What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical assistants perform both clinical and clerical duties in a doctor's office, hospital, or other medical setting. Read on to find out more about your daily responsibilities as a medical assistant. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

As a medical assistant, you provide assistance in the office of a private practice physician or a hospital or outpatient medical facility. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), while you don't need formal training or education, most medical assistants do hold a certificate. Some medical assistants enter the field with a high school diploma and receive training through their employer. Alternatively, you may enroll in a formal training program at a vocational school or community college.

Becoming a certified medical assistant (CMA) may enhance your career options. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) grants certification after you complete an accredited medical assistant program and pass the certification exam (www.aama-ntl.org). CMAs must re-certify every five years by taking continuing education classes or by resitting for the exam. If you choose to specialize in ophthalmology, optometry or podiatry medical assisting, you can seek certification in your specialty.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Similar Occupations Dental hygienist or assistant, pharmacy technician, nursing assistant
Work Environment Physician offices or other healthcare facilities
Key Skills Attention to detail; analytical, technical and interpersonal skills
Common Courses Medical Terminology, Typing, Anatomy and Physiology

Medical Assistant Job Responsibilities

The scope of your medical assistant duties depends on the type and size of the medical practice or facility where you work, as well as the physician's specialty. Usually, you report directly to the supervising office manager or physician.

Clerical Duties

Your clerical duties may include administrative tasks like making appointments, handling insurance forms, and billing customers. You might also file medical records, admit patients into the hospital, and order laboratory tests. In some facilities, you might play the role of liaison between your supervising physician and his or her patients or their families.

Clinical Duties

Your clinical duties may vary, depending on the laws in the state where you work. Tasks may include interviewing patients about their medical histories, checking their vital signs, and getting patients ready for exams. You also assist physicians during examinations, as well as maintain the sterility of the surgical space and instruments.

You are sometimes responsible for collecting laboratory specimens, giving patients their pills and other medications under the supervision of a physician, and removing sutures or changing bandages. Your state may let you perform advanced procedures, such as taking x-rays or giving injections, after taking additional courses or passing a test.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, the employment of medical assistants is expected to grow by 29% between 2012 and 2022. The BLS also reported the median annual salary earned by such assistants as $29,960 in May 2014. Those employed by scientific research and development services earned the highest wages, averaging more than $36,000 a year in 2014.

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