Learn How to Become a Medical Assistant
First and foremost, I wish to commend you, dear reader, for putting your thought into getting into one of the fastest-growing fields within the medical industry that helps thousands of people get adequate medical aid every day!
Medical assisting has many great reasons why you should join up immediately – it is both profitable and enjoyable in equal measure, especially for people who love helping people in need.
The growing number of duties centered around the work of doctors and nurses becomes more complex and numerous, it is the job of medical assistants to oversee and schedule meetings with patients, alongside many other administrative duties that are crucial for maintaining optimal
It is both a selfless and profitable career choice that helps doctors and nurses attend to as many patients as possible, offering a diverse range of employability ranging from private clinics to government-owned hospitals.
As the backbone of the medical profession, it has a projected growth for a whopping 23% from 2018 to 2028 according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, and the growth of demand is followed by increased interest in equal measure.
As the baby boom population’s transition into old age will require a bigger number of preventive services and as such, physician’s need for more assistants is an absolute must!
All of this sounds very enticing, doesn’t it? The big question left for us is how can we get a hold of this position, is it difficult, how can I be qualified for the position?
Everything will be summed up within this article and I assure you, it is really not so difficult to get into the field and excel in it and with an average salary of 16$ with many opportunities for climbing the ladder for higher pay, alongside many benefits such as dental insurance, vacation pay and retirement benefits.
What’s the best part about this article? You will get a detailed view of exactly how you can become a medical assistant, with every option covered and with a bright prospect of employing yourself in this beautiful and rewarding career.
1. CHOOSING THE RIGHT EDUCATIONAL PATHWAY
As a medical assistant, you will get the option of choosing in what area you will specialize in, as the number of healthcare settings you can work in is vast and growing even to this day.
With that in mind, you will come across the choice which will determine your specialty within the medical assisting field.
Alongside the list of specialties, there are 2 types of medical assistants:
1. Clinical Medical Assistant – They work closely with other doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to provide direct care to patients and any other assistance required to make the work of physicians a lot easier and more successful.
Candidates are expected to embody professionalism and empathy since patients that they can come across can be seriously ill or even near death, as well as being able to multitask and think clearly despite the stressful yet rewarding nature of the job.
The responsibilities of a Clinical Medical Assistant are:
- Taking a patient’s history and vital signs
- Providing assistance with simple procedures
- Collecting and performing blood tests
- Wound dressing
- Scheduling procedures
- Laboratory tests
- Performing X-ray procedures
- Updating medical records
- Answering the phone and admitting patients
- Handling insurance and billing information
This position requires the completion of an accredited training program (done through a college or university) which grants a certificate for the position of an associate’s degree which can take two years.
2. Administrative Medical Assistant – As the name implies, they operate the administrative side of the healthcare setting, ensuring the business aspect of the healthcare institution operates efficiently and smoothly to ensure the physician’s complete dedication to their patients.
As a perfect career choice for those who have great interpersonal skills and want to enroll in the healthcare industry while preferring an office- styled workspace,
Their duties include:
- Processing insurance payments
- Interviewing patients for their case history
- Scheduling appointments
- Transferring lab results
- Keeping patient records tidy and available
- Using computer software for office work-related purposes
Both of these roles are crucial in ensuring the smooth operation of every medical institution but they are very different both in requirements and in the type of work they do.
2. GETTING STARTED ON THE RIGHT PATH
First thing’s first, the first questions that come to mind are educational requirements that you will need to possess as a potential medical assistant.
Depending on where you The flexibility of this career choice differs, mostly depending on where you wish to work in.
For an entry-level job as a medical assistant, it is perfectly acceptable to apply with just your high school diploma or it’s equivalency, with a focus set on biology, anatomy, and science.
Although possible to get in without a formal education program, some employers require or give an advantage to candidates who have graduated from a specialized program.
These degrees range from one-year programs at technical or vocational schools where the focus is set mainly on pharmacology, medical vocabulary, insurance procedures, and practical laboratory tests.
Practical knowledge is crucial before getting into the field) to more depth programs offered at several community colleges that last for two years and give the graduate an associate’s degree as a result.
The responsibilities for medical assistants go from arranging meetings for patients to clinical tasks ( taking an x-ray, drawing blood.
Additional education must be completed in some states to be granted permission for completing both advanced clinical and administrative tasks (these tasks also fall into specializations that an aspiring medical assistant can take up)
The American Association of Medical Assistants requires both an accredited associate degree and successfully passing the examination before it grants candidates it’s Certified Medical Assistant credential.
