A medical assistant is someone who is the right hand man, or woman, for a physician or nurse, making life easier for them as well as for the patient. They perform various duties and responsibilities, both clinical and administrative, as well as help the patient feel at ease by explaining any questions they may have. The duties and responsibilities vary depending on the setting.
In a hospital setting, a medical assistant tends to the needs of the particular unit they work for. They may handle billing, fill out patient forms, and perform typical receptionist type duties. Their job responsibilities are both patient and lab-based, where they may spend time examining samples taken from patients, administering immunizations, medication or prescription refills, or performing ECG readings.
A medical assistant working in a clinic setting doesn’t work for a specific unit as a hospital medical assistant would do. Therefore the work would be more comprehensive, or general. The medical assistant in a clinic would have a blend of clinical and administrative duties that range from answering telephones, greeting patients, explaining procedures and changing wound dressings. Their job is highly valued by the doctors and nurses in the clinic, as it keeps the clinic running smoothly.
A medical assistant in a private practice setting has the basic duties of an office receptionist, and the doctors will depend on the assistant to manage patient care and also keep the office running smoothly. Their duties are specific and unique to the private practice they work for. They may explain medical information to the patient, perform exams, basic tests and do the scheduling of the appointments.
A medical assistant for ambulatory care is very specific, and involves a high-pressure atmosphere. They provide support in both a clinical and clerical way, and need to rely on their training and instincts to act quickly so the emergency technicians can care for the patient in a timely and effective manner. The medical assistant is one of the first people that the patient will come in contact with, and will complete the patient forms that are needed, collect the samples and specimens necessary and perform Point of Care testing.
Not all medical assistants are certified, and are able to learn through on-the-job training over the course of several months. However, physicians do prefer to have certified assistants.
In order to become a certified medical assistant, one can take either a one year certificate, or a two year associate’s degree. Expect to study medical terminology, medical billing, science, math and first aid. Either program will include lab and classroom time.
A medical assistant can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, and ambulatory care. In 2010, more than half of all medical assistants worked in physicians’ offices. Most medical assistants work full time. Some work evenings or weekends to cover shifts in medical facilities that are always open.