Looking for a new career in the health care industry? You might want to consider becoming a medical assistant.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical assistants is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2012. They say that the increasing use of medical assistants across all rapidly growing health care industries will result in fast employment growth for this occupation. In fact, medical assistants is projected to be the fastest growing occupation over the 2002–12 period.
The health services industry is expanding because of technological advances in medicine, and a growing and aging population. Due to the expansion and growth in group practices, hospitals, medical centers, clinics, and healthcare facilities, many more support personnel will be needed, especially medical assistants who will be able to handle both administrative and clinical duties.
What do Medical Assistants do?
Medical assistants perform routine administrative and clinical tasks. They provide much needed daily assistance to keep the doctors, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health care offices running efficiently and smoothly. Their duties will vary from office to office, depending on the location and size of the practice and the practitioner’s specialty. In small practices, medical assistants usually are generalists, who would handle both administrative and clinical duties and report directly to an office manager, physician, or other healthcare practitioner. Those in large practices tend to specialize in a particular area, under the supervision of department administrators.
Some of the many administrative duties performed include answering telephones, greeting patients, updating and filing patient medical records, filling out insurance forms, handling correspondence, scheduling appointments, arranging for hospital admission and laboratory services, and handling billing and bookkeeping.
The clinical duties performed would vary according to State law and may include taking medical histories and recording patient vital signs, explaining treatment procedures to patients, preparing the patients for their examination, and assisting the doctor during the examination. Medical assistants collect and prepare laboratory specimens or perform basic laboratory tests on the premises, dispose of contaminated supplies, and sterilize medical instruments. They also instruct patients about medications, special diets, prepare and administer medications as directed by a physician, authorize drug refills as directed, telephone prescriptions to a pharmacy, draw blood, prepare patients for x rays, take electrocardiograms, remove sutures, and change dressings. They may also arrange examining-room instruments and equipment, purchase and maintain supplies and equipment, and keep waiting and examining rooms neat and clean.
Some assistants may specialize in particular healthcare areas and would have additional duties to perform. Medical assistants do not examine, diagnose, or treat patients, as a physician’s assistant would.
Future career advancements may include advancing to office manager. Some may qualify for a variety of administrative support occupations or may opt to teach medical assisting. With additional education and cerifications, some may advance into other health career occupations, such as nursing and medical technology. Since the preference of many healthcare employers are for trained personnel, job prospects should be best for medical assistants with formal training, experience and particularly for those with accredited certification.