The topic of certification within the field is wide and is reserved for specific duties that are required by law for practicing assistants to complete training or certification.
The best schools for medical assistants to get the required education are as follows:
- Herzing University
- Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College
- Keiser University
- Columbus State community college
- Bryant & Stratton College
3. WHAT TO EXPECT AND WHAT WILL YOU DO DURING AN EXTERNSHIP
Learning in a classroom and from textbooks will introduce you to the world of medical assisting, but when an aspiring medical assistant enters a professional setting for the first time the experience can be very different then what you would usually expect.
Getting a medical assistant externship can require a thorough process, so be sure you fit the criteria to apply.
This is a very valuable part of your educational process and an invaluable one – medical assistants can attain real working experience under the supervision of experienced medical professionals.
The variety of settings – from private medical offices to large hospitals ensures you will get the opportunity to witness and do your part in learning the ins and outs of the practice in ways a traditional classroom cannot embed in its educational program without the use of externships.
If you thought of being thrown into a hospital and starting to work within the finely tuned machine that is institutionalized healthcare, don’t get overwhelmed. You will be given a supervisor who will play a crucial role throughout the entire process and act as your mentor.
Your supervisor will tell you more about your desired role in the institution and lead you through the process, so you will never have to feel uncertain or unsure about what to do during the externship.
You will have the opportunity to observe real procedures and have all your questions answered. Your supervisor will help you assess all the skills that you will employ while slowly showing you every detail of the work you will do eventually on your own.
A good addition is a liberty of inquiring about less technical aspects of the job, as well as seeing how medical assistants deal with patients in a caring and professional way and how they conduct their duties daily.
When you start your externship, you might as well be feeling like a fish out of water, like a student who has much to learn before getting down to the work itself. By the end of it, you will experience a drastic change that no lecture can bring by itself.
With everything said, feel free to ask anything that interests you and make the experience all the more educational and enjoyable for you.
If you are still in doubt, stick to these tips to make your externship a comfortable and enjoyable experience towards your journey to reaching your goal.
3. SPECIALTIES – THE ULTIMATE MINI GUIDE
As a multi-dimensional field, the prospect of advancing your career and taking on a specialty is a great way to further work on your knowledge and take up an area that interests you.
Concerning the clinical field, some of the most popular specialties include:
1. Allergy– The work of an allergist includes monitoring the patient’s physical reactions for certain substances and medication.
2. Cardiology – The medical assistant for this specialized position will perform electrocardiography, cardiac imaging, and phlebotomy under the supervision of a physician, this position is quite taxing but offers great benefits in exchange
3. Dermatology – The medical assistant that chooses this route will specialize in cleaning, assembling, disinfecting and providing aid to the dermatologist in every hair, skin and nail disease and disorder.
4. Gastroenterology – As the field concerned with dealing with all sorts of problems with the stomach and intestines, the medical assistant within this field will directly assist the physician with performing many tests such as ultrasonography, stool tests, and barium swallows, as well as compiling records of a patient’s personal and family history.
5. Geriatrics – As the need for specialists trained to care for and diagnose illnesses associated with the aging population increases, specialists in this field are trained to diagnose and help treat said illnesses.
6. Oncology – Responsible for monitoring and working with patients who have cancer, these assistants must be both competent with the use of hypodermic needles and equipment for measuring blood pressure and for being able to understand medical charts that cover advanced medical terminology.
Their work is often in direct contact with patients and they must be able to get along with all of them, thus empathy and interpersonal skills are a must.
7. Orthopedics– Orthopedics is the field that deals with deformities that can occur in the patient’s bones or muscles.
A specialty in this area will allow the assistant to conduct interviews with patients to determine potential causes of injury, conduct diagnostics procedures or allow a greater focus on sports-related injuries.
8. Pediatrics– The field that conducts care for children up until they turn 18, this field is a favorite for people who like working with children and can interact with them well.
9. Plastic Surgery – Assistants in this area will focus on helping the physician conduct reconstruction and correction of body features, as well as disinfecting medical equipment, billing and scheduling.
4. GETTING LICENSED
If you have been researching the topic of becoming a medical assistant in-depth you most likely have come across the term “CMA”.
The term designates a medical assistant who was granted certification through the esteemed program provided by the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants.
The requirement for being able to participate in one of the exams is to graduate from a post-secondary accredited medical assisting program.
The education graduates receive through completion of the said programs will give them a solid understanding and knowledge of medical terminology, first aid and every sort of office practice they are likely to come across.
