Becoming a medical assistant is a rewarding, albeit challenging, process that can lead to a lifelong career in the medical industry. Doctors’ offices and larger hospitals require knowledgeable, skilled assistants who can take directions efficiently, work with patients with a passionate bedside manner, and adapts readily to new tasks and responsibilities.
Medical Assistant Education
Medical assistants are good at performing a variety of tasks, many of which tend to be administrative. Individuals who want to become medical assistants should enjoy correspondence, working with various external agencies like insurance companies and pharmacies, and should have the ability to maintain detailed accuracy in any paperwork they oversee. Additionally, some medical assistants take on more clerical duties. This requires a good beside manner and the ability to perform routine diagnostic tests with precision and sensitivity.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, vocational-technical high schools, post-secondary vocational schools and community and junior colleges all offer programs in medical assistantship. These programs last either one-year and result in a certificate, or last two years and culminate with an associates degree. The courses involved in these programs are designed to work on creating professionals who are dually expert administrators and knowledgeable clinical professionals. Some of the courses common to medical assistant schools include:
- Medical Terminology
- Record Keeping
- Insurance Processing
In addition to this, students will typically learn clinical and diagnostic procedures, be exposed to pharmaceutical principles, engage in laboratory techniques, learn how to administer certain medicines and may even become certified in first aid. Furthermore, those studying to become medical assistants often taken the time to delve into more complicated subjects like patient relations, medical law and ethics, and office practices. Usually accredited programs will include an internship component to combine classroom training with practical, in-office experience that can be applied later on.
What Happens After School?
Once a medical assistant degree is obtained, graduates have a few options. They can either enter the workforce directly and immediately begin training to become established professionals, or they can first take the time to gain some certification. Typically most medical offices do not require certification, but often it is a strong indicator to doctors and hiring managers that an individual has an established level of knowledge in a given specialization. In fact, certification can help distinguish a formally trained medical assistant from an entry-level one, and can lead to more responsibility and a higher salary as well.
Many associations currently exist which offer certification to medical assistants. These include the American Association of Medical Assistants and the Association of Medical Technologists. Certification courses tend to cater to a professional’s convenience, and classes can be taken online or in a classroom while still maintaining a job and gathering valuable work experience.
It is also possible to spend extra time becoming specialized in a particular niche of medical assistantship. Training programs are in operation today that allow medical assistants to concentrate in such fields as podiatry, ophthalmology, optometry, and orthopedics. These specializations prepare medical assistants to ultimately take on more responsibility in the work place. For example, a professional with certification in optometry can assist an eye doctor in giving diagnostic examinations, eye muscle tests, and can even administer eye medication under the direction of a physician.
What To Expect At Work?
Once a person has undergone the appropriate schooling and acquired any necessary and desired certifications, he or she is ready to move full throttle into establishing themselves as professionals. Medical assistants work in fast-paced environments that are clean and well lit. For some, the typical workday is spent at the computer liaising with various external agencies like pharmacies and insurance companies, as well as updating and maintaining the day’s influx of patient records. Additionally, administrative medical assistants may report directly to office managers to fill them in on the office’s day-to-day operations.
Clinically focused medical assistants tend to spend more time working directly with doctors and patients in the examination rooms. These individuals can give routine diagnostic tests, administer shots and take blood samples, and can even instruct patients on new diet regimens or medical precautions (this is usually done under the direction of a physician).
Medical assistants with specialization often get the opportunity to develop and perfect the skills needed in their particular area of expertise. Often these professionals move quickly to complex positions within the medical office, and are depended upon for their trustworthiness, accuracy, attention to minute details, and pleasurable manner both in the workplace and at bedside.
A medical assistant degree can be applied to a wide array of areas for a career that is ever-changing, quick-paced, and which ultimately helps people live healthy, long lives. Becoming a medical assistant is not easy, but the end result is for most, worth the challenge.