Medical assistants (MA) work in hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices providing assistance to patients, doctors and other health care providers. Although preferred by some employers, a MA is not required to go through formal medical assistant training nor obtain a license to practice as a medical assistant, prior to employment. Some employers who utilize the skills of medical assistants offer on-the-job training for those who have not completed a traditional MA training program. On-the-job training is often designed to meet the specific needs of the employers. This type of training only teaches medical assistants what they need to know to work for that employer.
Paid and Non-paid Training
Employers may offer paid or non-paid on-the-job training for those hired to work as medical assistants. Employer based training programs vary in length. The information taught during these programs is dependent upon the job duties of the MA as well as the needs of the health care facility in which they will work. Some employers offer on-the-job training that takes place on-site. Others may send new hires through training programs held elsewhere. Some employers may offer to pay the new medical assistants while they complete their training. Others offer on-the-job training for medical assistants but may choose not to pay them until the training is completed and they are working within the health care facility.
Job shadowing is when a new medical assistants follows, or shadows, an experienced medical assistant. This gives them the opportunity to learn medical assisting skills and gain real-life experience caring for patients and assisting doctors and other health care professionals. New medical assistants who go through on-the-job training may be assigned to shadow a single MA or multiple MA to ensure they learn everything they need to know about working as a medical assistant for that employer. Experienced medical assistants provide systematic instructions on how to perform procedures, treatments, assessments and clerical skills necessary to work as a medical assistant for that employer. With the help of more experienced medical assistants, job shadowing provides new MA the opportunity to ask questions and develop their own techniques for performing assessments, providing treatments or assisting doctors with procedures.
During on-the-job training, a medical assistant learns the skills necessary to work as a competent MA. These skills include those used during patient assessment, care and treatment.
- New medical assistants are taught how to perform patient assessments, which includes obtaining the patient’s medical history and vital signs like blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate.
- They are taught how to use medical equipment used to perform these tasks. New MA are taught how and where to document their findings in the patient’s chart.
- They are shown the proper way to dispense and administer medications. Medical assistants that go through on-the-job training learn how to verify doctor’s orders, which helps reduce the risk of medical errors.
- New MA are taught to pay attention to details, which allows them to detect changes in patient conditions.
- They are also taught about patient emergencies. This includes what types of information must be reported immediately to the physician, such as signs or symptoms of life threatening conditions, and what information can be relayed at a later time.
New MA are also taught the skills necessary to perform the clerical duties they are responsible for.
- They learn how to compile patient charts, maintain the patient schedule, and filing.
- They are taught how to operate the facility’s phone and computer system. Computer programs and systems used by health care facilities can vary from location to location. On-the-job training allows employers to focus and teach new medical assistants only the systems and programs utilized by their office, which can minimize the time spent during training.
- New medical assistants learn how to manage and enter various types of data. Some on-the-job training also includes how to perform medical transcription duties, including how to transcribe physician dictations.
Clinical experience provides new medical assistants with the opportunity to gain real life experience during their on-the-job training. It provides them with the hands-on experience they need to work with real patients in the health care setting. It teaches them the skills and provides them with the experience they need to manage the doctor’s office. This includes dealing with patients, assisting doctors, managing clerical duties and keeping the office running smooth and efficiently. They are taught about maintaining the medical equipment and stock used in the practice. They are also shown the various types of paperwork and forms used in the office. Any billing done by medical assistants will be taught to new hires during their on-the-job training. New medical assistants provide direct patient care under the supervision of a more experienced MA. Clinical on-the-job training helps prepare new medical assistants to work independently for their employer.