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Medical assistants are allied health professionals who provide clinical and administrative support in a variety of healthcare settings after completing postsecondary training; they assist physicians, nurses, and other providers with patient care coordination, procedures, clerical tasks, and office management.
What is a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants (MAs) typically complete a 1-2 year medical assisting program from an accredited college, technical school, or community college. This education prepares them to provide clinical and administrative support in physician offices, hospitals, and other healthcare settings.
In their day-to-day work, MAs assist with patient care coordination, health education, medical records, billing, and office tasks to support physicians, nurses, and other providers. They serve as integral members of the collaborative healthcare team.
Their training enables them to take medical histories, measure vital signs, assist with exams and procedures, coordinate lab services, manage patient records, handle billing and insurance tasks, and much more. Specifically, MAs may work in settings such as:
The distinctions between MAs and licensed clinical roles like registered nurses relate to differences in educational requirements, scopes of practice, and licensing. For example, while RNs obtain state nursing licensure, MAs are not licensed though some obtain national certification. Both roles collaborate in patient care delivery.
What Skills Does a Medical Assistant Require?
Excellent communication and interpersonal abilities allow MAs to collaborate smoothly with other healthcare team members like physicians, nurses, and additional providers. Thoughtful explanation during patient interactions is also vital. A caring, professional manner greatly aids the provision of patient-centered care.
Sharp critical thinking and organizational talents help MAs manage changing priorities and withstand the rapid pace inherent in this role where effective coordination relies on the MA’s ability to juggle diverse tasks.
The raw sights, smells and textures that accompany clinical care require a strong constitution and high threshold for bodily fluids and blood. Dealing with these challenges on a regular basis is not for everyone. MAs also require emotional resilience to handle stressful situations with professionalism.
How Do You Become a Medical Assistant?
To become a medical assistant, you must complete a 1-2 year medical assisting program, usually found at community colleges, technical schools, vocational schools, or proprietary colleges. These programs combine classroom and supervised clinical learning in subjects such as:
Though medical assistants can begin working after completing an accredited training program and passing a national certification exam, some choose to earn an Associate’s Degree which covers additional general education requirements.
There are opportunities to advance your medical assisting career and compensation through additional certification programs that demonstrate specialized expertise:
Many employers require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic life support training for medical assistants as well. Medical assistants can also pursue further allied health degrees.
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