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Medical Assistant FAQs

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If you’re considering pursuing a medical assisting education – whether it be a diploma, certificate , associate or bachelor degree—it’s likely that you have some questions about particular details of a medical assistant career and related occupations. 

To help give you a better background on the ins and outs of medical assisting, we’ve compiled a handy FAQ to answer some common questions. The more information you have before you start your journey toward this exciting career path in healthcare, the better off you’ll be.

Do I need a degree to become a Medical Assistant?

The short answer is No, you do not need a degree or certification to become a medical assistant. Medical assistants, can learn the skills needed on the job. However, having a degree or certificate may be preferred by employers. It's also important to note that the steps to becoming a medical assistant may vary by location. For example, some states have stricter rules for medical assistants who perform duties like administering injections and taking x-rays.[i]

How can I tell if a medical assisting program is reputable?

Remember that no medical assistant degree or credential guarantees employment in this field, but some programs may do a better job than others of helping students to prepare for success. Look for accreditation and affiliation with a certifying organization such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), which offers the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential. [i] Don’t be afraid to ask questions about graduation rates, certification exam success rates, and how many graduates are actually employed in the medical assisting field. Sure, there are medical assistant courses out there that promise students easy and immediate gratification, but these programs are probably not for you. The process of successfully graduating from a program, earning certification, and finding the career opportunity that’s right for you is not an easy or guaranteed path. A reputable school understands that and encourages students to have a realistic outlook. 

What are the typical responsibilities of a Medical Assistant?

A Medical Assistant's job skills and duties can vary greatly on a day-to-day basis. Below is a sampling of common clinical and administrative duties performed by medical assistants. . 

  •  take vital signs
  • collect patient medical history and information
  • prepare and clean treatment rooms
  • collect and log laboratory specimens such as blood samples
  • properly dispose of waste and contaminated materials
  • sterilize instruments
  • answer phones
  • schedule patient appointments
  • follow up with patients regarding questions or test results

Where do medical assistants work?

Most medical assistants work in private physician offices. However they can also be found in other healthcare facilities, like Chiropractors and Podiatrists offices, Outpatient Care Centers, or General Medical or Surgical Hospitals. [iii]

Can medical assistants administer medications?

If medical assistants have achieved the appropriate training, they may be allowed to administer injections of certain drugs, provided that the dosage has been verified and the injection is intra muscular, intradermal or subcutaneous. A supervising physician also needs to be on the premises.

What is the Salary Potential for a Medical Assistant?

The median annual wage for a medical assistant in 2014 was $29,960. The median Hourly wage was $14.41. [iii]

Is there demand for Medical Assistants?

With the baby-boom population getting older, there’s an increasing need for preventative medical services, which are generally provided by private physicians.  As private practices expand, the need for more medical assistants also grows. Employment is expected to grow at a rate of 29% from 2012-2022 which is much faster than average for all occupations. [i]

What is the difference between a patient care technician and a medical assistant? 

Although some of the clinical job duties for medical assistants and patient care technicians overlap, a major difference between the two is that the majority of responsibilities for medical assistants involve administrative tasks like answering phones, scheduling appointments, taking insurance information and gathering medical histories.

Patient care technicians, on the other hand, focus on providing clinical care to patients—this includes helping to bathe, dress and feed them; checking bandages; and collecting body fluids. With additional training, patient care technicians may also be responsible for performing more complex clinical duties, such us operating ECG equipment, providing dialyses or setting up oxygen.

Due to the focus on administrative duties, it’s also more common for medical assistants to work in doctor’s offices or outpatient clinics, while patient care technicians may be found working in hospitals, nursing homes or other inpatient facilities.

What is a phlebotomist?

If you’re squeamish about blood, this job is not for you—phlebotomists are responsible for drawing blood for tests, transfusions, research or donations. Other duties that phlebotomists may perform include:

  • Talking with patients and donors to help ease their nerves
  • Verifying a patient or donor’s identity to ensure blood taken is properly, labeled, and processed
  • Entering patient information into an onsite database
  • Assembling and maintaining needles, test tubes and blood vials to ensure they are clean and sanitary

Phlebotomists typically work in hospitals, blood donor centers, medical and diagnostic laboratories and doctor’s offices.

What is an EMT?

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are responsible for taking care of sick or injured people in emergency medical situations. EMTs must react quickly as they respond to emergency calls, perform medical services, and transport patients to hospitals or other medical facilities. Additional duties may include:

  • Responding to 911 calls for emergency assistance such as CPR or tending to a wound
  • Assessing patients and determining a course of treatment
  • Using backboards and restraints to keep patients safe in the ambulance during transport
  • Helping to transfer patients to the emergency department of a hospital and reporting their observations to staff
  • Creating patient care reports
  • Replacing supplies and checking or cleaning equipment after use

The specific job responsibilities of EMTs will vary depending on whether they are an EMT or EMT-Basic, Advanced EMT, or paramedic; and the state they work in.

What is “allied health”?

“Allied health” professions refer to healthcare professions that do not fall under the specific categories of nursing, medicine and pharmacy. They help the healthcare system function by providing a wide range of diagnostic, therapeutic, technical, and direct patient care and support services. Some examples of allied health professionals include dieticians, medical technologists, occupational therapist, radiographers, speech language pathologists, dental hygienists and physical therapists—and they make up a large and integral part of the healthcare workforce.

 


bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/phlebotomists.htm | woman.thenest.com/difference-between-patient-care-technician-medical-assistant-17611.html | bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm | en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_health_professions | mbc.ca.gov/Licensees/Physicians_and_Surgeons/Medical_Assistans/Medical_Assistants_FAQ.aspx

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