The Registered nurses (RN) had to carry too much of a workload in the past and this lead to inefficiency towards their prime duties of giving proper treatment to patients. The salary of RN is also very high, so when they had to put in longer hours of service the medical expenses were very high. Some of the duties that they had to perform were basic health care activities which do not require specialized training. Due to all these reasons allied health care professions came to the fore. Professions like, nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse etc. are some of the examples of such allied professions.
In the economic downtimes, the demand for such professions is on a rise because health insurance companies like Medicare or Medicaid insist on reduction of medical costs. Medical assistant is an administrative and clinical job and if you enter this profession you can seek employment with offices of physicians, chiropractors, podiatrists and other health practitioners. Like certified nursing assistant (CNA) even this is an entry level nursing profession and you have to work under the guidance of a RN or doctor.
Duties of Medical Assistant
The duty varies from one hospital to another; it depends upon the physician they work on and you need to specialize in the particular health care setting so that you can work effectively. Some of the basic duties are as follows:
- Make a note of patients’ health history and measure vital signs
- Assist the physician with patient examinations
- Give patient injections as per the directions of the physician
- Scheduling patient appointments and informing the doctor about the same
- Prepare collected blood, urine etc. for laboratory tests
- Supervise the work of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and the other staff members
These days almost all physicians prefer using the Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and update all the patient information online. It is therefore essential that you learn EHR if you wish to become a medical assistant. You will have to collect and record patients’ personal information and you should make it a point that you keep it confidential; share this information only with the medical professionals who are involved in the treatment of the particular patient. Many times people confuse physician assistants and medical assistants to be the same which is not the case. A physician assistant has to perform duties such as examinations, diagnosis and treatment of patients under the physician’s supervision.
In this job profile, you can specialize in administrative or clinical work. During administrative work, you have to fill up insurance forms, code patients’ medical data, buy supplies of medicine and equipments and store them and during clinical work, you have to conduct basic laboratory test, dispose contaminated supplies and sterilize equipments; additionally they have to take X-rays, remove stitches etc.
How to Become a Medical Assistant
If you are planning to become a medical assistant during your high school days you should take subjects like biology, chemistry and anatomy. There is no formal education requirement in most of the states, but employers prefer high school diploma with these subjects. There are various community colleges, vocational or technical schools and universities that offer training program and it lasts for one year and on completion of the training you are awarded with certificate or diploma. Two years training programs are offered by community colleges and you get an associate degree on completion of the training. All the training programs include classroom study on medical terminology, chemistry etc. while the laboratory training involves the study of anatomy.
In some states it is mandatory to enroll in state approved programs or pass a state certification exam or both. However, it is essential to take on the job training from a physician or an experienced medical aide in all the states. The training includes medical terminology, interacting with patients, understanding the use of equipments and other daily tasks for smooth functioning of the office. You will also learn about maintaining the data, both on paper and by EHR during the training. The length of on the job training will take several months, especially if you are specializing in certain health care setting.
Job Outlook for Medical Assistants
More than 500,000 people were employed as medical aides by the end of the year 2010 and it has been projected that there will be 31 percent increase in this number by 2020. The job prospects in this field are very good and even in economic down times you can be assured that you will be employed. The average annual salary is around $29,000 and the top ten percent can expect to earn anything around $40,000; considering that it is an associate level job the paycheck is decent.
With the growth in aging population physicians are bound to expand their services, so they will hire more assistants to carry out routine administrative and clinical duties so that they will not have to employ RN for longer hours and it will reduce their overhead expenses. It is likely that the salary of such assistants will also increase in the long run.
If you are interested in joining the health care profession medical assistant is a good option; moreover, most of the employment opportunities will be in physicians’ offices and the job will not be as hectic as certified nursing assistants.