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Medical Assistant Career Factsheet

By: CareerFactsheet.com- Updated: Aug. 31, 2013

Medical assistants work with and under the direct supervision of health professionals, including physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners. They can be found in hospitals, universities, medical clinics, physicians’ offices, and other healthcare and medical centers. Medical assistants complete a range of administrative and clinical tasks to support healthcare professionals, including clerical duties related to the day-to-day operation of a medical office or clinic, assisting with patients, and carrying out routine medical or clinical tasks and procedures.

Is Medical Assisting For You?

A career as a medical assistant may right for you if you:

  • Have strong analytical skills: Medical assistants are required to understand and follow medical charts and diagnoses, and they may also be asked to interpret a patient’s medical history. They also code medical records for billing purposes.
  • Are detail-oriented: As a medical assistant, you must be very accurate when taking vital signs and statistics, and when recording patient information. Accuracy is necessary in order to provide physicians and other health professionals with the right information they need to diagnose and treat a patient. Insurance companies also require precise and accurate information and records.
  • Have excellent interpersonal skills: You will be asked to interact with patients and other medical professionals on a daily basis, and you will often have to discuss sensitive patient and medical information. Medical assistants must be calm and professional, especially when working with patients and family members.
  • Have strong technical skills: Medical assistants often work with clinical and medical instruments, for example to draw blood, check blood pressure, provide an injection, or to take an x-ray. You will also be required to use computer software for bookkeeping and general office management duties.

Video Career Profile

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical assistants perform duties that are delegated to them by health professionals, such as physicians. Some of the typical administrative and clinical duties of a medical assistant include scheduling patient appointments, measuring vital signs, speaking with patients to learn more about their medical history, assisting a health professional with patient examinations, and preparing blood work for laboratory tests. In addition, medical assistants may give patients injections under the supervision of a physician. In many cases, what a clinical medical assistant can do often depends on the guidelines and regulations set by each state. For example, formal qualifications and certification are sometimes needed for specialized duties such as taking an x-ray.

Medical assistants may be asked to undertake a range of office-related duties, including answering phones, greeting patients, and responding to correspondence the office receives. They may also be responsible for billing, completing insurance forms, updating patient records, or code medical information. Medical assistants may also be involved in stocking supplies and office equipment, and sterilizing and disposing of medical instruments and supplies. Medical assistants can also carry out a range of clinical duties, including basic medical tasks and procedures. Examples of these include carrying out laboratory tests, and preparing and administering medication, such as local anaesthesia. Medical assistants also work closely with patients, including preparing them for medical examinations and procedures such as x-rays. They may also administer x-rays, remove stitches or change dressings, draw blood, and provide information to patients on how to use medication or on special diets. Medical assistants may also assist in examinations and carry out routine medical procedures, such as cosmetic procedures.

Medical assistants can be asked specialize in either administrative or clinical aspects of their job. They may also have an opportunity to specialize in a specific health field. With this increase specialization, medical assistants may also be permitted to assist in surgery. Podiatric medical assistants work with podiatrists or foot doctors. In these offices, a medical assistant may be found making castings, and exposing and developing x-rays. An ophthalmic medical assistant can have a career with ophthalmologists and optometrists. These assistants undertake specialized tasks related to eye care, including showing patients how properly use and care for contact lenses.

What Education and Training do I Need?

Medical Assistant Career

Typically, a high school diploma or equivalent is necessary to become a medical assistant. In most states, there is no formal education requirement for medical assistants and most training is completed on the job. Although not required, many employers do prefer hiring medical assistants with some formal post-secondary education, including completion of a medical assistant or related training program at a community college, vocational or technical school, or a university. Generally, a medical assistant program will take about one to two years to complete and will lead to a diploma, certificate, or associate degree. Specialized training may be required to perform certain clinical duties, such as taking x-rays or administering injections to patients. In addition, accredited certification may also be necessary to work in some states or to carry out specialized tasks, such as administering an x-ray.

How Much Can I Earn as a Medical Assistant?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for a medical assistant in 2012 was $29,370 per year or $14.12 per hour.

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