careers in Medicine: How to Become a Medical Assistant
The healthcare field continues to expand rapidly; therefore, there’s always a high demand for medical professionals. Every year, the necessity for medial professionals increases, offering ample opportunities to establish a stable and well paying career in the medical field. Among the numerous careers in medicine available is the need for medical assistants.
A medical assistant performs administrative and clinical tasks in physicians’ offices to aid with the running of the facility. A medical assistant shouldn’t be confused with a physician’s assistant, which is responsible for performing examinations and treating patients. Medical assistants report directly to the office manager, health practitioner or physician. The duties of a medical assistant vary depending on the practitioner’s specialization and the size and location of the practice. Becoming a medical assistant offers excellent job prospects and often requires only a short training program of 1 to 2 years, with on the job training.
There are several forms of medical assistants, including administrative, clinical and specialized assistants. An administrative medical assistant is responsible for updating and maintaining patient medical records. This type of assistant also completes forms and makes the arrangements for laboratory services and hospital admissions. The tasks assigned to administrative assistants are less specific and often include scheduling appointments, billing, bookkeeping, answering phones and other forms of correspondence.
A clinical medical assistant performs specific clinical tasks under the supervision of a physician. Common tasks include recording vital signs, preparing patient examinations, explaining procedures and treatments to patients and assisting physicians during examinations and procedures. Some clinical medical assistants may prepare and collect laboratory specimens, perform basic laboratory tests and sterilize medical equipment. This form of medical assistant is considered to be more hands-on with patients and medical equipment.
There are also medical assistants who specialize in certain areas, such as optometric medical assistants and podiatric medical assistants. Depending on the area of specialization, the medical assistant will perform duties and tasks pertaining to that field of medicine, which can include assisting with certain surgeries, conducting tests on patients and developing x-rays.
How to Become a Medical Assistant
In order to enter a medical assisting program, you’ll need your high school diploma or GED; however, there are a few select programs that don’t require a diploma. Medical assisting programs are offered at vocational schools and community and junior colleges. If you attend a postsecondary program, such as those offered at vocational schools, you’re likely to receive a certification or diploma within 1 year. If you attend a community or junior college, you’ll receive an associate’s degree in the field.
There are numerous courses that must be completed prior to receiving your certification as a medical assistant. General required courses include physiology, anatomy and medical terminology. Other courses may include keyboarding, recordkeeping, transcription, insurance processing and accounting. Depending on the type of medical assistant certification desired, courses may also include clinical and diagnostic procedures, laboratory techniques and pharmaceutical principles. Other courses involve administration of medications, first aid, patient relations and medical law and ethics. Some programs offer internship programs at physicians’ offices and other healthcare facilities. On the job training is often an essential part of a medical assisting program.
Depending on the state, a certification isn’t always required to become a medical assistant; however, a certification displays that a medical assistant has acquired the standards of knowledge needed in the profession. Plus, the certification allows a medical assistant to achieve further training, which promotes further success and income potential in the field. A higher certification allows a medical assistant to become a member of associations, such as the American Association of Medical Assistants and the Association of Medical Technologists.
Achieving further credentials in the field allows advancements in the chosen career path, which leads to a higher salary and the potential to work in well established medical facilities. Medical assistants who work for health practitioners make an approximated $25,000 annually; whereas, those who work in surgical hospitals have the potential to earn $30,000 annually. Employers often seek those who have completed a training program and have achieved a certification over those who haven’t. Employers also prefer those who have taken the initiative to further their credentials with extra training. Becoming a medical assistant is an excellent career path to choose, which has a very promising future due to the high demand of this profession.