1 How to Become a Medical Assistant in a Specialty Area If you re interested in learning how to become a medical assistant, then you should take a look at the different types of roles and responsibilities of the clinical medical assistant, administrative medical assistant and the specialized medical assistant. These healthcare workers can find employment opportunities for a number of environments, such as private practices, hospitals, imaging centers, labs and dental offices. This article will take a look at how to become a medical assistant, the education requirements, the salary and job outlook for this position and the work environment. How to Become a Medical Assistant: Position Options The position of the clerical medical assistant is to maintain the order of the front office, ensuring it runs professionally and smoothly. The clerical MA will be responsible for scheduling appointments, assisting physicians with paperwork, processing mail and managing front desk duties. This also includes creating and updating patient profiles. The role and responsibility of the administrative medical assistant can vary with each place of employment, with some administrative MAs having more responsibilities than others in this field. The position itself is similar to that of the clerical MA. In addition to clerical duties, the administrative MA will also attend to a patient s medical needs. This can include maintaining medical records, transcribing physician notes, coordinating hospital admissions and arranging for diagnostic testing. This MA job can also involve processing claims, and billing and bookkeeping duties. A clinical MA will spend more time treating and interacting with patients than an administrative MA. Working as a clinical MA can involve reviewing a patient s medical history, obtaining important patient information and conducting pre-exam tasks before the physician sees the patient. Other job duties include taking a patient s vital signs, administering medication and shots, processing lab specimens, calling in patient prescriptions, performing EKGs and removing sutures.
2 A specialized MA is focused on a particular medical specialty, such as endocrinology, cardiology, pulmonary and pediatrics. In this position, the specialized MA will have more responsibilities that are specific to a particular medical discipline. Many medical facilities will have an MA on staff. Some examples of work environments for MAs can include outpatient facilities, hospitals, nursing homes and university hospitals. Education and Training Requirements for Medical Assistants How to become a medical assistant will include completing formal training programs. These programs can last six to twelve months in length and will result in a certificate of completion. These training programs can be found at community colleges, vocational schools and teaching hospitals. When enrolled in a program, the MA will study such subjects as physiology, anatomy, medical terminology, patient care practices, pharmacology, practices and procedures in a medical office, and patient documentation. During the certificate program a student will participate in an internship at a local medical facility, where they ll be able to observe a professional MA as they provide care to patients, in addition to performing duties on their own, while under the supervision of an MA or MD. There is also a two year associate s degree program for medical assistants, which can be found through universities, community colleges, vocational schools and some online schools. An accredited MA degree program will also include classwork to impart essential knowledge in such topics as insurance policies and lab procedures. Students who are interested in how to become a medical assistant with specialty training may need to complete additional coursework, as well as work more hours for their internship, with patients in their particular area of interest. Individuals who complete an accredited training program will qualify for certification through the CAAHEP. To obtain certification a qualified graduate will need to take the AAMA certification exam. Certification for this field needs to be renewed every five years.
3 The MA will typically provide the first and last impression of a private practice to the patient, so they will need to have good interpersonal skills, in addition to the ability to communicate effectively with colleagues and patients. Job Outlook and Salary Information for the Medical Assistant Statistics predict the growth for the medical assistant field will be much faster than the average occupation, as this healthcare job will see a rise in employment by more than twenty percent in the next five years. The outpatient field is rapidly expanding and MAs are particularly qualified to work in these settings, providing valuable support to physicians and nurses and cost effective care to patients. The best employment opportunities will be offered to the medical assistants that obtain certification. Medical assistants who have a specialty area may need to take an additional certification exam, for that specific area of medicine. The average medical assistant salary ranges from $28,000 to $34,000. The salary for this field will depend on the medical assistant s place of employment, the state they live in, their level of education and their certification level. Years of experience will also play a huge part for the MAs annual salary. The medical assistant who has earned certification through a nationally recognized certifying organization will usually have the better employment opportunities, in addition to job security. Entry Level Medical Assistant Job Description The medical assistant job description can vary based on the type and size of a medical facility. Some medical assistants may work by primarily performing clinical work, while others will work as administrative medical assistants. The administrative medical assistant job description will involve working in the front desk, dealing with patients, handling insurance forms and filing medical records. There are currently no formal education requirements and most of the training for the AMA can be performed on the job, however, there are formal training programs that provide certification, which can prove a student s competency to potential employers. Medical Assistant Job Description for AMAs The administrative medical assistant job description will involve working in a private practice or hospital. It will be the AMA s responsibility to maintain the front office and keep the patient files accurate and up to date. They will handle such administrative duties as scheduling appointments and answering phones. Filing medical records and taking inventory. The assistant can also be responsible for managing insurance forms. An AMA will use their understanding and knowledge of insurance procedures and medical terminology to act as a liaison between the insurance company and patient.
