Each hospital or doctor requires a medical assistant. Apart from the actual diagnosing and healing that goes on in the hospital, there’s a great load of work that accompanies all those patients and procedures.
Doctors and nurses cannot do all that work alone, though granted, they do accomplish quite a lot on their own. If the medical assistant’s job did not exist there would be a considerable backlog in the health sector, admin work would stack up and stress levels would be compounded and there’d be chaos in every major hospital. In fact, if you look at things as they stand, we already have an over-loaded city healthcare system with overworked employees. If you know how any hospital staffs do their job, in terms of what the working structures are and how everyone fits into the system you’ll realize that the medical assistant is an indispensable part of the medical fraternity.
Even though the workload is heavy as it is, it would be unmanageable without the assistant. Just as the doctors and nurses, as well as pharmacy technicians, are the central cogs in the medical wheel, so too is the medical assistant. However, knowing this, what exactly is the medical assistant job description and how does one go about becoming one?
The Right Person For This Job
Firstly, to do this job you need to be a certain type of person, to not only be able enough, but also willing to do this job; selflessness is of course a major quality in all medical staff. Another quality prevalent in most medical assistants is the ability to multi-task, or at least the aptitude to perform several concurrent or run-on jobs well.
Medical Assistant Job Description
The medical assistant job description and duties can be described as something of the hospital’s version of a secretary, although with a number of considerably distinctive qualities. They’re required to perform an assortment of clerical duties as well as some medical ones too. One can say that anyone working in a medical clinic or hospital should be familiar with a number of basic medical techniques. Most medical assistants are in possession of a few certificates or even a degree in medical assistance or something like it. There are a number of courses and programs available to equip the aspiring assistant, such as the Medical Assistant program, the Certificate in Medical Assisting and the Associate of Science in medical Assisting – all recognized programs.
So, in more detail, the medical assistant job description of a qualified assistant can be divided in two groups – that of administration work and then physical medical work.
The Admin work comprises the following:
- Being the “face” of the institution – they’re usually the first to greet and assist patients.
- Keeping and handling medical records
- Answering phone calls
- Filling out insurance forms
- Arranging or making appointments
- Controlling and/or monitoring correspondence
- Arranging and organizing hospital and lab services
- Provide assistance with billing
Their medical duties look as follows:
- Taking patients’ vital signs
- Communicating and advising patients on and about their imminent treatments and procedures.
- Giving injections
- Drawing blood
- Directing general laboratory tests
- Retrieving patient history
- Providing assistance with examinations
- The preparation of lab specimens
- Ensuring that medical supplies are sanitized
- Disposing of medical material waste
Further duties that may fall to the medical assistant are; informing patients about additional treatment that accompany, preclude or follow certain medical procedures or operations, such as dietary requirements and perhaps the correct applications of various medications. Assistants may also be tasked with formulating and administering medication, submitting prescription forms, permit replenishment’s under a doctor or physician’s supervision, preparing patients prior to having X-rays done, performing electrocardiograms, taking blood samples, removing stitches and changing or adjusting dressings. Furthermore, medical assistants may organize, maintain and buy materials and instruments. If needs be cleaning the waiting and examination rooms could also form as part of the duties of a medical assistant. Overall, Medical assistants should maintain a certain amount of flexibility in their duties as more may arise – one could say that the assistant fills whatever roles the doctors and nurses do not. Their medical duties are then limited due to the clerical roles they need to perform, distinguishing them from nurses. In addition, the medical assistant also differs from the physician assistant whose roles include diagnosing, examining and treating patients under the physician’s guidance and supervision.
Through some certification programs, some medical assistants may look to specialize in specific fields; so you may find that assistants can be found in a wide variety of medical arenas; of course every medical field can claim to have an assistant’s role that needs to be filled. Although most will be found in doctor’s offices, there is a percentage that is found in more specialized fields like in a chiropractor’s office or podiatrist’s. In fact any specialist field needs one, because as one can see from the comprehensive list above, that a medical assistant job description is quite vast and as mentioned before, has become an indispensable part of the medical fraternity.
You’ll often find that there’s a notable degree of separation between doctor and patient, and indeed it is a special relationship, but at no time does it develop and move beyond what it is. In a word the doctor/patient relationship should remain ‘clinical’; however, in that, it’s clear that ironically, the human touch is lost. In most instances the nurses fill that void as they are the real care givers – as one could put it, the doctors do the diagnosing while the nurses do the actual healing – human touch is crucial to the healing process, in fact without, it could be argued that there wouldn’t be any. Similarly, medical assistants also provide a crucial human link to the prospective patients as they are usually the first people who patients interact with upon entering a doctor’s office or hospital. From this you can gather that a discernible amount of people skills is required to perform their duty, not only in assisting and relating to patients but also in working together with a variety of different professionals and skilled people.
