If you are looking for a career in healthcare which offers a variety of work environments and responsibilities, you may want to consider becoming a medical assistant. Medical assistants work in a variety of healthcare settings both assisting physicians and helping ensuring a medical practice or facility runs efficiently.
Medical assistants may perform different tasks depending on where they work. For example, smaller medical practices may hire medical assistants to do both administrative and clinical duties while larger practices and facilities may have separate clinical and administrative assistants.
What are Some Typical Medical Assistant Duties?
Some typical responsibilities of a medical assistant include the following:
Explaining procedures to patients
Medical assistants may greet patients and escort them back to an exam room. They may also inform the patients about procedures and explain treatments.
Preparing exam rooms
Depending on what a patient is having done at a visit medical assistants may need to stock the exam room with different supplies and equipment.
Measuring vital signs
Another responsibility of medical assistants is to measure and record a patient’s weight, temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. They may also take medical histories and obtain insurance information.
Assisting with minor procedures
Medical assistants may help the doctor during office procedures such as placing a cast or bandaging a wound.
In some instances, medical assistants perform basic cardiac tests, such as an electrocardiograms.
Collecting lab specimens
Clinical medical assistants may collect and process lab specimens for basic tests.
Scheduling patient’s appointments
Administrative medical assistants are often in charge of scheduling appointments for patients and providing referral information to other medical practices.
Processing and organizing paperwork
Paperwork, such as insurance forms and consents are processed and placed in the patient’s chart by medical assistants.
In order to keep a medical practice running smoothly, the right supplies are needed. Medical assistants ensure everything needed is ordered and kept in stock.
Where Does a Medical Assistant Work?
Medical assistants work in various settings, such as the following:
About half of medical assistants work in doctors’ offices according to the Unites States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical practices may include family practice or various specialties such as obstetrics, cardiology, and pediatrics.
Medical assistants also work in various types of clinics, such as urgent care centers and specialty clinics.
Ambulatory Care Centers
Ambulatory care centers are medical facilities where patients have outpatient procedures performed.
Some medical assistants may also find employment in home care performing duties similar to a home health aide.
Although it is more common in some parts of the country than others, medical assistants are sometimes hired in hospitals to perform work similar to a nurse’s aide.
What are Some Medical Assistant Areas of Practice?
Medical assistants often work in general clinics or practices, but some assistants also choose to specialize in a certain type of practice. Consider a few of the most common specialties for medical assistants.
Podiatrists are doctors who specialize in treating conditions of the feet. Medical assistants who work in a podiatry practice may assist during minor surgeries and help doctors apply casts and splints.
Chiropractors treats various types of conditions often through manually adjusting the spine. Medical assistants may take health histories, assist the chiropractor with procedures, and perform administrative duties.
Optometrists treat conditions of the eyes. Medical assistants may help during minor procedures, apply eye medication, and record basic vision tests.
Finding a Medical Assistant Job
Even before you graduate from a medical assistant program you can start researching jobs. Determine if your school offers job placement assistance. Some programs will assist students in locating job vacancies. Additionally, during any internships ask about possible job openings.
Make a list of medical practices and clinics in your area. Even if there are not current openings, you may be able to submit a resume which the practice can keep on file for future positions. Contact hospitals in your area to determine if there are any available jobs. A large majority of employers advertise jobs online on various sites. Be sure to do a thorough online search to find job leads in your area.
Completing a Medical Assistant Job Application
When you are completing an application for a medical assisting job, make sure you have the items needed to answer all questions thoroughly. It is helpful to have the following items available:
- Transcript: You may need to provide information on classes you completed.
- MA Certificate: You may want to submit a copy of your medical assisting certification with your application.
- Resume: It is helpful to have a resume available to transfer information, such as work history and employment dates.
- CPR Card: Some employers will ask you to provide a copy of your CPR card with your application.
- Reference Information: Most applications include a section where you can provide references. Bring information such as names, email addresses, and phones numbers.
- Identification: Bring two forms of identification when you fill out an application.
Interviewing can be nerve-wracking, but it is often part of the job seeking process. Before you interview for a medical assisting job take a deep breath and consider some of the following suggestions:
- Research the potential employer before interviewing
- Arrive on time and dressed professionally
- Make eye contact and smile
- Display enthusiasm, professionalism and a positive attitude
- Discuss relevant skills and what makes you a good fit for the job
- Thank the interviewer for their time
- Follow-up with a hand written thank you letter
Obtaining certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants will likely increase your marketability. Employers often prefer to hire MAs who are certified. It shows you meet at least the minimum education and knowledge to work as a medical assistant. The certification process involves submitting required documents, such as transcripts and passing an exam.
When you start work as a medical assistant expect the first few weeks to be a learning process. Although the information you learned in school is valuable, some things you will still need to learn on the job. For example, medical practices are often run differently and have their own way of doing things. It will likely take a few weeks of orientation to learn how the practice or clinic wants things done. Plan on spending time reading policies, reviewing responsibilities and completing orientation.
Professional Resources and Groups for Medical Assistants
Professional groups and resources can help you develop your career as a medical assistant. Organizations for medical assistants provide a chance to network and learn more about your profession. One of the main organizations for medical assistants is the American Association of Medical Assistants. The AAMA provides opportunities for continuing education, job leads and career development.