As important healthcare support professionals in ambulatory clinics, physician offices, and similar settings, medical assistants are tasked with a host of clinical and administrative responsibilities. As such, these healthcare professionals must meet specific employment requirements to ensure that they can perform the job of a medical assistant competently:
- Education Requirements
- Certification Requirements
- State Requirements
- Job Requirements
The demand for qualified medical assistants in the healthcare industry is expected to increase significantly in the coming years, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is attributable to the increasing number of patients using ambulatory care services, which happens to be a service provided by medical assistants. At present, there are over 710,200 medical assistants employed across the country, with a mean annual wage of $ 36,930, with California, Texas, and Florida being the states that hire the most number of medical assistants.
In general, employers expect medical assistants to be prepared with a formal education in medical assisting. These programs, which are often in the form of a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree, are typically between 10 months and 2 years in length and are offered through junior colleges, vocational-technical schools, and traditional campus-based and online universities and colleges.
When pursuing an education in medical assisting, it is worth considering programs accredited by a nationally recognized certifying body, such as Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
A comprehensive medical assisting program is comprised of three distinct segments: administrative, clinical, and externship.
Externships are often performed at approved healthcare facilities. Most programs are designed to prepare students to take one or more nationally recognized certification exams, such as the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) or the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA).
Although national certification is not a requirement across the board for medical assistants, many find that holding a national credential expands their career options. Further, some states require medical assistants who perform specific medical tasks to hold some type of nationally recognized credential.
National certification allows medical assistants to demonstrate advanced comprehension and expertise in medical assisting while also signifying a commitment to the profession and continued professional development.
Medical assistants may choose to pursue several national certifications, which usually includes meeting specific eligibility requirements and taking and passing a related examination:
- The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel In Ophthalmology: Certified Ophthalmic Assistant
- The American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants: Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified
- The American Medical Technologists: Registered Medical Assistant credential
- The American Association of Medical Assistants: Certified Medical Assistant credential
- National Healthcare Association: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
- National Center for Competency Testing: The National Certified Medical Assistant
Depending on employer or state requirements, medical assistants are often required to undergo training to perform specific duties. For example, the Medical Board of California requires medical assistants in California to undergo training before they can administer medication by intramuscular, subcutaneous, and intradermal injections or perform venipuncture or skin punctures. Requirements include at least 10 clock hours of training and satisfactorily performing at least 10 of each type of injection or skin test under close instructional supervision.
On the other hand, states may detail what types of tasks medical assistants cannot perform. For example, in Montana, medical assistants are not permitted to perform invasive procedures, including injections (other than immunizations), unless they are under direct, onsite supervision of a physician or podiatrist. They are also not allowed to administer blood products by IV.
The job of a medical assistant has many responsibilities and duties to perform in the medical office environment. They must be able to work with patients, provide financial support for records and data entry, and have specific education to become an effective member in the healthcare field.
Medical assistants are project-oriented individuals who are responsible for a variety of duties in an office setting. They must be able to multitask and work under pressure and communicate and interact with patients to their best ability.
Since positions such as medical assistants are so crucial to the overall success of a healthcare facility, many schools have taken the initiative to create programs for students that will help them gain the necessary skills and experience required in this position.
Job requirements for medical assistants, although they may vary based on the practice speciality or the size of the practice, are generally required to accomplish the following job duties:
- Perform administrative tasks, such as bookkeeping procedures and insurance claims processing
- Establish and maintain patient records
- Perform clinical tasks, including sterilization techniques, specimen collection, diagnostic testing, vital signs, and patient care
- Communicate with diverse patients regarding disease prevention, health maintenance, community resources, and physician instructions
- Maintain model professional conduct and appearance in multicultural workplace settings
- Assist with patient procedures and in-office surgical procedures
Medical assistants must handle several administrative duties, such as appointment scheduling, medical correspondence, medical billing and coding, medical transcription, and managing electronic records. Clinical duty requirements often include assessing and interviewing patients, performing basic in-office procedures, administering medicine, and sterilizing supplies and instruments.
Beyond clinical and administrative expertise, many employers require medical assistants to possess specific traits, all of which undoubtedly help them excel in their profession:
Analytical Skills – Analytical skills are a must for medical assistants, as they allow them to better understand medical charts, billing, insurance billing, and medical coding.
Detail-Oriented – Detailed oriented medical assistants are always in demand, as detailed, accurate patient records are vital to any physician practice.
Compassion and Empathy – Patience, understanding, and empathy are excellent skills for medical assistants to possess. They are responsible for interacting with patients and communicating in a way that makes patients feel at ease.
Technological Savvy – Medical assistants should be proficient with computers, as they are responsible for filing patient records and sending emails.
Ability to Work with Others – Medical assistants must always be prepared to work in a team environment in any healthcare setting. They may also need to have effective communication skills when speaking with patients.
Honesty and Integrity – Medical assistants should be honest and trustworthy, as patients trust their healthcare providers to provide the best care possible. To uphold this standard, medical assistants must embody honesty and integrity.