Medical assistants are the backbone of the primary healthcare system. Trained in both administrative and clinical tasks, they’re frontline support specialists and allied health professionals.
Is a Medical Assistant a Medical Professional?
Medical assistants are not clinical professionals. They don’t need a license to work, and they don’t make autonomous medical decisions, they work under the supervision of doctors and nurses. They are, however, part of a larger group known as allied health professionals that use their diverse administrative and clinical skills to promote wellness. Healthcare is complicated, and physicians can’t do it alone. Behind the scenes, allied health professionals collaborate to achieve the best outcomes.
Where do medical assistants fit in? Medical assistants bridge the gap between the administrative and clinical aspects of medicine. Healthcare in the US is expanding, and primary care physicians are taking a leading role.
Although medical assistants work in many healthcare settings, most are employed by private practices. As entry-level professionals, they will play an increasingly critical role in managing the influx of new patients. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for medical assistants is expected to grow 18 percent in the coming decade.
What is Allied Healthcare?
Up to 60-percent of healthcare workers in the US can be considered allied health professionals, according to the Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions. Jobs listed as “allied health” include:
- Physical and Occupational Therapists
- Medical Billing and Coding Specialists
- Medical Office Managers
- Dental Hygienists
- Laboratory Technicians
- Massage Therapists
- EKG Technicians
- Human Resource Specialists
- Medical Assistants
While many jobs in allied healthcare require a college degree, becoming a medical assistant doesn’t. Students can graduate with a diploma and make medical assisting their forever career or the first step on the path toward greater opportunity in allied health. With experience and additional training, medical assistants can move into a range of specialized or supervisory roles, such as:
Laboratory technicians are employed in hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and private settings. Their responsibilities include:
- Analyzing body fluid and tissue samples
- Maintaining delicate lab equipment
- Managing the supplies and hazardous substances associated with testing
- Reporting clinical data
Many of these tasks overlap a medical assistant’s job description. With an aptitude for science and some additional education, a medical assistant can easily transition into a laboratory environment.
Medical Assistants are also trained as Phlebotomists. Some of the duties of a medical assistant include:
- Patient care
- Taking vital signs and performing other basic medical procedures
- Collecting and preparing laboratory samples
- Directly assisting physicians and nurses
- Communicating with patients
- Administrative tasks
Although, there is an alternative diploma program for students interested in the field of medical billing, medical assistants can often fill the same role while learning more versatile skills in a medical assisting program. Medical billers can also move into supervisory positions that benefit from greater clinical knowledge. The more training you have in the allied health field, the greater your advancement potential. Medical Billers:
- Research patient charts
- Transcribe medical data into billing codes
- Obtain insurance preapprovals
- Troubleshoot rejected claims
- Light accounting
- Assist clients with payment inquiries
Medical Office Managers
Medical assistants with an aptitude for business can grow into managerial positions. In their clerical role, they interact daily with administrative professionals, learning the ropes until they have the knowledge and skills necessary to embrace more responsibility. As medical office managers, medical assistants:
- Supervise the administrative team
- Ensure practices are compliant with regulations
- Provide an exemplary level of customer service
- Manage budgets
In most practices, a medical assistant who demonstrates a high level of skill and leadership potential needs only experience to land a position as an office manager. With further education in accounting or healthcare finance, they could be promoted to practice administrators.
What Is the Best Way to Become a Medical Assistant?
The quickest way to become a trained medical assistant is by getting a vocational school diploma. Diploma programs offer the same comprehensive education as degree programs, but courses are focused and take less time to complete. Students attending full-time can be work-ready in months, not years. Why put your educational aspirations on the back burner when all you need is the right training program?
Developing Your Career as a Medical Assistant
Medical assistants can position themselves for advancement by making the right training and employment decisions early in their careers. Follow these steps for success:
Graduate From an Accredited Medical Assisting Program
Graduating from an accredited medical assisting program has practical benefits beyond training. The healthcare community is a tight-knit group, and they work with better institutions to fill their hiring needs. Did you know that some jobs are never posted publicly?
Healthcare is a highly regulated field and employers feel more comfortable with trained applicants. Having a vocational school with a good reputation in the community is a point in a candidate’s favor. Vocational schools also typically have a career services department to help their graduates find their dream jobs.
Becoming a medical assistant doesn’t require certification. You can graduate from a vocational school program ready to earn. But as medicine becomes more complex and roles for medical assistants evolve, certification is becoming increasingly essential. In a competitive job market, it looks great on a resume.
For new graduates, certification is a confidence booster. For employers, it demonstrates proven skills and a commitment to the medical assisting field. Medicare, the country’s largest health insurer, requires medical assistants to be certified to perform high-risk tasks, including entering physicians’ orders into patients’ permanent medical records. Practically speaking, a certified medical assistant has more to offer prospective employers.
Certification also serves as the framework for higher learning, it’s a prerequisite for specialty certifications. If you have a passion for a specific type of medicine, such as cardiology, gerontology, or women’s health, becoming certified helps fast-track advancement.
The good news for students is that vocational institutions understand the value of certification, and they work to prepare students for exams.
Earn and Learn
Healthcare is an extensive field, so it’s not surprising that many staff start in one position and end up in another. Flexible work environments and jobs for people with wide-ranging talents are some of the many benefits of working in the allied health industry.
With a medical assisting diploma, you can earn a paycheck doing a job you like while trying your hand at both clinical and administrative tasks to get a feel for what you enjoy most. If you discover an unexpected talent for customer care, consider becoming an office manager. If science is more your style, there’s a lab with a job for you. The sky’s the limit in allied health.
Join Professional Associations
Professional organizations are groups of like-minded people gathered together to make a difference in their profession. In turn, the organization supports its members by promoting the vocation and offering educational services.
Founded in 1956, the American Association of Medical Assistants represents medical assistants nationwide. Membership guarantees access to continuing education courses, legislative updates and more. To employers, it shows commitment and leadership.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Meaning that the more people you connect with in the healthcare field, the more you’ll learn, and the more likely it is you’ll know when rare job opportunities arise.
Networking begins as a student in a vocational school program. Between working with instructors who are experienced in the field and an externship that will place you in the office of a potential employer, you have the potential to graduate with many industry connections.
As a medical assistant, you’ll work with all types of health professionals and learn about their jobs. They’ll get to know you, too, and if you’ve proven yourself, your name will come up when managers are deciding who to hire.
Continue Your Education
The allied health field evolves quickly, there’s always something new to learn. Employers need staff that understands the latest regulations, equipment, and technology to serve as mentors and team leaders. Medical assistants that stay on top of developments in their field are better positioned for career growth. It pays to take courses offered by employers and professional organizations.
Allied health professionals are millions strong, and demand is growing. So, taking the time to become a medical assistant is time well spent. Join the ranks of allied health as a medical assistant and explore the many exciting career possibilities.
Ready for a 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 in an actual medical environment where they are supervised and taught in order to gain valuable on-the-job training.
Contact us today to find out more on how to become a medical assistant on Long Island.