A Career as a Medical Assistant

Looking for a rewarding career in Medical Assisting? What are the skills you need to become a successful medical assistant? Are there specialties within the medical assisting career? What is the job growth outlook for medical assisting careers? Learn how to become a successful medical assistant in this growing field.

What does a Medical Assistant do on a Day-To-Day Basis?

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants typically do the following

  • Record patient history and personal information
  • Measure vital signs, such as blood pressure
  • Help the physician with patient examinations
  • Give patients injections or medications as directed by the physician and as permitted by state law
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Prepare blood samples for laboratory tests
  • Enter patient information into medical records

Skills of a Successful Medical Assistant

A medical assistant must have or train to gain the right set of skills to become a successful medical assistant. Some of the skills of a medical assistant include:

Analytical skills. Medical assistants must be able to understand and follow medical charts and diagnoses. Like a Medical Billing & Coding Specialist, they may be required to code a patient’s medical records for billing purposes.

Detail oriented. Medical assistants need to be precise when taking vital signs and recording patient information.

Interpersonal skills. Medical assistants need to be able to discuss patient information with other medical personnel, such as physicians. They often interact with patients who may be in pain or in distress, so they need to be able to act in a calm and professional manner.

Technical skills. Medical assistants should be able to use basic clinical instruments so they can take a patient’s vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure.

Medical Assistant Specialties

In larger practices or hospitals, medical assistants may specialize in either administrative or clinical work.

Administrative medical assistants often fill out insurance forms or code patients’ medical information. They often answer telephones and schedule patient appointments.

Clinical medical assistants have different duties than administrative medical assistants. They may do basic laboratory tests, dispose of contaminated supplies, and sterilize medical instruments. The clinical medical assistant may have additional responsibilities, such as instructing patients about medication or special diets, preparing patients for x rays, removing stitches, drawing blood, or changing dressings.

Some medical assistants specialize according to the type of medical office where they work. The following are examples of these specialized medical assistants:

Podiatric medical assistants work closely with podiatrists (foot doctors). They may make castings of feet, expose and develop x rays, and help podiatrists in surgery.

Ophthalmology medical assistant perform diagnostic testing, assist the physician in eye treatments and emergencies, and perform patient education. They may also administer eye medications and help in minor eye surgery.

How EHRs are Changing Medical Assisting

Electronic health records (EHRs) are changing some medical assistants’ jobs. More and more physicians are adopting EHRs, moving all their patient information from paper to electronic records. Medical assistants need to learn the Electronic Health Record software that their office uses. Some of the benefits of the EHRs:

  • Digital formatting enables information to be used and shared over secure networks
  • Track care (e.g. prescriptions) and outcomes (e.g. blood pressure)
  • Trigger warnings and reminders
  • Send and receive orders, reports, and results
  • Decrease billing processing time and create more accurate billing system
  • Better decipher physicians’ hand-writing minimizing mistakes

What is an Electronic Health Record (EHRs)?

An electronic health record is an official health record for an individual that is shared among multiple facilities and agencies. Electronic Health Records are shared through network-connected, enterprise-wide information systems or other information networks and exchanges. EHRs may include a range of data, including demographics, medical history, medication and allergies, immunization status, laboratory test results, radiology images, vital signs, personal statistics like age and weight, and billing information.

EHR systems are designed to store data accurately and to capture the state of a patient across time. It eliminates the need to track down a patient’s previous paper medical records and assists in ensuring data is accurate and legible. It can reduce risk of data replication as there is only one modifiable file, which means the file is more likely up to date, and decreases risk of lost paperwork.

Job Growth of Medical Assisting Field

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 23 percent from 2014 to 2024. The growth of the aging baby-boom population will continue to increase demand for preventive medical services. As their practices expand, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians to see more patients.

Interested in becoming a medical assistant? Gwinnett College and Institute Medical Assisting program core curriculum focuses on the medical assisting skills and training you will need to seek entry-level employment in physicians’ offices, clinics, hospitals, and other medical settings needing the services of associates trained in both front and back office medical assisting skills.