The medical assistant job description highlights this profession's support role in the health care field. Medical assistants help physicians run offices, clinics and hospital departments. With health information stored electronically, physicians rely upon the assistants' use of technology to relay their orders, record information and secure payment. The demand for skilled medical assistants is clearly reflected in the move to certify them.
Job Overview: What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
The medical assistant job description portrays this position as a supporter of a medical practice in a doctor's office, hospital or other health care facility. The typical tasks generally include obtaining patient information; scheduling appointments and obtaining payments through billing patients and their insurance.
Medical Assistant Job Duties
- Write down patients' medical and family histories and personal information.
- Take vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse, weight, height and temperature.
- Administer medications and injections under direction of physicians and also as authorized by law.
- Record vital signs, complaints, presenting symptoms, histories and other information into patient records.
- Schedule examinations, consultations and procedures on patients.
- Prepare blood and other samples for laboratory tests.
- Send doctors' orders for diagnostic exams, laboratory tests and medications.
Medical Assistant Job Essential Skills
Communication. Medical assistants must listen to patients to properly record information and to physicians to follow instructions. Communication also includes explaining instructions relayed by the physician.
Analytical. Understanding charts and diagnoses is necessary for assistants to bill patients or their insurance. Approvals of insurance, Medicare or Medicaid claims often depend on proper coding of services and reasons for visits.
Technical. Medical assistants use equipment to take vital signs. The instruments include blood pressure monitor, thermometers and pulsometers, many of which display digital measurements. In addition, medical assistants may need to use needles to inject medication or vaccines.
Interpersonal. Patients may exhibit discomfort or distress during visits. Medical assistants need to display compassion, calm and patience toward them. The medical assistant job description also includes dealing with physicians, hospitals, pharmacies and insurance representatives.
Ethical. Medical assistants become privy to personal and sensitive information about patients, their conditions, insurance, finances and family histories. Generally, such information must remain confidential. Breaching this duty can expose the medical practice and its physicians to liability for harm to patients and to penalties by governmental agencies.
Becoming a Medical Assistant Professional
With a high school diploma, post-secondary certificate and training, medical assistants have the minimum qualifications for work. However, as medical records exist primarily in electronic form, the medical assistant job description calls upon assistants to be proficient in entering codes and other information through computers. Medical assistants can obtain certification and enhance their standing in the job market.
Qualifications & Training
Generally, medical assistants complete a one-year program after high school at a vocational school or community college. Upon completion, they receive a certificate or diploma. At community colleges, medical assistants can earn a two-year associates degree.
High school courses such as biology, chemistry am anatomy can prepare students for post-secondary medical assistant programs. Classes in vocational or community colleges cover skills and topics such as taking vital signs, entering physicians orders, recording patient information, and billing insurers and patients.
Organizations such as the American Association of Medical Assistants certify medical assistants. To become a certified medical assistant, a candidate must attend a program accredited by the Commission on Association of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Generally, the curriculum at these schools includes medical terminology, human anatomy, human physiology, human pathology, diagnosis, clinical procedures, billing and administration of medication.
Medical assistants receive training through vocational or community college programs. However, some physicians or hospitals may orient new hires on equipment, instruments, office procedures and billing codes.
Physicians may prefer applicants who are certified medical assistants. Medicare and Medicaid permit only certified medical assistants to enter diagnostic imaging, medication and laboratory orders into their portals. However, the certification process includes a period of unpaid work under supervision of a doctor.
In general, medical assistants are employed full-time. With clinics increasingly open beyond traditional hours, medical assistants may work evenings or weekends. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly six in 10 assistants work in doctor's offices. Conversely, for the 15 percent employed in hospitals, shifts might involve late-nights, weekends or other irregular times. Medical assistants may be on duty during holidays.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an additional 138,900 medical assistant jobs by 2024, or a 23 percent increase. The need for medical assistants will surely track the demand for physicians' services. Baby-boomers seek preventative care from doctors. Moreover, improved access to health insurance is likely to encourage people to seek medical care.
Physicians offices employed the largest number of medical assistants, at 356,000 as of May 2015. General Medical and Surgical Centers came in second at 87,630. Those assistants with skills in handling electronic health records and certification may have advantages in finding employment. In fact, medical assistants must have certification to submit orders through the Medicare and Medicaid computer portals.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual pay for medical assistants was $31,910 as of May 2015. That translates to an hourly wage of $15.34.
Longer life spans and access to health insurance will keep physicians and medical assistants in healthy demand. Additionally, medical assistants who bring certification and experience with electronic record management can readily find job opportunities. To sum up the medical assistant job description requires these professionals to exercise patience, empathy, accurate record keeping and ethical handling of patient information.