Other skills pertinent to the medical assistant job description and requirements is having the ability to work well with their hands and be very observant; awareness is crucial to the job in perceiving people and their needs and being able to assist where they can.
The Basics Of A Medical Assistant Job Description
One might look at the list of clinical medical assistant duties and think that they are superficial or small jobs in the greater scheme of things but in reality, those medical duties are all required by and under state laws. As an added feature to those state requirements, because the assistants are qualified to administer those duties like taking vital signs and acquiring or retrieving patient records and medical history, the treatment process is expedited from the time the patient enters the hospital or clinic to the moment they get treated by their doctor. It’s all part of streamlining the system for better service.
They help clarify physician instructions and have an open communication line between patients to assist them and comfort them in this undoubtedly awkward or uncomfortable moment in their lives. Clearly then, the various roles of a medical assistant, although they may be basic in the greater scheme of things, are definitely a necessity to the medical assistant job description.
Many already qualified medical assistants seek to further their study and expand their expertise and in doing so, they widen their field of employment possibilities. It’s especially a theme today with the down economy and job opportunities on the down side as well; medical assistants seek high qualifications for a higher income. In time and with enough experience, the medical assistant may be promoted to office management, while others still look to diversify their qualification to become teachers, technicians or even nurses.
What Kind Of Person Is Needed For This Job
With all the medical assistant job descriptions and the unique questions that it asks of the individual, it’s not surprising that most out there are in fact women. That’s not to say that a man cannot do the job, but since there are so many different tasks to perform, it does seem that a woman’s natural instincts are suited to the role. Another aspect in the woman’s favor is their natural motherly instinct which is so prevalent in the care giving aspect – people are also more trusting of women than they are men. It’s for these reasons that most nurses too are women – the key word in ‘health care’ of course being “care”. All this is not to discourage any aspiring male medical assistants, but it’s just to enlighten you on what it takes to perform this important job with the unique challenges it comes with. The qualifications will only equip you with the tools to cope with those challenges, but in reality it’s only when you find yourself on the floor of whatever clinic, doctor’s office or hospital, that you’ll finally experience the realities of the job.
What to expect in the study program for certification:
- Medical terminology
- Human physiology and anatomy
- Analysis and diagnostic procedures
- Typing – as well as computer literacy
- Basic accounting
- Record keeping – as in logging medical history
- A certain level of insurance processing
- Laboratory techniques and procedures
- Drug and medicine principles
- Basic first aid
- Administration of medicine
- Communication skills (with patients and professionals alike)
- Medical ethics
- Health laws
A year’s study will earn you a medical assistant certification while a second year’s training will earn you an associate’s degree. Formal training is required or preferred by many institutions (though it’s not mandatory) and internships are offered for students by most clinics and hospitals.
As mentioned before there are a number of courses available to elevate the basic medical assistant training. One may find that even after you’ve been hired, your employing practice may require you to undertake further specialized tests and training so that you’d be able to administer specific treatments like x-rays – usually non-invasive procedures- and their ‘extra’ duties are always supervised and delegated by their overseeing doctor or physician.
The Difference Between Medical And Surgical Assistants
As mentioned before in this article, there is a stark difference between the medical and physician (surgeon) assistant, namely that the latter possesses a license to practice medicine and is almost always in the operating theater as part of the team of surgeons working on the respective patient.
The medical assistant job description usually includes two years of post-graduate work for a full qualification and to the surgeon’s discretion, they’re allowed to give advice and provide a different vantage point.
Despite this contrast in job descriptions, the medical assistant may overlap in their duties – that is to say that in some locations medical assistants are qualified to act as surgeon assistants, but in these cases, their qualifications are usually dependent on the nature of the studies in that area.
A Growing Profession
One thing that’s clear though, is that the medical assistant field is expanding and is predicted to be one of the fastest growing professions in the next five years. Fuelling this expansion is an increase in the amount of elderly people as well as a projected increase in clinics and hospitals over the next decade as governments look to upgrade or intensify financial efforts behind the healthcare sector which has for a long time needed better support across the board. So, these encouraging figures have definitely persuaded more students to pursue the medical assistant role as a career, with the impressive possibilities and future growth available to them. One thing’s for certain though, all associated fields, from nursing to pharmacy technicians and medical assistants, all have a very healthy outlook for future employment.