Medical assisting is a rewarding health care career that allows individuals to work with patients of all ages from all lifestyles. Those interested in pursuing a career that involves helping patients, working with doctors and providing support to other health-care professionals should consider medical assisting. Becoming a medical assistant is as easy as one, two, and three.
Finding the Right Program
Choosing the right medical assistant training program is the first step in becoming a certified medical assistant (MA). Programs are available both in a classroom setting and on-line. There are one-year and two-year programs available. The length of the course is dependent upon the school and state requirements. Online education provides students with the opportunity to complete their work and learn the material at their own pace.
Completing a Medical Assistant Program
The second step in becoming a medical assistant is completing the program requirements. These programs are designed to teach students the knowledge and skills needed to perform the duties expected from a MA. Programs include learning book material such as human anatomy and physiology. This information helps them identify body parts and abnormalities, which is an important part of patient assessment.
During the program, students are taught how to work directly with patients providing care, performing assessments and helping with procedures or tests. These skills are honed during clinical time. Clinical time refers to time spent shadowing or working with other health-care providers at which time skills and techniques used to perform patient care are learned.
The final step in becoming a medical assistant is becoming certified. After the course is completed and all required clinical time performed, the student is permitted to sit for the certification exam. Some exams require only a written test be passed while others require both a written and practical exam be taken and passed. A practical exam refers to a test that determines a student’s ability to perform the physical aspects of the job duties required of a MA.
Examples of skills and techniques tested during a practical exam including those used to perform a patient assessment like measuring a patient’s vital signs or collecting samples for laboratory testing. Once the necessary exams have been passed, the state will issue a license to practice medicine as a medical assistant to those who qualify.
A doctor’s office, health clinic and hospital are three examples of where a MA can find employment. Working in the health-care field as a certified medical assistant gives individuals the opportunity to work with patients of all ages and conditions.
- At a doctor’s office, a MA may assess and treat patients suffering from a variety of conditions like diabetes, wounds and cancer. Working at a doctor’s office lets MAs work with patients who are well and getting a checkup, as well as those suffering from illness or injury.
- At clinics and hospitals, MAs get the chance to work mostly with patients afflicted with an injury or illness. Medical assistants work with doctors, nurses and therapists along with fellow MAs. They help by performing patient assessments, readying patients for the doctor and assisting with procedures and treatments. Medical assistants also ensure the doctor’s office or clinic runs smoothly and efficiently, minimizing waiting times and allowing doctors to treat more patients.
Providing patient care and performing assessments are a major part of a medical assistant’s duties.
- Patient care consists of helping patients with mobility, removing clothing covering afflicted parts and activities of daily living that include hygiene and toileting.
- An assessment is a term used to describe the process used to collect information. An assessment includes obtaining vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, pulse and breathing rate. Height and weight are also recorded during a patient assessment.
- MAs perform a physical exam as part of an assessment looking for abnormalities like deformities, swelling, bruising or discoloration and cuts or scratches.
- A MA, through questions asked during the assessment process, collects information pertaining to patient history, such as diagnosis, medication list and allergies. The information discovered during their evaluation is recorded into the patients chart and reported to the doctor or nurse.
- Getting patients ready for the doctor includes preparing them for tests, procedures and a more thorough exam performed by the physician.
- A medical assistant working in a wound care clinic would ready a patient for the doctor by removing bandages from the afflicted area, cleaning the wounds, measuring the wound and laying out the instruments and equipment needed by the doctor to provide treatment.
- Those working in a cardiology practice prepare patients for the physician by attaching the heart monitor leads to the patient, printing heart rhythm strips and performing pacemaker checks. MAs also obtain and process patient samples for testing.
Performing clerical duties like compiling patient charts, scheduling appointments and answering phones is included within the job description of a medical assistant.
- Patient charts are constantly changing with new information being added and old information removed. A MA is responsible for assuring patient files are complete and intact before and after each visit.They place pertinent information like test results, patient history and medication list at the front ensuring the physician is aware of the available information.
- A medical assistant schedules patients for appointments and deletes cancellations from the calendar. Keeping an organized calendar is beneficial because it allows the staff to see how well time is managed.
Cleaning and disinfecting
Cleaning and disinfecting equipment used on patients is a duty performed by a medical assistant.
- They are responsible for discarding disposable items properly. Non-disposable items must be cleaned and disinfected by MAs after patient use.
- They collect used linen and store it until laundered. Cleaning duties for those working as a medical assistant include wiping down equipment in exam rooms like the exam table, instrument tables and counter space.
- Another task performed by a MA is preparing rooms after each patient, allowing the room to be ready for the next.