One of the fastest-growing jobs within the medical field, medical assistants are becoming an important part of the patient care team. One of the most popular offerings at community colleges and vocational schools because of its short training programs, it is expected that physician’s offices and hospitals will need almost 150,000 more medical assistants by 2016. While most schools offer one-year programs resulting in diplomas rather than degrees, medical assistants nevertheless serve a variety of functions in offices everywhere.
Medical assistants spend much time performing administrative duties. While in school, they take classes in medical office procedures, medical records administration and insurance billing. Once employed, they greet patients, answer phones, maintain patient records, call in prescriptions and arrange diagnostic tests.
Once medical assistants complete their training programs, they can take exams administered by the state to become certified medical assistants. Not only does this increase their chances of gaining employment, but it also allows them to perform more complex duties within the office. Basic patient care duties of medical assistants include taking vital signs such as blood pressure and pulse, temperature, respiration rate along with the patient’s height and weight.
For those who are certified, additional duties working with patients may be included. Depending upon the office they work in, they may be allowed to assist with more progressive and difficult procedures as specified by the doctor. Some examples include sterilizing instruments, giving injections, drawing blood, taking x-rays, performing hearing and vision tests on patients and even conducting such tests as electrocardiograms on patients with cardiovascular conditions.
One of the most important parts of a medical assistant’s job is educating patients on medications and procedures. For those who have gained advanced certification, they may be asked by doctors to speak with patients about a variety of topics. For example, they may go talk with a patient about the new medication they will be starting, going over potential side effects, how often to take it and its benefits. They may also give them information regarding an upcoming diagnostic test, as well as answer questions regarding the doctor’s diagnosis.
No matter the setting in which they work, medical assistants are increasingly relied upon to assist patients with their office visit. A job that combines the best of both worlds regarding patient care and office administration, it’s a great choice for those who love helping others.