Medical assistant, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, continues to be among the fastest-growing healthcare-related careers. There are plenty of job opportunities available within this field. At the same time, many of the “prime positions” are highly competitive. For this reason, it often makes sense to become not just a medical assistant, but a certified medical assistant. The extra effort gives you an advantage over many other applicants competing for the same openings you’re vying for while putting you in a position where you’re more likely to find a rewarding and successful career.
Certified Medical Assistant Defined
A certified medical assistant is a medical assistant with more specialized training and respected industry credentials. In addition to keeping a medical facility, often a doctor’s office, running smoothly, a certified medical assistant provides services in a clerical and administrative capacity. This may include specialized work beyond the training a typical medical assistance receives. Certification from the American Association of Medical Assistants is often more attractive to employers looking for a candidate capable of performing various duties.
Requirements to Become Certified
Before you can become eligible to sit for the exam to become certified, you’ll need to complete a regular medical assistance program. This can be through a school or through accelerated courses as long as the program is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. You will not be permitted to take the certification if your program isn’t accredited through one of these two agencies. Once you complete an accredited program, you will need to apply through AAMA to take the exam. If you’re approved, you’ll schedule a date and time to take the exam. If you successfully complete the exam, you’ll receive your official certification. Check the ABHES and CAAHEP websites for lists of accredited programs. Certification is good for five years. After five years, you will need to either take the exam again or demonstrate that you have continued your education within the field to receive education credits.
Necessary Skills to Become a Certified Medical Assistant
In order to become a certified medical assistance, you’ll need to be empathetic towards patients, be dependable when it comes to getting your tasks done, and be able to tolerate some of the stress that sometimes come along with this profession. You also have to conduct yourself with honesty and integrity when collecting and viewing confidential patient information. Keep in mind that you’ll also be assisting with some medical procedures. If you advance to a higher position, you may need to educate and train others. Additional skills ideal candidates for certification should have include:
• Demonstrating good verbal and written communication skills
• Being able to listen well and ask relevant questions
• Communicating ideas clearly to patients and the medical professionals you work for
• Possessing good analytical skills
• Having good technical schools (typically includes using some clinical instruments)
• Understanding patient diagnoses (including charts and doctor notations)
• Having good computer skills (may include medical coding abilities)
Certified Medical Assistant Tasks
A certified medical assistant is often asked to take vital signs and perform other routine patient care tasks, often in advance of the doctor coming in to see the patient. Typically, a medical assistant will work 40 hours a week while working with a professional staff. Some of the tasks a certified medical assistant can expect to perform include:
• Scheduling appointments and answering the phone
• Preparing treatment rooms for patient examinations
• Cleaning and sterilizing instruments
• Recording medical information such as vital signs and test results
• Administering medication or giving shots under doctor supervision
Education and Training
Technically, it’s possible to enter the medical assistant field with a high school diploma or the equivalent. However, additional education is necessary to become certified. The field has evolved to the point where specialized and formal training is almost a requirement if you’re looking for a position with the potential for advancement and growth. Formal training can be achieved through either a one-year certificate program or an associate’s degree program through an accredited school, which usually takes about two years. Accredited programs can include physical classroom instruction, accredited online instruction, or a combination of online and classroom instruction. Most programs will include both medical and office training. Any accredited education and training program typically includes instruction on:
• Lab techniques
• Medical office procedures
• Medical terminology
• Clinical procedures
• Record-keeping procedures
• Medical law and ethics
• Patient relations
Once you complete your training and achieve certification, you will be ready to enjoy a challenging and rewarding career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a certified medical assistant can expect to earn an average salary of $42,000 per year. Certified medical assistants often advance to supervisory or other higher positions that become available within a medical facility or private practice.