Medical assistants in high demand
Looking for a new career in the health care industry? Consider becoming a medical assistant. The health services industry is expanding because of technological advances in medicine and a growing and aging population. Group practices, hospitals, medical centres and clinics will need many more support personnel, especially medical assistants who will be able to handle both administrative and clinical duties.
WHAT DO MEDICAL ASSISTANTS DO? Medical assistants perform routine administrative and clinical tasks. They provide much-needed daily assistance to keep doctors’, podiatrists’, chiropractors’ and other health care providers’ offices running efficiently and smoothly. Their duties vary from office to office, depending on the location and size of the practice and the practitioner’s specialty. In small practices, medical assistants usually are generalists who handle both administrative and clinical duties and report directly to an office manager, physician or other health care practitioner. Those in large practices tend to specialize in a particular area under the supervision of department administrators. Some of the many administrative duties performed include answering telephones, greeting patients, updating and filing medical records, filling out insurance forms, handling correspondence, scheduling appointments, arranging for hospital admission and laboratory services, and handling billing and bookkeeping. Clinical duties may include taking medical histories and recording patients’ vital signs, explaining treatment procedures, preparing patients for examinations and assisting the doctor during examinations. Medical assistants collect and prepare laboratory specimens or perform basic laboratory tests on the premises, dispose of contaminated supplies and sterilize medical instruments. They also instruct patients about medications and special diets, prepare and administer medications as directed by a physician, authorize drug refills as directed, telephone prescriptions to pharmacies, draw blood, prepare patients for X-rays, take electrocardiograms, remove sutures and change dressings. They may also arrange examining-room instruments and equipment, purchase and maintain supplies and equipment, and keep waiting and examining rooms neat and clean. Some assistants who specialize in particular health care areas have additional duties to perform. Unlike physician’s assistants, medical assistants do not examine, diagnose or treat patients.
Medical assisants have many oppor- tunities for career advancement. They may become office managers or qualify for a variety of administrative-support positions. Some opt to teach medical assisting. With additional education, some enter health career occupations like nursing and medical technology. Since health care employers prefer trained personnel, job prospects are best for medical assistants with formal training and experience, and particularly for those with accredited certification.
Greg Smith publishes information on medical career issues at teddycare.com/Medical_Careers.