Career Development

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Find out what a medical assistant does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a medical assistant.

Medical assistants are the front-line workers in the healthcare industry. They help doctors, nurses and other medical professionals provide care to patients by performing a wide range of tasks, from taking vital signs and recording patient information to administering injections and drawing blood.

Medical assistants may also be called upon to perform administrative duties such as scheduling appointments or answering phones. In some cases, they may even take on more advanced clinical responsibilities such as assisting with minor surgical procedures or suturing wounds.

Medical Assistant Job Duties

A medical assistant typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Preparing patients for examinations by explaining procedures and equipment used during exams
  • Taking vital signs and recording them in patients’ charts
  • Performing basic lab tests such as urinalysis and blood tests
  • Preparing equipment for tests such as setting up x-ray machines or preparing specimens for analysis
  • Taking and transcribing dictation of physician’s notes or reports
  • Providing treatment and first aid to patients including applying bandages, giving medications, and assisting with physical therapy exercises
  • Scheduling appointments and keeping records of patient visits
  • Preparing patients for examination or treatment by setting up examination rooms and equipment, sterilizing equipment and supplies, and arranging hospital beds or other treatment areas
  • Arranging for hospital admission or discharge of patients as needed

Medical Assistant Salary & Outlook

Medical assistant salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the company size and geographic location.

  • Median Annual Salary: $36,000 ($17.31/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $47,000 ($22.6/hour)

The employment of medical assistants is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

As the large baby-boom population ages and people stay active later in life, more medical assistants will be needed to help doctors with routine tasks, such as taking blood pressure or collecting samples for tests. In addition, technological advances are allowing medical assistants to do some tasks more quickly and less expensively, which may allow doctors to hire more assistants.

Medical Assistant Job Requirements

A medical assistant typically needs to have the following:

Education: Medical assistants are typically required to have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. Many employers prefer to hire candidates who have completed a medical assistant program. These programs typically take about a year to complete and include courses in anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, pharmacology and medical law and ethics.

Training & Experience: Most medical assistant training will take place on the job, under the supervision of a more experienced medical assistant or medical office assistant. Training may include shadowing the current medical assistant, performing administrative tasks and assisting the medical professional during patient visits. Training may also include learning how to use medical software and computer programs.

Certifications & Licenses: While certifications are not necessary to become a medical assistant, they can be beneficial for those looking to break into the industry. Certifications allow medical assistants to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to potential employers.

Medical Assistant Skills

Medical assistants need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Medical assistants often work with patients and other medical professionals, so it’s important to be able to communicate effectively. This includes both written and verbal communication. You may also need to communicate complex medical information to patients in a way they can understand.

Medical knowledge: Medical knowledge is the ability to understand medical terminology and procedures. Medical assistants should have a basic understanding of anatomy, physiology, disease processes and treatment options. This can help them to better communicate with doctors and patients and to perform their job duties.

Organization: Medical assistants often have many tasks to complete in a short period of time. It’s important to be able to prioritize tasks and organize your work to ensure you complete everything on time. This can help you to be more efficient and make a positive impression on your employer.

Computer skills: Medical assistants may use computers to enter patient information, create treatment plans and record patient data. Computer skills can include typing, using software and navigating the internet.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Medical assistants often work with patients who are experiencing pain or discomfort. Having empathy for your patients can help you better understand their needs and communicate with them effectively.

Medical Assistant Work Environment

Medical assistants work in a variety of medical settings, including physicians’ offices, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. They typically work a 40-hour week, although some may work evenings or weekends to accommodate the schedules of their patients. Medical assistants are usually required to be on their feet for long periods of time and to lift and move patients, so they must be physically fit and able to handle the demands of the job. The work can be stressful, and medical assistants must be able to handle the emotional stress of working with sick and injured patients.

Medical Assistant Trends

Here are three trends influencing how medical assistants work. Medical assistants will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Use of Technology in Healthcare

The use of technology in healthcare is a trend that is quickly gaining popularity, as it allows medical professionals to more efficiently and effectively provide care for their patients.

As medical assistants are responsible for many tasks that require the use of technology, such as taking patient measurements and recording data, they will need to be familiar with how to use these tools in order to be successful in their jobs.

Patient Education Will Become More Important

As patients become more educated about their health care options, they will expect medical assistants to provide them with the information they need to make informed decisions about their treatment.

Medical assistants can capitalize on this trend by becoming experts in patient education. This includes providing patients with information about their condition, treatment options, and what to expect during their stay in the hospital. In addition, medical assistants can develop relationships with patients and their families, which can help improve the overall patient experience.

More Focus on Preventative Care

As preventative care becomes more important in the medical field, medical assistants will need to focus on providing this type of care to their patients.

This means that medical assistants will need to be familiar with the latest preventive care procedures and treatments, as well as how to educate patients on how to take care of themselves. Additionally, medical assistants will need to be able to work effectively within teams that are focused on preventative care, as this is where the majority of the industry’s growth is expected to be in the coming years.

How to Become a Medical Assistant

A career as a medical assistant can be both rewarding and lucrative. It’s important to consider the many different paths you can take in this field, such as specializing in a certain area of medicine or working in a particular setting.

No matter which direction you choose, it’s essential that you stay up-to-date on the latest medical technologies and practices. You should also build relationships with other healthcare professionals so that you can learn from their experiences and share your own knowledge.

Related: How to Write a Medical Assistant Resume

Advancement Prospects

Medical assistants can find career advancement opportunities by completing a formal education program to earn a certificate or degree, by taking on additional responsibilities, or by moving to a position in a different medical facility or practice.

With additional education, medical assistants can become licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, or other health care professionals. Some medical assistants may choose to complete a bachelor’s degree program in health administration or a related field to prepare for a management position in a medical facility.

Medical assistants who take on additional responsibilities, such as supervising other medical assistants or handling more complex medical procedures, may be promoted to lead medical assistant or office manager. Those who move to a position in a different medical facility or practice may find that they have more opportunities for advancement in their new location.

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