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What You Need to Know to Become a Medical Assistant

Working in the medical field can be a noble profession. If you're looking for a way to help other people and make a difference, then you may want to find out how to become a medical assistant.

While taking this career path requires some time and commitment, it can be worth the investment. If you are looking for a career that is exciting, challenging, pays well, and is in high demand, then this may be exactly what you're looking for.

What Is a Medical Assistant?

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As a medical assistant, you will be tasked with doing many different jobs. You'll also have the opportunity to use different technology and tools to help people. If you decide to go into a specialized area of medicine, your duties may differ. However, some of the main duties that are expected of a medical assistant include:

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Taking vital signs
  • Drawing blood
  • Preparing examination rooms
  • Arranging for hospital admission
  • Sterilizing equipment
  • Managing medical records, billing, and coding
  • Recording medical history
  • Administering medication that has been prescribed by a doctor
  • Preparing patients for appointments
  • Performing diagnostic tests

You'll need to have basic computer skills, including knowing how to use email and other computer software such as scheduling programs or other systems. You'll also need to know how to use various medical equipment such as blood pressure units, nebulizers, ophthalmoscopes, and needles.

What to Expect During a Work Day

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More than likely, as a medical assistant, you won't have two days that are alike. They can be unpredictable and challenging, but this may be what draws you to the job. If you don't like boring, mundane, and predictable, then finding out how to become a medical assistant and taking that path may be just what you need for an exciting career.

The first thing you'll need to do when you arrive in the morning for your shift is to check the schedule. If there is any paperwork that needs to be done, you'll take care of that. You'll also get patient charts organized and ensure that exam rooms are ready and all supplies are full.

It will also be your job to check any phone or email messages that may have come in. If there are any administrative tasks that need to be completed, such as sending faxes or emails, these will be taken care of first thing in the morning.

When patients arrive, your focus will shift to taking care of them. You'll greet them, find out if any of their medical information has changed and update their records, and then prepare them for their exam. After the patient has left, you will clean up the exam room and prepare it for the next patient. If any of the supplies need to be restocked or samples need to be taken to the lab, you will take care of those tasks.

As you become more skilled and experienced with your job, your duties might change. You may be asked to help with more advanced jobs, which might include starting an IV, helping with clinical trials, conducting lab tests, or managing equipment and supply contracts.

At the end of the day, you'll wrap up any duties that weren't completed earlier. This might include returning phone calls, filling out paperwork, or taking care of prescription refills. You'll also need to make sure that all equipment has been sterilized and the exam rooms are clean and ready to go.

Since you have so many different duties throughout the day, a good skill to have is being able to work well under pressure. You'll also need to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with others and exercise good judgement. Don't forget you're part of a team, and everyone has to work together to make the process go smoothly.

Is There a Demand for Medical Assistants?

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When trying to determine how to become a medical assistant, you might also be asking if there's a demand for them. The answer to that question is yes. As the baby-boom generation gets older, there will be a demand for medical services, including preventative medical services. Since these services are performed by physicians, as they get busier, they'll need assistants to help with the workload.

It is estimated that the demand and employment of medical assistants will increase by almost 30% from 2016 to 2026. As the number of group practices, clinics, and other facilities grows, they'll need support workers who can complete both clinical and administrative duties.

Medical assistants with any type of education and training are sure to find employment throughout their career. However, if you want to be in really high demand, you may consider becoming certified and being familiar with electronic health records, as this will make you an incredibly valuable employee.

Here's How to Become a Medical Assistant

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When finding out exactly how to become a medical assistant, you need to keep in mind that this isn't something you can accomplish over the weekend. There are a couple of different ways to achieve your goal, and these are listed below.

On-The-Job Training

Taking this route can be beneficial if you already have some experience in the medical field but don't want to go to school to become a medical assistant. It will also allow you to earn an income while learning new duties.

If you decide to take this path, you'll need to have a high school diploma or GED. If you don't already have one of these, you'll need to find some GED classes to take care of this as soon as possible. Once you have obtained this, you'll then need to find a doctor who will provide you with training.

One of the downsides to this approach is that it may be challenging to find someone who is willing to train you on-the-job. Most practices and doctors prefer to have medical assistants who have formal training. However, you may be able to find a doctor who will help you gain the skills you need to become a successful medical assistant.

Formal Training

You may also decide to take the formal training route. This involves going to a school that has an accredited program and earning a certificate or degree to perform the duties of a medical assistant. More often than not, these programs include classroom instruction and laboratory training, in addition to an externship assignment.

Depending on whether you choose to get a certificate or diploma, you can be in a program that only takes 9 months or one that takes up to 24 months. Both of these are how to become a medical assistant, but the one that takes longer will give you more training and education.

When it comes to getting formal training, you have several options on how to obtain your education. You can either go to an on-campus training program, take classes online, or do a combination of both on-campus and online classes. Any of these options can get you the education and training you need to succeed at your job. Which route you take will depend on how much time you have and what you can afford.

Getting Certified

Getting certified isn't a requirement, but it will make you highly employable. Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant could lead to higher pay. To become certified, you'll have to complete a medical assistant training program at an accredited school. You'll then need to take the CMA exam, which is administered three times each year.

Taking classes and being prepared for the exam is the best way to pass and get your certification. Even after taking your formal classes, you might consider taking some exam preparation courses to make sure you have the right information and are ready for the questions that will be asked on the test.

Again, it's not required that you become certified, but it could increase your chances of getting a high-paying position. It will also give you more skills and training to be able to handle anything that the job might throw your way.

Conclusion

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When you are trying to find out how to become a medical assistant, you may find that the process isn't overly complicated. You either get on-the-job training or you go to school for training. They take time and patience, as you won't be able to master these skills overnight or even in a week.

However, if you are determined to get a job in the medical field where you can take care of others, then becoming a medical assistant might be exactly what you're looking for. You get the chance to use a variety of different skills and be an integral part of the medical practice. With the demand for medical assistants on the rise, you also shouldn't have any problems finding a job.

Not everyone is cut out to help others. Thus, if you are one of the few who really wants to make a difference in the world and put your medical skills to good use, then this might be the career that you will find to be rewarding and exciting.