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What Is a Medical Assistant and How to Become One

Medical Assistant

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Whether medical assistants work in a large hospital or a small doctor's office, their job duties remain the same. As a medical assistant, you may greet patients when they first arrive, ensure patient forms are filled out correctly, answer phone calls, and schedule appointments. Some also handle billing and insurance claims. In the exam rooms, medical assistants may take vital signs, administer medication or vaccinations, describe procedures, change wound dressings, document results from patient sample testing, submit prescriptions, and prepare the beds for the next patient. In a hospital, medical assistants tend to the needs of the staff and patients in their particular unit.

How to Become a Medical Assistant

To become a medical assistant, you need a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers hire medical assistants with little or no experience in the health care industry and provide on-the-job training, but most employers now prefer candidates with a formal education in medical assisting. Vocational schools offer certificate programs that last about nine to twelve months. Or you may attend a community college and pursue an associate degree. These programs take about two years to complete and may be on-campus or online. They include a combination of classroom lessons and lab time and teach you about medical billing, first aid, and medical terminology. Medical assistants do not need to be certified to work, but earning the designation of Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) may make you stand out in the job market.

What Is a Medical Assistant's Job?

A medical assistant provides direct and immediate support to physicians in clinical settings or private practices, taking care of many administrative and clinical tasks to streamline treatment. Medical assistants may focus on administrative duties and work the front desk, greeting and checking in patients, updating their personal and insurance information, and ensuring their files are ready for examination. Other medical assistants work directly with the doctor, calling the patient back to an exam room, take vital signs such as temperature and blood pressure, and documenting their medical history and the reason for their visit. Once the doctor has seen the patient, you may be asked to prepare and submit prescriptions, draw blood or request other laboratory services, administer medications or vaccinations, or take care of other patient needs.

Medical Assistant Job Description Sample

With this Medical Assistant job description sample, you can get a good idea of what employers are looking for when hiring for this position. Remember, every employer is different and each will have unique qualifications when they hire for a Medical Assistant role.

Job Summary

We are looking for a skilled and organized Medical Assistant to join our healthcare team. You will perform a combination of various administrative and clinical tasks. Administrative responsibilities include greeting patients as they arrive, answering phone calls and emails, scheduling appointments, and updating and filing patients’ medical records. Clinical duties include taking patient medical histories, recording patient vital signs, preparing patients for examination, and assisting the physician during examinations. When necessary, you will also administer vaccinations and process prescriptions to be filled at the patient’s preferred pharmacy.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Greet patients and gather contact information and insurance data
  • Answer phone calls, respond to patient questions, and take messages
  • File insurance forms and call insurance companies with questions about coverage
  • Schedule new and follow-up appointments
  • Prepare rooms and ensure supplies are ready, ordering more when necessary
  • Assist in procedures and examinations
  • Take and record patient vitals
  • Administer vaccinations
  • Educate patients and their families on health conditions, treatment, and medications

Requirements and Qualifications

  • Associate degree in a medical field (preferred)
  • 1+ years of experience working for a healthcare practice or hospital
  • Familiar with medical terminology
  • Inventory management experience
  • Excellent communication and organizational skills