Med­i­cal as­sis­tants in high de­mand

NOW Magazine - Career Companion - - FRONT PAGE - BY GREG SMITH

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 ted­dy­­i­cal_Ca­reers.

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