Medical Assistants: At the front line of patient care
Health care isn’t just concerned with finding cures or making people better when they get sick. It is also about prevention: limiting the long-term risks to your health.
When we think of frontline clinical staff, we think of the physicians, surgeons, nurses, and paramedics who provide medical attention to patients, both in emergencies and day-to-day.
In previous blogs, we have discussed the impact of an aging population and growing levels of chronic obesity, however, it is clear that Medical Assistants will be at the forefront of preventative patient care as demands on the healthcare system increase.
While individual responsibilities may vary depending on each workplace, Medical Assistants are the bridge between two worlds: the clinical and the clerical. It is the clinical duties that differentiates this position from other medical administration occupations.
Quality healthcare necessarily involves multiple stakeholders. To work as a Medical Assistant you need to enjoy a team environment and be:
- compassionate and caring with patients
- prompt and meticulous with physicians
- organized and systematic with administration.
Depending on the environment where you work, the duties of the Medical Assistant vary. You will need to have a firm understanding of a wide range of clerical tasks such as making appointments, answering phones, updating patient records and billing for procedures.
On top of these administrative tasks, Medical Assistants are expected to be able to assist physicians and other medical professionals to provide primary care to patients. This could include collecting specimens, monitoring vital signs, give immunizations, taking blood, providing nutrition advice and administering medications.
You will also need to have a handle on healthcare-specific technology, including software that manages electronics records, pharmaceutical registers, appointment scheduling, internal messaging and other diagnostic tools and machines.
There are currently 623,560 Medical Assistants employed in the US, 57,960 of which are based in Texas. The second highest concentration of Medical Assistants in the US can be found in the Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX Metropolitan Division where 5.71 jobs in every 1000 are Medical Assistants, compared to 4.93 per 1000 in Texas as a whole.
As physicians seek to devote more time to diagnosis and treatment of their patients, more Medical Assistants will be required to undertake both clerical and clinical tasks in their place.
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for Medical Assistants is tipped to increase by 23%, with an estimated 730,200 Medical Assistants to be employed by 2024, up from 591,300 in 2014. This growth rate is much faster than the average for all other occupations and is even higher than that for Health Information Technicians.
Primary healthcare essentials
In healthcare, especially in administrative roles, there is considerable overlap in the hard and soft skills that are required. Attention to detail, confidentiality, and medical terminology are essential in addition to organizational and clerical skills.
But Medical Assistants require these skills and more. To undertake this role, you will also need to undertake basic clinical tasks to provide assistance to physicians and other health professionals, including explaining and preparing patients to be treated; collecting samples and performing basic lab tests; phlebotomy, taking EKGs and checking blood pressure; changing dressings; and, general assistance during examinations.
Medical Assistants need to have knowledge of the human body (both anatomy and physiology) and medical terminology so that they can respond to requests and ensure the accuracy of medical records.
Primary health care staff, regardless of training levels, are expected to provide guidance to patients on living a healthier life. Being able to provide nutrition and weight-loss advice, along with smoking cessation and other preventative that can reduce a patient’s reliance on the healthcare system over their lifetime.
According to the BLS, it will be those Medical Assistants with knowledge of electronic health records and appropriate certification that will have more success finding work as their expertise will increasingly be needed to meet the growing workload.
When developing your technical skills for these positions you should look for programs that qualify you to undertake National Healthcareer Association certification exams, such as Clinical Medical Assistant; Certified Phlebotomy Technician; CPR; and, HIPAA Privacy.
Keeping calm under pressure
Working in healthcare can sometimes mean the difference between life and death, literally. While Medical Assistants will usually work under the supervision of a physician or other health professional, you never know when an emergency situation will arise. Keeping calm in tough situations, and being able to recover afterward, will prove essential if you want to go down this career path.
I always say there is one big difference between hospitality and healthcare. In hospitality, you need to look busy even if you’re not. In healthcare, you need to look relaxed and calm even when you’re busy and stressed. Personally, I find this very challenging. Show me blood, and I’m fine. Give me an emergency and I’ll take charge or follow orders depending on what is needed. But ask me to look calm when I’m stressed, and you’ll probably see smoke come out of my ears.
The workplaces that require Medical Assistants are fairly self-explanatory, with by far the most Medical Assistants employed in doctors offices (over 360,0000 in the U.S.), hospitals, aged care facilities, and other health professional offices. You can find positions available in Dallas Fort Worth on Indeed, with new jobs being added daily.
There are also opportunities to specialize in various medical fields, for example, weight-loss and nutrition, pediatrics, podiatry, occupational therapy, dentistry, physical therapy, or optometry. Keep an eye out for jobs with the following titles:
- Medical Assistant
- Clinical Laboratory Aide
- Blood Bank Donor Unit Assistant
- Front Office Assistant
- Medical Office Assistant
- Clinical Medical Assistant
There’s a big difference between a Medical Assistant and a Physician’s Assistant with the latter focusing on clinical duties, including diagnosis, and requiring a higher level of medical knowledge and training.
If you prefer a job where you deal directly with the public, your tasks are varied, your days are full, and you can make a real difference to people’s lives, visit our website to find out more about Medical Assisting and how CCI Training Center can help you get the qualifications you need.