Being a Pediatric Medical Assistant

If you are looking for a medical career where you have the opportunity to work with children, a career in pediatric medical assisting may be an option to consider.

What Does a Pediatric Medical Assistant Do?

Pediatric medical assistants work in a variety of settings caring for children of all ages. Many MA's work in pediatric medical practices where the size of the practice may play a part in specific responsibilities. For example, in a small pediatric practice, medical assistants may take on the duties of both clinical and administrative medical assisting. The state in which a pediatric medical assistant works may also dictate their scope of practice. In general, pediatric medical assistants can expect to do some of the following tasks:

  • Weigh and Measure Children: All children have their weight and height measured at every appointment to make sure they are on track developmentally.
  • Record Vital Signs: A common MA responsibility is measuring a child's temp, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen level.
  • Remove Sutures: There may be instances where a pediatric medical assistant removes stitches from a patient.
  • Administer Vaccinations: Children often get immunizations at their checkup, especially throughout their first year. Medical assistants usually administer the vaccines.
  • Provide Parent Education: Pediatric medical assistants often provide parents with information on proper nutrition, developmental milestones and potty-training.
  • Assist the Pediatrician With Procedures: Pediatric MA's may routinely need to assist with exams or treatments.

Where Does a Pediatric Medical Assistant Work?

A large majority of pediatric medical assistants work in pediatric medical practices of various sizes. Some may work for pediatricians who specialize in areas, such as pediatric cardiology or oncology. Pediatric medical assistants may also work for pediatric clinics or home health agencies.

As a pediatric medical assistant, you may work with children of all ages from infants to teens. If you are working in a general pediatrician's practice, you will likely encounter children with common childhood illnesses including intestinal viruses, strep throat and the flu.
You may also treat children who have chronic conditions including asthma, diabetes and allergies. Some children you care for may be visiting the doctor for a wellness checkup or routine physical.

What is the Salary Average for a Pediatric Medical Assistant?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for all types of medical assistants in 2014 was about $29,600 a year. According to surveys conducted by employment websites, such as Simply Hired, pediatric medical assistants make roughly the same annual salaries as MA's in other types of medical practices and clinics.

What is the Job Demand for Pediatric Medical Assistants?

All types of medical assistants are currently in demand including pediatric medical assistants. The profession is expected to grow by about 29 percent over the next ten years.

What Do Pediatric Medical Assistants Study?

There are no specific medical assisting courses for students who want to specialize in pediatric medical assisting. If you're interested in working in this specialty, your best bet is to attend a medical assisting program and learn the basics of the profession before specializing.

Medical assisting programs are available, which combine both administrative and clinical tasks. There are also MA programs that focus solely on clinical medical assisting. If you plan to become a pediatric medical assistant, a clinical medical assisting program may be a better option.

Two-year associate degree programs, as well as one-year certificate programs, are offered at technical school, adult education centers and community colleges. Classes may include clinical procedures, anatomy and physiology, communications and basic pharmacology.

Most clinical medical assisting programs also require an externship. An externship involves working in a clinic or medical practice under the direction of an experienced medical assistant. If you are planning to become a pediatric medical assistant, an externship at a pediatric practice would be a great way to gain experience in the field.

If you're considering a career as a pediatric medical assistant, taking additional classes and training is helpful. For example, classes in child development and infant CPR are useful. Organizations including the National Center for Competency Testing offer specialty classes for medical assistants including pediatric medical assisting. Continuing education classes for medical assistants, which focus on working with pediatric patients are also an option to gain additional training.

Although it is not mandatory for employment as a pediatric medical assistant, obtaining certification will likely increase job offers. Some pediatric practices may prefer to hire certified medical assistants. A specific certification in pediatric medical assisting is not currently offered. But certification in clinical medical assisting is offered through the National Healthcare Association. A broader certification, which covers both clinical and administrative certification is also available through the American Association of Medical Assistants.

Traits and Skills Needed for Pediatric Medical Assistants

There are certain traits and skills that pediatric medical assistants should have to increase their chances of doing well in the field.

  • Empathy: Children are often apprehensive about seeing the doctor. Being empathic and compassionate is a must.
  • Creativity: There may be instances where a pediatric medical assistant has to think outside the box to help distract a child during a procedure or treatment. Being creative can help.
  • Good People Skills: Pediatric medical assistants work with people of all ages from children to adults. Good communication and people skills are needed.
  • Patience: Working with children is not the same as treating adults. It may take a little more patience to get through exam and procedures.

Professional Resources and Groups for Pediatric Medical Assistants:

At the national level, there are not professional organizations specifically dedicated to pediatric medical assistants. But there are professional groups for clinical medical assistants, such as those listed below.

  • American Association of Medical Assistants: This national organization is an option for pediatric medical assistants to find continuing education classes, support and obtain certification.
  • National Healthcare Association: The NHA is an organization dedicated to the advancement of allied health professionals, such as pediatric medical assistants. They offer certification, continuing education opportunities and employment leads.