Generally in a smaller office medical assistants have to juggle a variety of tasks ranging from administrative and clinical work. In a larger practice, a medical assistant generally specializes in one area of work. A med. assistant’s job should not be confused with that of a physician’s assistant, who is responsible for examining and diagnosing patients.
Training can be completed on the job, however many choose to complete a program that takes one to two years to finish. Most medical assistant’s have at minimum a high school diploma, even though there are no education or training requirements. Many of the programs are offered in technical high schools, or community and junior colleges. Typically programs lasting a year result in certification, while student’s studying for two years are given an associate degree.
Many of the courses that a student takes covers anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, as well as courses that will be applicable in an office setting such as bookkeeping, accounting, and insurance processing. Students will also learn about different medical procedures, how to administer medicine, and first aid. There are two bodies responsible for accrediting medical assistant programs. Typically an accredited program will have an internship for a student to gain real world experience.
Medical assistants can be certified by either the American Association of Medical Assistants (AMAA), and the Association of Medical Technologists (AMT). Students that are certified can specialize in certain fields such as podiatry, optometry, or ophthalmology. Certification offers experience and additional training, which can lead to other careers in the medical field. Certifications help distinguish a medical assistant from the entry level assistants, which can lead to a higher salary, and better promotions.
Although formal training is not required, it is preferred by many health care offices. Many assistants are trained on the job, and learn the necessary skills as they work. It is important to have volunteered with various healthcare fields, as well as taking health, biology, computer, and typing courses while in high school. It is also important for all medical assistants, whether they have the certification or not, to be comfortable working with people. They are expected to put a patient at ease, have a pleasant manner, and respect confidential medical information.