Medical Assistant Job Description
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistant jobs are one of the fastest-growing careers in the U.S., growing at a rate of 16%.
A medical assistant is an entry-level healthcare position. But medical assistant jobs are important nonetheless because they keep medical offices running smoothly and efficiently. Medical assistants are part of the overall healthcare team providing patient care.
A medical assistant can perform clinical duties or administrative tasks, depending on what is required of the job. For instance, one employer might have their medical assistant answer the phone, schedule patient appointments, greet patients, instruct patients to fill out medical forms and update medical records, or help with bookkeeping and general correspondence.
On the other hand, a medical assistant job might be more clinical in nature. You may be asked to take vital signs or intake patient medical histories, prepare a patient for an examination, or perform other basic clinical duties. Some employers might also allow you to perform basic lab tests, administer vaccinations, perform electrocardiograms, or phlebotomy, that is, take blood from patients for medical testing.
But many medical assistant positions incorporate both administrative and clinical duties. The job description set by your employer as well as state law limitations will set the course for the exact role you might play in your job.
Most medical assistants work in physician practices, chiropractor offices, optometrist offices, and other healthcare facilities.
Medical Assistant Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the average salary of a medical assistant at $37,190 a year, or $17.88 an hour.
Kaiser Permanente is seeking numerous medical assistants to fill its open job positions across many states, including Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, and others. Kaiser is an integrated nonprofit healthcare organization serving 12.6 million people across 8 states and the District of Columbia.
City of Hope often has openings for medical assistant jobs in locations across southern California
Rochester Regional Health in New York has several medical assistant jobs listed on its website. Rochester Regional Health is a 9-hospital health system with hundreds of outpatient specialty practices across its network.
Medical Assistant Training and Requirements
While many medical assistants receive on-the-job training, the majority of hiring managers and employers prefer candidates who have graduated from a medical assisting program.
Medical assistant programs are offered by community and junior colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and universities. Most programs last around a year or two, resulting in either certification or a degree.
According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), an accredited program is recommended. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) both offer credentials to graduates of qualified medical assistant programs. Graduates of these programs can then undergo an exam by the AAMA to receive certification.
Some of the courses included in a medical assistant program may include:
- Medical terminology
- Patient relations
- Record keeping and other office practices
- Human anatomy, pathology, and physiology
- First aid
- Insurance processing and medical coding
- Computer applications
- Clinical procedures
- Laboratory techniques
- Administration of medication
- Medical law and ethics
Some programs also require you to work as an unpaid intern in a healthcare setting as part of your training.
In addition to formal training, several soft skills should be mastered before taking on a medical assistant job.
These include having an empathic nature, good communication and active listening skills, the ability to be flexible in an ever-changing work environment, and great problem-solving skills.
You should also work well as a team member with a common goal of improving patient health. A strong work ethic is also a must as it’s vital to remember to keep patient records in the strictest of confidence.