As a highly respected and globally accepted certificate, accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies ( or NCCA for short), it is the go-to organization for conducting examinations that every potential employer will highly respect seeing on your resume.
A set of tests to see how well you are knowledgable in the required areas can be found here.
Alongside the CMA (which is the most popular), you have additional options to achieve your certification.
1. RMA certification – The biggest difference stems from the fact that for participating in this test candidates aren’t required to have graduated from a postsecondary medical assisting program, but are instead required to pay an annual fee to maintain the credential.
This test is completely competency-based, it is designed to test out every aspect of knowledge a medical assistant must have to succeed within their field of work.
The length of the test is three hours, consisting of 200 – 210 multiple-choice questions, which will cover many areas such as anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, and questions administrative in nature.
You can find useful practice tests here
2. NCMA exam – Given out by the National Center for Competency Testing, this test covers both fields within the area of medical assisting and medical office management equally.
The test consists of 150 scored questions as well as 15 of them that are unscored. You will be given three hours to test your knowledge of computer programs necessary for office work and medical procedures relevant in areas concerned with general patient care.
Practicing for this exam is crucial, and here you will get a general idea of what it looks like.
3. CCMA exam – A test compiled by the California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants, it consists of three exam categories :
- Basic – 175 multiple choice questions with a two-hour time limit
- Administrative- 100 multiple-choice questions that need to be completed within an hour.
- Clinical – 125 multiple-choice questions where candidates are also given an hour to complete.
5. CRAFTING YOUR RESUME AND SEARCHING FOR THE PERFECT WORKPLACE
The moment when you finally receive your education, training and successfully pass your exam, you are one step away from fully embracing your new calling and reaping the fruits of your labor
As you diligently took your time to research as much as you can about the topic you should equally shift your focus on crafting the perfect resume and cover letter
As the number of people wishing to apply to these position rises, so must the quality and skill you exemplify since the very beginning
It makes employers smile when they see a tailored cover letter that a candidate wrote with the liberty of character and their skillset in mind while still being professional and courteous.
With that being said, it is a worthwhile tip to implement medical terminology and your practices within your presentation as well as highlighting keywords and how your experience and skills are just what the employer was looking for.
While writing both documents, research about your prospective employer and make relevant information regarding less know aspects of them clear and understandable for you – take a step forward from their angle and show how you understand their situation and how you can make a positive difference.
To give you a general idea of what kind of institutions you can pursue, take a moment and research available positions within your community that require medical assistants, here are a few pointers.
For both clinical and administrative medical assistants options for work include:
- Clinical Labs
- Outpatient Clinics
- Primary Care Facilities
- Emergency Departments
- Cardiology Facilities
- Retirement Communities
- Orthopedic Clinics
- Psychiatric & Behavioral Health institutions ( This might come as an unexpected option yet mental health institutions require medical assistants as much as an outpatient clinic. Your work might be closely related to patients suffering from addictions or trauma)
- Podiatry Clinics
For specialized administrative medical assistants, there are options to pursue in medical billing and coding and with plain administrative work of a general nature with a management team within a healthcare institution.
The prospects of the career path are extensive and wide so do not hesitate to contact the institution you wish to work for and find out if you can apply.
6. SUMMING EVERYTHING UP
Having read everything you probably are eager to get started on your path of mastering this beautiful area of medicine that deserves all the praise it gets for its selfless contribution to countless patients daily.
Nevertheless, you can expect that the work you do might sometimes be overbearing and can bring with itself a lot of stress so for the end you will get a good amount of resources you can utilize to deal with any situation you come across.
As a very responsible position, you will help physicians and other healthcare workers treat as many people as possible while using your training to make their stay as pleasant as possible.
Your personal qualities are as important as your training as you will interact with all sorts of patients, sometimes helping them go through their worst worries and troubles with a caring and understanding smile.
Executing simple procedures and seeing some patients daily establishes a bond of trust between medical assistants and their patients that is a rare benefit of this profession within the medical field hence why it is a perfect option for every compassionate and caring individual wishing to combine work with an endearing perspective to others in equal measure.
You will need to be both reliable and possess admirable willpower. You might sometimes encounter a situation where the physician is tired and angry while the patient is in pain where you as a professional will step in and set the situation right.
In general, an optimistic outlook with a desire to communicate, help and educate patients while also providing professional aid during procedures are core skills you will need as a medical assistant.
Alongside the benefit of a stable and enjoyable career, you have options to grow even further and tailor the profession with a lot of room for growth.
So, what do you say, are you ready to become a medical assistant?
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