4 Depending on the size of the facility, the administrative medical assistant job description can also involve working with patients and assisting physicians as they examine a patient. Usually, these duties can include drawing blood, testing medical equipment, sterilizing medical instruments and taking vital signs. While there are no formal training requirements for the AMA, most employers will prefer to employ an assistant who has completed a certificate or diploma program. Students who are serious about this field should complete a six to twelve month certificate or diploma program in order to advance to managerial or supervisory positions. Clinical Duties for MAs The clinical duties performed will be based on the state the assistant lives in, as some states will have more restrictions on what duties a medical assistant is able to perform. Working in a small private practice can involve greeting patients, escorting them to an exam room and taking their vital signs, standing by to assist the physician as needed, administering shots and medication, cleaning the exam room, stocking exam rooms, taking inventory, testing medical equipment and reordering medical supplies. Other duties can include calling in prescription orders at pharmacies, calling patients for follow up information, scheduling appointments and answering the phone. While working in a small practice may mean performing both clinical and clerical duties, the MA who works in a large medical facility will usually work primarily performing clinical or administrative duties. Duties can also depend on the type of practice an assistant works in. Working in an OB/GYN office can mean assisting with ultrasounds, educating patients on prenatal care and assisting physicians with exams. Working in a rehab center can involve demonstrating prescribed exercise routines to patients, and testing a patient s range of motion. Read More Earn the Registered Medical Assistant Credential
5 A registered medical assistant will work alongside other healthcare professionals, performing a variety of administrative and clinical tasks. The common duties of a registered medical assistant will include scheduling patient appointments, preparing lab samples, taking vital signs, administering medication and shots, stocking and cleaning exam rooms and updating a patient s medical history or contact information. RMAs can work in outpatient care centers, private practices, rehab centers, urgent care centers and hospitals or clinics. Requirements for the Registered Medical Assistant There are currently no certification or education requirements for becoming an MA and many assistants will gain a large amount of experience through on the job training, however, in order to become a registered medical assistant, an individual will need to have at least five years of experience working in the field or complete a formal training program. Since it s not mandatory for MAs to have formal training, an individual can obtain employment with a GED or high school diploma. Entry level RMAs will go through a period of on the job training, which can last for several months. During this time they will work under the supervision of RNs and experienced MAs. A trainee will learn about medical equipment, medical terminology, routine tasks and general patient record filing procedures. An MA will need to obtain five years of experience in order to qualify to take the registered medical assistant exam. A much shorter path to obtaining the RMA credential is to earn a certificate or diploma from an accredited training program. These programs are available through a number of junior colleges, community colleges or vocational schools. Diploma and certificate programs will usually take twelve months to complete, while degree programs for MAs will take twenty-four months. A student will complete classes in medical coding, lab procedures, pharmacology, anatomy, physiology and management. After an individual meets the criteria for becoming a registered medical assistant they can fill out an application for the RMA exam. An applicant will need to explain any prior felonies they ve been convicted of and pay a fee of $100. MAs who have not completed a training program will need to provide a recommendation from an employer, and provide proof that they have worked in the field for at least five years.
6 Certification Exam for RMAs Applicants who have been accepted for certification can schedule to take the exam online, at testing centers or at a local school. Individuals who test online can receive the exam results immediately, while those who choose to take the exam in person will need to wait for a period of six to eight weeks in order to receive their test scores. The certification exam will last for three hours and will include 250 multiple choice questions on such topics as clerical procedures, medical terminology, medical ethics, patient rights and filing procedures. To pass the exam a student will need to have a minimum score of seventy percent. After obtaining certification, the MA will be required to renew their certification every four years by paying a fee and earning continuing education credits. Read More Certified Medical Assistant salary based on Experience The certified medical assistant salary is based on the education and certification level of the MA, their place of employment, the state they live in and how many years they have worked in the field. A medical assistant can work in private practices, clinics, hospitals, labs, hospitals and outpatient care centers. Which States Offer the Highest Certified Medical Assistant Salary? The current average certified medical assistant salary is $26,000. Some of the top paying states that offer the highest certified medical assistant salary will include South Carolina, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas. The salary in these states ranges from $30,000 to $36,000. States that offer the lower certified medical assistant salary will include Michigan, Utah, Tennessee and Alabama, where the salary ranges from $22,000 to $26,000.
