The health care field offers a wide range of exciting job options, but few training programs get students out of the classroom and into a rewarding career faster than a medical assistant program. Students graduate with a unique blend of skills that are a perfect fit for doctors’ offices, hospitals, and outpatient centers.
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
A medical assistant is a versatile support professional who works under the supervision of a licensed health care provider and who helps deliver top-quality care by performing a variety of essential clinical and administrative tasks.
- Scheduling appointments
- Greeting clients
- Recording health histories
- Taking vital signs (temperature, pulse, respiration, and blood pressure)
- Assisting with medical procedures
- Administering EKGs
- Performing lab tests, including blood draws and urinalysis
- Maintaining medical records
- Educating patients
- Managing referrals
- Working with insurance companies
As the liaisons between patients, doctors, nurses, and administrative staff, medical assistants are respected members of the health care team and play a critical role in providing care and comfort to those in need.
For students interested in a rewarding career where they can make a difference in people’s lives, these are ten top benefits to start a medical assistant program today.
Benefit 1: Career Focused Training
Career focused medical assistant training programs offer accelerated, student-centered training that emphasizes the practical skills needed for success. They don’t include the types of extensive academic prerequisites that are a time consuming part of bachelor’s degree programs.
For students with other life commitments or older adults looking to make a career change without being out of the job market too long, it’s a great option.
Benefit 2: Small Class Sizes
Small classes mean students benefit from the encouragement of others while also getting personal attention from a qualified instructor. With fewer students, individuals are likelier to interact and engage with others in the classroom rather than listen passively.
This environment is a safe space for sharing ideas and offering constructive feedback. Students feel supported but don’t get lost in the shuffle.
Benefit 3: Hands-On Learning
Medical assistant programs require class time. Students learn about anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, and medical ethics, among other topics. However, the emphasis on hands-on learning is a top benefit for those who master new skills best through practice.
Research shows that students are better able to connect difficult classroom concepts with real-life applications when they have the opportunity to perform them in a typical occupational setting. Medical assisting programs offer this benefit both through classroom simulation and externships.
Benefit 4: Externships
The best medical assistant programs offer practical learning opportunities through supervised externships. Externships are short, but comprehensive, job shadowing experiences that give students and graduates the benefit of practicing their skills in real-life environments.
Externs have the opportunity to work side-by-side with experienced medical assistants, learn about different specialties, use a broad range of equipment, and employ hands-on skills as they care for patients.
Performance evaluations from staff and instructors after an externship help identify strengths and weaknesses. This allows students to ask questions and perfect their skills before entering the job market.
An interesting benefit of externships is that they can serve as both work experience and networking opportunities. Students can work in settings of interest or try something entirely new. If they make a good impression, they may glean valuable references that can result in a dream job.
Benefit 5: Preparation for Certification
Medical assisting isn’t a new profession. The first professional association for medical assistants was formed more than 60 years ago. Being certified or registered as a medical assistant isn’t required to work in most states, but as the health care field becomes more complex, it’s becoming essential.
Without credentials, the tasks medical assistants can do, like entering orders into electronic health records, are limited by large insurers including Medicare and Medicaid, and that puts employers at a disadvantage.
Certification is offered through several organizations, but the most meaningful comes from the American Association of Medical Assistants and requires graduation from an accredited medical assistant program. Every five years, certification must be renewed by reexamination or through continuing education.
Even when it’s not required, certification benefits graduates of a medical assistant program by making them more attractive to prospective employers. It demonstrates a certain level of competency, as well as a commitment to staying current with essential topics in medicine.
Within the health care field, medical assistants are taking on increasingly greater responsibility, and certification opens the door to career growth.
Benefit 6: Career Services and Job Placement Assistance
For prospective students, career services and job placement assistance are valuable benefits of a medical assistant program.
Educational institutions and the medical professionals who work as instructors are uniquely positioned to offer both career guidance and help graduates find jobs. They understand employment trends and work with leaders in the industry to develop programs that teach marketable skills.
Career services advisors can match students with the job opportunities that meet their needs and complement their strengths. They can also facilitate connections with peer mentors. Other services vary but may include help with writing résumés and honing interview skills.
Benefit 7: Job Flexibility
More than half of medical assistants work in doctors’ offices, but opportunities are expanding in hospitals, specialty clinics, and urgent care centers. For graduates who want an optimal work/life balance, schedules in private practices are typically stable. Working nights, weekends, holidays, and long hours is a way of life for some health care professionals, but not necessarily for medical assistants.
For those who prefer a fast pace and a dose of excitement, medical assistants are increasingly proving their worth in the hospital setting. They assist doctors and nurses by providing basic patient care and by tackling administrative tasks necessary for billing and insurance claims.
Medical assistants can also choose to specialize in areas that emphasize either clinical or administrative skills.
Clinical medical assistants do things like take vital signs, perform lab tests, provide patient education, and assist physicians and nurses during examinations.
Administrative medical assistants manage the schedule, keep medical records up-to-date, handle billing and insurance forms, and arrange referrals. Popular specialties include cardiology, urology, podiatry, and maternal health.
Because medical assistants have the skills employers in the health care field want most, they qualify for jobs in diverse settings. With experience, medical assistants have opportunities for advancement.
In private practice, administrative medical assistants could grow into a position as an office manager. In a hospital, they could become a clinical team leader. Once certified, medical assistants can also benefit from additional specialty certifications that serve as building blocks for career growth.
Benefit 8: A Job That Matters
People in the medical system are sick and vulnerable, and it’s a medical assistant’s responsibility to create a warm, welcoming environment that helps them feel secure.
As the first person clients see when they arrive for a visit, the compassion and professionalism with which a medical assistant represents the entire health care team is the key to building professional rapport. It’s a big responsibility, but one that allows medical assistants to spread their wings and use their skills to build patients’ confidence in their care.
From providing emotional support to patients with troubling diagnoses to improving their well-being through education, what a medical assistant does matters, and that always feels good.
The only prerequisites for an exciting career as a medical assistant are a compassionate heart, enthusiasm for health care, and high-quality, career-focused education. Medical assistant programs make it easy by supporting students from the application process through certification and beyond.
Did learning about the benefits of attending a medical assistant program interest you? Ready for an exciting new career in the medical assisting field?
The Medical Assistant program at Hunter Business School prepares competent, entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains required for professional practice.
The Medical Assistant program provides hands-on experience in a real medical setting where you can foster professional relationships with actual patients. Medical Assistant students spend 160 hours in an externship at a medical facility where they are supervised and taught in order to gain valuable on-the-job training.