Even when other job markets slow down, the healthcare field continues to grow. It is doing so faster than ever before at the moment. As medical technology improves people are living longer, and an aging population of Baby Boomers are increasing the need for all kinds of medical services and treatments, some conventional hospital and doctor’s office based positions and increasingly also in a home setting.
This growth has also led to an increase in the number of career opportunities for medical assistants of several different kinds. These are trained professionals who are a vital part of any medical team, whether their duties are primarily clinical in nature or they undertake more of the clerical side of helping a medical team to function.
The term ‘medical assistants’ actually covers a number of different job functions, and although these can be placed into broad categories, the actual day to day nature of a medical assistant’s job will usually vary from setting to setting, offering unique challenges every day that make for a satisfying, well paid, if occasionally stressful career.
Basic Types of Medical Assistants
Very broadly speaking you could divide medical assistants into three different types, each one of which is vital to the facility or practice they work within:
The Administrative Medical Assistant
Since the advent of the HIPPA patient privacy laws and the introduction of an increasingly complex set of rules governing health insurance payments the administrative side of medicine has become increasingly important.
An administrative medical assistant is usually tasked with helping to ensure not only the smooth running of a medical practice by doing things like managing the reception desk and making patient appointments but also ensuring that clinical records are properly maintained and that all of the legal protocols regarding patient rights, responsibilities and privacy are met while also gathering all of the information a medical billing department will need to actually bill for the medial services provided.
In order to become a successful administrative medical assistant an individual will, in addition to 12 months to 2 years formal education in the field, need an organized mind, excellent computer skills, a good knowledge of medical terminology and excellent people skills.
The Clinical Medical Assistant
A clinical medical assistant’s primary function is to assist in the provision of practical patient care. The duties of a general clinical medical assistant will vary greatly according to the size and structure of the practice or facility that they work for. However, often their duties will often include documenting basic vital signs and statistics prior to an examination, conducting basic patient assessments and collecting all important medical histories, providing assistance to physicians and other healthcare professionals during examinations and procedures and instructing patients in aftercare procedures.
In addition to the appropriate formal education a good clinical medical assistant needs to possess good attention to detail and be able to exercise a great deal of patience and empathy.
Specialized Medical Assistant
Medical assistants can choose, if they wish, specialize in a single, specific field of medicine. This does call for more schooling, but it also usually involves greater patient involvement, more responsibility in clinical procedures, more patient contact and a greater seniority level.
Whatever type of medical assistant position an individual chooses to pursue there may never have been a better time to do so. It is the ideal career path for a person interested in healthcare and medicine but who does not wish to pursue the longer course of study it takes to become a physician or an RN.