7 The work environments that offer a higher salary for this field include rehab centers, outpatient centers, surgery centers and hospitals. The places of employment that can offer a lower salary for this field include clinics, private practices and other small healthcare facilities. In general, larger medical facilities will employ a larger amount of MAs, making these salaries more competitive. The salary for the medical assistant will increase if they are employed in a facility that requires them to have a wider range of skills or a more extensive medical knowledge that s needed in order to complete advanced tasks in a facility. Individuals who have electronic filing experience, computer skills, or a small amount of medical training will be able to take on more duties while on the job, which makes them a more valuable asset to a company. Why it s Important to Complete a Formal Training Program Many MA training programs will teach students the skills they need in order to work in this competitive industry. This is why many hospitals and offices will refuse to employ an MA that has not completed a formal training program. Assistants who have a higher amount of training or a significant amount of job experience will also be able to take on more responsibilities, which can help to eliminate the need for an employer to hire a larger staff. The average salary for this position will typically fall on the higher end of the salary spectrum if the individual has specialized training. Additional training in the field is often a requirement, in order to qualify for certification in a specialty area. This will involve passing an additional certification exam and obtaining twenty to forty hours of clinical work, training under the supervision of an RN or experienced MA. The highest salary for a medical assistant will be found in managerial or supervisory positions. To qualify for this advanced position an assistant will need to have an associate s degree or more than three to four years of experience working in the field. Read More Medical Assistant Duties and Work Environment The medical assistant duties will vary with each place of employment, and will be based on the size of the medical facility, the MAs level of education, and whether or not they have any specialty certifications. Experience can also play a factor when it comes to the medical assistant duties. Assistants who have three to four years of field experience may be required to train new MAs or they can qualify for managerial or lead positions. Routine Medical Assistant Duties
8 An MA will perform routine clerical and clinical tasks, keep the office of the physician organized, and interact with patients and other healthcare team members. The medical assistant duties for clerical work can include answering the phone, processing bills, medical coding, handling correspondence, arranging for lab services or hospital admissions and updating a patient s chart. Clerical medical assistant duties can also involve providing patients with discharge paperwork and aftercare instructions and calling in prescriptions for medications. The clinical medical assistant duties will vary according to state law and can include preparing patients for exams, explaining treatment procedures to patients, taking a patient s vital signs, administering shots and medication and assisting a physician during an exam. An MA will also prepare and collect lab specimens, perform basic lab tests on the premises, sterilize medical instruments and equipment, and clean and stock an exam room. These individuals will also order medical supplies and medications. Medical assistants can also choose to specialize in a specific area of medicine, such as geriatrics, pediatrics, or internal medicine. Having a specialty in this field will require additional training and clinical work, however, this type of qualification can also help to significantly increase employment opportunities. How to Qualify for Employment as a Medical Assistant To qualify for employment an MA will need to have a GED or high school diploma and complete a formal training program, which can be found at postsecondary schools, community colleges and junior colleges. While a medical assistant is not licensed, some states will require the MA to pass an exam before they can perform certain duties such as taking x-rays. An employer may prefer to hire an experienced or certified MA. Obtaining voluntary certification can demonstrate that the MA meets certain standards of competence. Medical assistants will work closely with the public, which means they will be required to be well groomed and have a pleasant and courteous manner. An MA will need to be able to put a patient at ease and clearly explain aftercare instructions.
9 While formal training in this field is not required by every employer, it s generally preferred. Some assistants can find employers who provide on the job training, although this is not common. Read More What is a Medical Assistant Responsible for? Individuals interested in a healthcare career that requires a minimal amount of education and training can research what is a medical assistant in order to determine the education and training requirements, in addition to learning about the job outlook and salary potential for this field. The medical assistant will work in a healthcare facility, and will ensure that a medical office is running smoothly, while also providing care to patients. What is a medical assistant responsible for? It s the duty of the medical assistant to perform, clinical, clerical and administrative duties, such as scheduling appointments, preparing lab samples, taking vital signs, administering medication and updating a patient s medical history and chart. Training Programs for Medical Assistants What is a medical assistant training program like? The aspiring medical assistant can choose from certificate, diploma or degree programs. Typically all training programs will also include a clinical training portion, which will allow them to obtain hands on experience in the field, working with different populations and patients that have varying levels of care. While not every state will require the medical assistant to have certification in this field, the majority of employers will prefer to hire individuals who have completed formal training programs and obtained certification from a nationally recognized accredited organization.
10 To qualify to take the medical assistant certification exam, an individual will need to have completed a training program, have no prior felonies and pay a $100 fee to apply for the exam. Additionally, those who do not have a formal education, or individuals who completed the program over four years previously will be required to get a recommendation from a supervisor. Having certification in this field will not only allow the MA to have a higher salary, but they will also experience more employment opportunities. During the course of a day, the medical assistant will communicate with patients, RNs and physicians, in order to coordinate care, take vital signs, administer medication, provide patients with aftercare instructions, update patient information and schedule appointments. A medical assistant will need to be able to understand and follow medical charts, treatment plans and diagnoses. They may also need to perform billing, insurance and medical coding processes. This aspect of the job will require the MA to have a vast knowledge of medical terminology and medical procedures. The Clerical Responsibilities of the MA While the duties of the assistant can vary from each place of employment, many MAs will handle both clerical and clinical duties. In a large medical facility the medical assistant can specialize in one area and work under the supervision of a department manager. The administrative aspect of this position will often include greeting and signing in patients, answering the phones, filling out patient profiles and updating patient records. This can also include handling office correspondence, and handling billing and bookkeeping tasks. In some medical facilities, the MA may also need to arrange lab testing or schedule hospital admissions. Read More
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