MEDICAL ASSISTING DEGREES
A medical assistant is a vital part of the health care industry. Medical assistants are often the first face patients see when they seek medical care. They work on the line between administration and clinicians and as such they are unique healthcare multi-taskers.
Medical assistants are also in greater and greater demand, especially as the baby boom generation ages and require more and more health care services. Skilled medical assistants can provide the support that all doctors, nurses and administrators need on a daily basis.
MEDICAL ASSISTANT RESOURCES
What Do Medical Assistants Do?
Medical assistants take patient histories and walk them through the health care process. They might advise patients how and when to take medicines, or how to best care for a wound. Medical assistants also perform minor medical tasks such as taking blood samples, administering EKG tests and even assisting with minor in-office surgical procedures.
Here is a list of some of the tasks a medical assistant is called upon to perform:
- Answer phones
- Take blood samples
- Administer medications
- Remove sutures
- Measure and record vital signs
- Assist with small surgeries
- Code for insurance claims
- Advise patients on their wounds and medications
Medical assistants are part administrator and part clinician. A medical assistant needs to be able to manage a full schedule of patients, enter insurance codes so that the office can be paid, and answer phone calls from patients who have concerns ranging from a change of appointment to laboratory results. Medical assistants are also found in all environments in the medical establishment, including hospitals, clinics and private practices.
In a hospital, a medical assistant might administer medications and examine blood, urine or stool samples from patients. In this regard, medical assistants need to be able to wear a scientific cap as well. A hospital setting provides so many areas of specialty, that a medical assistant might find a particular niche they prefer over others.
When in a clinic, a medical assistant is there to facilitate something for everyone. They may help the doctors and nurses by collecting vital signs and various lab specimens. Then, they might remove sutures and dress wounds or perform triage for patients who are arriving with dire, but not life-threatening injuries. In a clinic, medical assistants are the ultimate generalists and their days can involve the full spectrum of duties and events.
Private practice assistants may not see the excitement of a clinic, but they will have to do their fair share of clinical, lab and administrative duties. Assistants in these settings will find that each practice is a bit different and their skills must adapt as a result. For example, an assistant in a general practice will have different duties than a similar position in a pediatrician’s office or that of an oncologist.
Why Get a Medical Assistant Degree
A medical assistant degree will be a great benefit to anyone seeking a career in health care. The first reason to get a degree is that it will open up the world of medicine and health care to you. You will gain knowledge of the body, diseases and how to facilitate care from an administrative perspective.
These days, employers in all industries are looking for workers who have a degree and have focused time and energy into the field they love. Health care is no exception and the higher your degree, the more responsibility you may hold in the industry. More importantly, you will have confidence in your knowledge, skills and ability.
While you might be able to work as a medical assistant without a degree, graduating from an accredited program gives you a solid foundation on which to build. With a degree you can start to gain extra certifications and you will find that you have more options in the job market. When you are trained in only one office, clinic or hospital you may not have a bigger-picture view of the profession. Education allows you to see the field from a wide-angle perspective that employers will appreciate and which you will be able to use to your advantage as your career matures and grows.
HOW TO BECOME A MEDICAL ASSISTANT
To become a medical assistant, you will need to have the desire and passion to provide the best patient care possible. Health care is a demanding field and patients will be depending upon you to be your best in the most efficient manner possible. You will also have to provide support to your fellow co-workers in everyday administrative duties such as answering phones, entering patient data into the records, and completing insurance forms with all of the proper codes.
Have the Right Qualities
You might not yet know how to take a blood sample or do insurance coding, but you will still want to have the right personal attributes that will make you a great medical assistant. Consider how you stack up in the following areas:
- Attention to Detail. Medicine is nothing if not exact. You will need to know exactly how much medicine to titrate into a patient’s IV and then know the precise codes to submit to the insurance company so that your office or hospital can receive payment.
- Multitasking. A medical assistant wears many hats throughout the day, including counselor, laboratory specialist, clinician, administrator—and even writer. Sometimes you may need to do two or more of these tasks at once, or all of them in rapid succession under strict timetables. It’s an exciting, but demanding profession that requires flexibility and the ability to do several things at once.
- Communication. Medical assistants need to be able to communicate accurately and effectively with patients who are unfamiliar with medical jargon and then turn around and discuss the same cases with doctors, who communicate on a more technical level. You’ll need to communicate effectively no matter what the circumstance.
Pursue Your Education
Education is vital to almost every profession these days. To become a medical assistant you will either need to receive a certificate or a full degree. Both have positive aspects, so take the strengths of each into consideration:
- Certificates. A certificate is the fastest route towards becoming a medical assistant. You will focus solely on the knowledge and skill sets needed to become a medical assistant. Most certificate programs take less than a year, which is appealing to many people. In fact, if you already have a degree in some other field but wish to make a transition to health care, the certificate route may be perfect for you.
- Degrees. A degree is probably the best way to go for the long term of your career. An associate’s degree will take approximately two years to complete and will provide more time to study and develop your base of knowledge. You will also take other general education courses that will broaden your horizons and be helpful in ways you never thought possible. A degree will provide the groundwork for future education if you desire to return to school later and get your bachelor’s degree. Consider taking the extra time for a degree—your future self will thank you!
Determine Your Specific Path
Medical assistants work in such a wide range of areas that you will want to aim toward the specific sort of career you want for yourself. That can start before you receive your diploma. Your school should have an externship program while you are still in school, which can help you gain real-world experience. When choosing your externship, try to pick an opportunity that will support your goals.
Beyond a certificate you might receive from a local or online school, the American Association of Medical Assistants offers an exam that will allow you to add special credentials to your resume. Once you pass their exam, you will be a CMA—a certified medical assistant. The exam is tough and includes 200 multiple choice questions that you will answer in four 40-minute sessions.
Medical Assistant Salary and Job Growth
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the average annual income for medical assistants as of 2022 is $38,270, with the highest 10% earning more than $51,710.
Given the demand due to the rapidly increasing aging population, the profession is projected to undergo tremendous growth. The BLS estimates that the field will grow by 13.9% through 2032, which is much faster than average for all other occupations.
Earn a Degree Today
This is a fascinating field that is bound to provide you with a lifetime of fulfillment. There is no better satisfaction than watching a patient improve over time. There may also be moments of real heartbreak, but each is an opportunity for personal growth and development that few people get to experience.
If you know that being a medical assistant is the right move for you, the time is right to find the best program and enroll. There are funds available for qualified applicants and there are even scholarships that can help ease the financial burden of school. Remember, an education is one thing that no one can ever take from you, and an education in the health care field is bound to be in demand for years to come