According to surveys, becoming a doctor or a nurse is a childhood dream for nearly 20% of people - but a fraction of those actually pursue a career in healthcare.
But what if you are now looking to switch back to your original goal and work as a healthcare professional? Do you have to leave everything behind and spend over a decade training and studying?
Luckily, there is a more straightforward way to serve your community and deliver quality healthcare services: becoming a medical assistant.
Here is what you need to know about this cornerstone role in the healthcare industry and what to expect from your future career.
The Medical Assistant Role: What You Need To Know
Medical assistants are the backbone of any medical practice or hospital. Their duties encompass administrative and clinical tasks, and they are responsible for liaising with customers, building long-lasting relationships with them, and assisting surgeons and physicians.
While responsibilities vary from one medical practice to another (depending on the nature and scope of the clinic, as well as size, location, and specialty) all medical assistants are cross-trained to provide holistic support to the entire medical team. Some of their main duties include the following ones.
Medical assistants work in close collaboration with physicians and nurses. Some of their main clinical duties include:
- Preparing patients for examinations, assisting physicians with exams, and getting the rooms ready for patients
- Collecting the patient’s medical history, explaining treatment procedures, and delivering instructions to patients
- Performing basic tests, collecting specimens, and preparing medications
- Taking blood (Phlebotomy) and electrocardiograms
- Providing wound care
Aside from supporting the delivery of medical treatment and care, medical assistance is also the main figure patients interact with. They are responsible for building a relationship of trust, getting to know their history, and communicating with them.
Some common front-desk responsibilities you might have as a medical assistant include:
- Using the clinic management software to schedule appointments and review treatments
- Welcoming patients, answering phone calls, and managing correspondence
- Keeping medical records up to date and storing patient data
- Handling billing, hospital admissions, and bookkeeping
Training Can Take Just Six Months
If you are just getting started on your new career journey, the first step to take is to choose a reputable medical assistant program that delivers the relevant and comprehensive knowledge you need to handle your new role. The program you choose will also determine the type of certification you’ll receive, training modalities, and level of knowledge, as well as timelines.
While some training programs will grant you a certification in 9 months to 2 years, ad hoc courses can be completed in just six months. These courses often include multiple learning modalities (including online and in-person lectures), as well as on-field training.
A well-rounded curriculum should at least include the following sub-courses:
- Clinical procedures
- Medical law and ethics
- Electrocardiography (EKG)
- First Aid and CPR
- Records management
- Infection control
How Much Does a Medical Assistant Make a Year?
While doctor salaries - as well as their medical school debt - are well-known, not so much is understood about how much medical assistants make. Firstly, it is important to understand that the average annual salary of a medical assistant will depend on work experience, years of practice, location, type of facility, and level of responsibility.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants earn a mean annual wage of $38,190 ($18.36 per hour). However, medical assistants with several years of experience in the field can access salaries as high as $50,580 per year on average.
Career Progression and Job Outlook For Medical Assistants
According to recent estimates, medical assistant roles are growing at a rate of 18% - which is much faster than average. What’s more, as the population continues to age and the predicted increase of medical facilities, the number of openings for medical assistants is set at a whopping 104,400 per year.
After having entered the industry and collecting the necessary experience, medical assistants can advance, move into leadership roles, or train as physician assistants or nurse practitioners. Ultimately, if you are looking for a career path with strong progression potential and plenty of job opportunities, training as a medical assistant might just tick all the boxes!