Clinical Medical Assistant
Clinical medical assisting is a career that offers stability and an opportunity to work with patients in a variety of settings. If you are interested in the medical field but don't want to spend several years in school clinical medical assisting may be a good fit.
It is important to understand the difference between clinical medical assistants and administrative assistants. Clinical medical assistant carry out a doctor's or nurse's orders in order to provide direct patient care. Although in small medical practices, some clinical medical assistants may perform limited administrative tasks, their main focus is assisting the doctor in caring for patients.
The responsibilities of a clinical medical assistant may vary depending on the type of environment they work in. In addition, state laws vary on what types of procedures are within a clinical medical assistant's scope of practice. In general, clinical medical assistants may expect to perform the following duties:
Collecting Lab Specimens:
In many cases, clinical medical assistants are responsible for collecting specimens for laboratory analysis, such as sputum and urine. Understanding how to prevent contamination of the specimen is essential to obtain accurate results.
MA's also perform diagnostic tests including electrocardiograms, which records the heart's rhythm.
Cleaning and Dressing wounds:
Clinical medical assistants often perform patient care including cleaning and dressing wounds. They may also apply bandages and remove sutures.
In some states, clinical medical assistants are allowed to perform basic blood draws, such as venipuncture.
Charting Medical Histories:
In many medical practices and clinics, medical assistants chart medical histories and record vital signs before the patient meets with the doctor.
There are several different types of work environments where clinical medical assistants may work. Many work in medical practices. Virtually any specialty practice, such as oncology, cardiology and internal medicine may hire clinical medical assistants. Although doctor's offices are the most common place of employment, clinical medical assistants also work in labs, home health agencies and urgent care clinics, similar to regular medical assistants.
One benefit of working as a clinical medical assistant is there may not be one typical type of patient. For example, clinical assistants working in an urgent care clinic may care for patients of all ages with a large variety of conditions. The diversity of patients may keep the job interesting.
The 2014 Medical Assisting and Compensation and Benefits Report gathered by the American Medical Assisting Association finds clinical medical assistants earn an average of $15.26 an hour. Those who work in a specialty other than primary care earned a slightly higher hourly wage coming in at $16 an hour. Certification, location, experience and setting also played a role in salary.
Clinical medical assistants are utilized in all types of medical practices and clinics, and there is currently a demand for qualified assistants. Those who hold a nationally recognized certification are especially needed. Clinical medical assistants are the backbone of a medical practice, and the demand is expected to grow.
The path to becoming a clinical medical assistant usually involves completing a medical assistant program. There are some MA programs that combine clinical medical assisting with administrative assisting skills. But for those who want to focus primarily on patient care, programs are available which only teach clinical medical assisting.
Typical classes, such as anatomy, pharmacology and diagnostic testing are usually part of a clinical medical assisting curriculum. Skills taught may include assisting with medication, preparing patients for x-rays and phlebotomy skills.
Although it can vary, most clinical medical assisting programs can be completed in one to two years. After completing school, earning certification is a great way to increase your chances of landing the job you want.
The National Healthcare Association offers a certification in clinical medical assisting. The certification is not required by most employers, but it often increases employment opportunities. Additionally, the American Association of Medical Assistants offers a certification exam to applicants who have graduated from an approved program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Although the CMA credential is not only for clinical medical assistants, it is widely respected and can increase your marketability.
There are certain traits and skills that clinical medical assistants should have to increase their chances of doing well in the field.
- Compassion: Patients are sometimes sick, fearful or anxious. It is helpful to be compassionate and empathic to provide the best patient care possible.
- Problem Solving Skills: Problem solving skills are needed to work as a clinical medical assistant. For instance, clinical assistants often work with various types of equipment from computers to EKG machines. Being able to troubleshoot problems with equipment is helpful.
- Good Communication Skills: Good communication skills are a must for clinical medical assistants. Assistants need to speak with all types of people gathering and conveying medical information. The ability to communicate effectively is needed.
- Bilingual: Although not mandatory, speaking a second language is a helpful skill for a clinical medical assistant.
There are a few professional groups and organizations for clinical medical assistants include the following:
- The American Registry of Medical Assistants – The ARMA is a national nonprofit organization that's goal is to advance the professionalism and status of medical assistants. They offer certification and continued education opportunities.
- American Association of Medical Assistants – The AAMA is a national organization whose mission is to assist in the professional growth of medical assistants including clinical medical assistants. The organization offers certification and education opportunities, as well as networking and support.