Becoming a medical assistant is among the fastest ways to launch a rewarding career in the health care field. In just 7½ months, daytime students can be trained and ready to earn.
There are nearly half a million medical assistants employed in medical offices, urgent cares, labs, clinics, and hospitals across the country, and demand is expected to grow 23 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now is the perfect time to consider a medical assistant career.
What Do Medical Assistants Do?
Medical assistants are highly skilled support professionals who handle both clinical and administrative duties in health care settings. Most work in physicians’ offices and urgent care centers, but their roles are expanding to hospitals and clinics. These are some of their responsibilities.
- Managing the schedule
- Triaging medical calls
- Greeting patients
- Taking vital signs
- Helping with examinations
- Obtaining lab specimens
- Performing diagnostic tests
- Drawing blood
- Giving injections
- Completing referrals
- Ordering supplies
- Assisting billing specialists
Why Become a Medical Assistant?
Entry-level jobs in health care are popular, but few are as exciting and have as much potential as medical assisting. What makes it such a good career choice?
A medical assistant serves as a patient advocate by educating the public about health. Medical assistants are well respected, have bright futures, and truly make a difference in the world. Furthermore, they have the opportunity to build on their diplomas to further their careers.
Work with Colleagues Who Care
A medical assistant works with doctors, nurses, billing specialists, and other staff toward meeting the common goal of providing exceptional patient care. Those who enjoy camaraderie and a team spirit will welcome the mutually supportive work environment.
Serve as a Patient Advocate
Medicine is complex, and vulnerable patients need someone to advocate for their needs. As a member of the health care team, medical assistants get to know patients, and they can identify areas where they may need more assistance than meets the eye. Working with other staff, they ensure critical patient information flows to the providers who can be the most helpful.
As primary care practices are increasingly serving as gateways to better community health, patient advocacy is taking on greater importance. In a single visit, a medical assistant can initiate interventions that may help patients for a lifetime.
Educate the Public About Health
Physicians are patients’ go-to source for information about their well-being, but they’re busy, and they don’t have as much time as they’d like to devote to education. As doctor/patient liaisons and health care team representatives, medical assistants play an everyday role in keeping patients informed about timely health topics, such as these.
- Diagnostic tests
- Procedure preparation
- Medication precautions
- Home safety
- Disease management
Under the supervision of a doctor or nurse, medical assistants can also explain consent forms, test results, and postsurgical care instructions, as well as answer patients’ questions about their physician’s recommendations.
At the community level, medical assistants may participate in practice outreach programs, such as blood pressure and diabetes screenings. Everywhere they go, medical assistants have the opportunity to promote good public health.
Make a Difference in the Lives of the Patients They Serve
Patients suffering from illness are physically, emotionally, and financially at risk, and they need knowledgeable staff to guide them through the complicated maze of medicine. As health care support specialists, medical assistants are there to help, and everything they do has both purpose and meaning. There are no trivial tasks. At the end of the day, it’s a satisfying feeling.
Become a Respected Support Professional
Medical assisting is not a new field. Recognized as an occupation since 1955, it has the support of a professional organization, the American Association of Medical Assistants. Established in 1956, it’s devoted solely to the advancement of medical assisting as a profession. By promoting the value of medical assistants, it improves workplace recognition and creates opportunities for advancement.
Build on Your Diploma
Medical assistants can now build on their diplomas through certification. While it’s not required to be certified to work in the field, the additional credentials demonstrate proven skills to prospective employers and make candidates more marketable. It also helps experienced medical assistants advance into more responsible career positions.
Medical assisting is a wonderful “forever career,” but those who want more can use their diploma as a springboard to higher education. Many medical assistants go on to be office managers, nurses, phlebotomists, and laboratory technicians. For students who want to work in health care but aren’t sure which career is good for them, being a medical assistant offers exposure to a wide range of different career responsibilities.
Enjoy a Bright Future
The aging baby boomer population is reaching retirement age, causing an increased demand for medical services. To keep pace, doctors will need qualified medical assistants to tackle routine administrative and clinical duties so they can expand services and see more patients.
Why Choose a Vocational School?
By going to class full-time at a vocational school, students can earn a lifestyle-friendly diploma in less than eight months. Evening schedules are available for nontraditional students, and financial aid may be available to those who qualify.
Vocational schools not only provide an excellent education, graduates are valued for their skills and diploma. Better programs support their students well after graduation with good job placement assistance and career counseling.
Skills for Medical Assistants
Anyone can be a medical assistant, but it helps to have specific skills. The good news for students is that most skills can be learned in school and grown through practice. Medical assistants need empathy, compassion, communication skills, versatility, time management skills, attention to detail, team spirit, and a commitment to ongoing learning.
Empathy is the awareness of what others are going through. It’s more than sympathy. It’s the ability to see the world from another person’s point of view. Medical assistants work with vulnerable people from various backgrounds, and to understand their needs, a strong sense of empathy is important.
Compassion can best be described as practical empathy. It’s feeling the pain of others and doing something about it. From answering questions patiently to ensuring children’s comfort before giving them a vaccination, compassion should color everything a medical assistant does. It’s the primary mission of health care.
Medical assistants are logistical experts. Part of their job is to keep the doctor’s day on track, and the most effective way to do that is with excellent communication skills.
Whether they’re answering the phone, writing a follow-up email, or helping patients to an exam room, medical assistants communicate with virtually every patient who engages with the office in a day. By actively listening and accurately communicating as much vital information as possible during each interaction, patients have fewer questions about what to do, and this results in better care and a smooth schedule.
One of the best parts about being a medical assistant is that the work is never boring. The flexible mix of clerical and clinical duties keeps things interesting, but also requires versatility.
In a busy practice, medical assistants may be answering the phone one minute and working in the lab the next. It’s imperative to be able to switch gears and adapt to new situations without losing focus or feeling stressed.
Time Management Skills
Everything about health care is time sensitive, and there are few nonessential tasks. Medical assistants are expected to keep pace with scheduled appointments while remaining prepared for emergencies and changing needs. Thankfully, today’s medical practices use computers and technology to make busy days less challenging to navigate, but time management skills remain essential.
Attention to Detail
Errors in medicine have far reaching consequences. They’re costly, and they can adversely impact a patient’s health.
From taking vital signs to verifying billing information, attention to detail in a medical office is essential. Simple mistakes, such as putting inaccurate insurance numbers in the system, could mean delayed care for patients and more work for billing specialists as they deal with rejected claims.
Every member of a health care team, from doctors to medical assistants, has a job to do, but also share a common goal. The better they work together, the better the care patients receive.
Sharing goals, however, means considering the needs of colleagues and respecting their professional opinions, even when there are disagreements. This type of team spirit and mutual support makes difficult situations in the workplace less stressful and contributes to everyone’s job satisfaction.
A Commitment to Ongoing Learning
Few fields evolve as quickly as health care, but while it’s fun to work on the cutting edge of science and technology, constant learning is also required.
Medical assistants can maintain relevant skills by taking advantage of continuing education opportunities offered by employers and professional organizations. Attending seminars, reading professional journals, and being part of peer support groups are just a few examples.
Medical professionals depend on trained support staff to deliver high quality care, and for students looking to break into the health care field, a career as a medical assistant is a smart way to get a quick start. It’s a win-win for job seekers and the community.
Did learning about how to become a medical assistant 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 in an actual medical environment where they are supervised and taught in order to gain valuable on-the-job training.