Medical assistants are health care professionals who perform a variety of clinical and administrative duties that help physicians and nurses. Unlike physician assistants, medical assistants aren’t certified, so they cannot perform clinical duties without the direct supervision of a physician.
Medical assistants must have an associate’s degree to be eligible for certification. Many community colleges, as well as vocational schools, offer associate’s degrees in medical assisting. Students looking at programs in medical assisting should make sure that the program is accredited. Medical assistant programs are accredited by one of two organizations: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, or CAAHEP, or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, or ABHES. These organizations examine the curriculum of the program, as well as the qualifications of the teaching faculty to ensure that the students are getting a quality education that will adequately prepare them for a career in medical assisting.
In addition to attending an accredited program, students must be certified to work in a medical environment. Once they graduate, students must take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination to become certified. Only students that attended an accredited program can sit for this exam. Once they pass the exam, the student is CMA (AAMA) certified. He or she must retake the exam every 60 months to maintain their certifications.
Medical assistants perform a variety of duties, depending on where they are employed. Most medical assistants work in a physician’s office, a hospital, a medical clinic, a university clinic, a physical therapy offices, or in correctional facilities. The specific duties may vary according to state law, as well as the type of environment in which they work.
An administrative medical assistant works with the clerical side of the office duties. They file and complete patient records, as well as complete insurance forms, receive and file laboratory records, and arrange hospital admissions, laboratory work, and diagnostic tests, and clean and maintain an organized office environment.
Clinical medical assistants record a patient’s medical history and take the patient’s vitals, help patients prepare for examinations, explain medical procedures, help the physician during the examination, and clean the examination rooms, and restock supplies in the exam rooms.
Specialized medical assistants, such as podiatric medical assistants and ophthalmic medical assistants, work in a podiatrist’s office or an ophthalmologist’s office. They perform specialized duties that are specific to their office, such as assisting the physician during an eye exam.