Medical Assistants have the skills necessary to assist physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners carry their daily duties. Medical Assistants make sure that the office runs smoothly and because of this they are often considered the “backbones” of doctor’s offices.
A Medical Assistant’s (MA for short) day-to-day activities will vary depending on the practitioner’s specialty as well as the location and size of the practice. MAs working in larger practices tend to specialize in one specific set of skills related to the practice’s specialty, whereas Medical Assistants working in smaller offices will gain a broader range of skills related to the many different parts of the business.
Medical Assistants Career Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Medical Assisting field looks very promising:
- Employment is projected to grow much faster than average, ranking MAs amongst the fastest growing occupations over the next decade.
- About 62% of MAs work in Physician’s offices.
- Job prospects should be excellent – especially for those with a Medical Assistant certification or with experience.
- Few Medical Assistants are trained on the job, nowadays it is more common to complete a 1 or 2 year training program.
In 2008, Medical assistants held over 483,600 jobs. As mentioned above, about 62% of MAs worked in offices of physicians; 13% worked in public and private hospitals – which includes inpatient and outpatient facilities; and 11% worked in offices of other health practitioners – such as chiropractors and optometrists. Most of the remainder of MAs worked in other healthcare industries, such as nursing and residential care facilities.
Types of Medical Assistants
There are 3 main types of Medical Assistants: Administrative Medical Assistants, Clinical Medical Assistants and, Specialized Medical Assistants.
- Administrative Medical Assistants are responsible of updating and filing patients’ medical records, as well as filling out insurance forms and arranging patient’s hospital admissions. Duties might also include arranging the patient for laboratory services, answering phones, greeting patients, handling correspondence, scheduling appointments and handling billing information. Some Administrative Medical Assistants might also be required to do bookkeeping for the practice in which they work.
- Clinical Medical Assistants: Depending on the state law, Clinical MAs duties include: Taking patients medical history, recording the patient’s vital signs, explaining treatment procedures, preparing patients for examination as well as directly assisting physicians during the examination. Clinical MAs can also be in charge of collecting and preparing laboratory specimens and performing basic laboratory tests, disposing of contaminated supplies and sterilizing medical instruments. Depending on the physician, Clinical Medical Assistants might instruct patients about medications and special diets, prepare and administer medications, authorize drug refills, telephone prescriptions to a pharmacy, draw blood, prepare patients for x rays and/ or take electrocardiograms. They may also have to arrange the examination room instruments and equipments, be in charge of purchasing and maintaining office supplies and medical equipments as well as keep the waiting and examining rooms neat and clean.
- Specialized Medical Assistants are required to perform activities directly linked to their specialization. For example, Ophthalmic MAs help ophthalmologists provide eye care. Their duties include conducting diagnostic tests, measuring and recording patients’ vision and testing eye muscle functions. Ophthalmic MAs may have to apply eye dressings and also show patients how to insert, remove, and care for contact lenses and, under the direct direction of the ophthalmologist, they may have the responsibility of administering eye medications. Ophthalmic MAs may also need to maintain optical and surgical instruments ready and may assist the ophthalmologist during surgery. Other duties include chair-side assistance and otherwise provide assistance while working directly with the ophthalmologist.