During a medical appointment, a medical assistant is most likely the first and last face you’ll see either in a doctor’s office or a large medical facility. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of medical assistants is poised to grow at 29% by the year 2022, making it one of the fastest growing careers in the health care industry. Below is a comprehensive look at this medical field, complete with the career information and what you can do with a medical assisting diploma.
What is a Medical Assisting Diploma?
Medical assisting training combines receiving instructions on typical office tasks and medical practice to produce a graduate who is specifically qualified to handle administrative and support duties in a medical setting. Medical assistant candidates must be detail oriented and have excellent interpersonal, technical and analytical skills.
Upon graduation, a medical assistant is expected to be well acquainted with medical terminology and coding. He or she should be in a position to carry out basic medical tasks such as draw blood, administer drugs, take a blood pressure reading and change dressing. The assistant should have knowledge of basic human physiology and anatomy. A typical medical assistant diploma covers the following areas.
• Human Disease
• Medical Office Management
• Medical Coding
• English Composition
• Medical Law and Ethics
• Clinical Competency
• Anatomy and Physiology
Getting a Medical Assisting Diploma
You need to have at least post secondary education to be enrolled for a medical assisting diploma. You may enroll in a community college, university, vocational or technical school for the diploma program. It takes nine months to one year to complete a medical assisting diploma.
You may opt to enroll in an online medical assistant college but be sure that the college of your choice is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the Bureau of Health Education Schools. You are more likely to secure employment if you graduate with a diploma from an accredited college.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
You don’t need certification as a medical assistant. Nonetheless, employers prefer hiring certified assistants. Several bodies offer certification. You may have to pass a certification exam with some of these organizations while others require graduation from an accredited program. The applicant has to be above 18 years to apply for accreditation.
There are five certifications for medical assistants offered by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies as outlined below.
• Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
• Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association
• National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
• Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
• Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association
What Can You do with a Medical Assisting Diploma?
With a medical assisting diploma, you can secure employment in a physician’s, podiatrist’s, chiropractor’s office or a healthcare facility such as a hospital or medical laboratory.
While the responsibilities of a medical assistant may vary with the location, size of the practice and specialty, they typically entail the following.
Administrative Tasks – The assistant will fill out insurance forms and code the patient’s medical information. He or she will answer telephone calls and schedule patient’s appointments. The assistant may work closely with the facility’s administrator to run the office. Some assistants are tasked with buying and storing supplies for the office.
Note that there is a difference between a medical and physical assistant. A physical assistant examines, diagnoses and treats patients under the supervision of a physician, duties that are not normally performed by a medical assistant.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are changing medical assistant’s administrative duties. There has been a growing number of physicians and medical organizations that are adopting EHRs to collect and store the patient’s information. Thus, assistants need to learn how to use the EHR software that is now being adopted by many medical offices.
Assist in Medical Basic Tasks – An assistant may be called upon to dispose of contaminated supplies, carry out basic laboratory tests and sterilize medical instruments. He or she may also instruct the patient about medication or special diet, remove stitches and prepare the patient for X-rays.
Some medical assistants are assigned tasked based on the type of medical office where they are working. For instance: Ophthalmic and Optometrist Assistants – These help ophthalmologists and optometrists, respectively offer eye care. They guide the patients on how to insert, remove and take care of contact lenses. An ophthalmic medical assistant may also help an ophthalmologist during eye surgery.
Podiatric Medical Assistants – The work closely with a podiatrist to carry out fundamental medical procedures. They may be tasked with making castings of the feet, expose and develop X-rays as well as help the podiatrist in surgery.
How Much Does a Medical Assistant Earn?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for a medical assistant is $ 20,370. The average salary represents the wage at which half of the medical assistants earn. Assistants in the lowest pay scale earn less than $ 21,080 while the top earners take home about $, 41, 570.
Note that medical assisting is a full-time job. You may work in the evenings or weekends to covers shifts on medical organizations that are always open.
What are the Job Prospects?
The future is bright for those who may want to become medical assistants. There is a notable increase in the aging baby boom population which by extension means that the demand for preventative medical services offered by physicians will continue to grow. In line with the expansion of their practices, physicians will employ more assistants to carry out administrative and clinical duties, thereby allowing them to attend to more patients.
Additionally, there is an increase in group practices, clinics, and healthcare organizations that need the services of medical assistants, both on administrative and clinical undertakings. Besides, the federal health legislation will increase the number of patients who will have access to health insurance, thereby increasing the number of patients who have access to medical care.
The changes taking place in the medical assisting field such as the adoption of Electronic Health Records are expected to create additional demand as medical assistants are set to take up more responsibilities.
Assistants who will have at least a diploma and are certified may have better job prospects as the future of medical assisting takes shape.