What Is a Medical Assistant?

Working in medicine isn’t quite like it is in the movies, but it’s close. Demystifying the human body, comforting people in their time of need, and saving lives are all part of what clinical health care workers do.

But if you’re interested in a health care career, you have a choice to make. There are many job titles available in areas from nursing and radiology, to lab and administration. Each has a distinct and valuable role.

But, if you’re looking for a quick-launch career—one you can train for in months, not years—consider becoming a medical assistant. You’ll be out of the classroom and earning in no time.

Why Become a Medical Assistant?

What motivates you? Sure, some people decide on careers in medicine because the field is growing and the paycheck is steady, but it’s challenging if you’re not an inherently compassionate person. Health care is a service industry, so people who are drawn to care for others are a perfect fit for medicine.

Health care is also a technical field. Innovation is around every corner, so if you like to learn something new every day, you’ll enjoy working in an industry that’s continually evolving. As part of a medical team, you’re the first to know when exciting advancements are available.

If you like to dabble, you can make medical assisting what you want it to be. With a blend of skills, you can choose jobs with more clinical or administrative responsibilities, allowing you to make the most of your strengths as an individual.

You could become a jack-of-all-trades, where no two days are ever alike, or a specialist with a predictable routine. It’s up to you what you want to do. Of the many professions you can choose from, few offer this much flexibility and personal freedom.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

Medical assistants work in doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals, supporting doctors and nurses by helping with a wide range of clinical and administrative tasks. Job responsibilities vary depending on where you work, but an average day might include these duties.

Phone Call Triage

Physicians need accurate information to triage patients. It’s the medical assistant’s job to ask questions and collect data, so the MA understands what the patient needs. It’s just a general inquiry in some cases, but in others, patients may be reporting signs of serious illness.

Medical assistants have enough training to recognize worrisome symptoms versus those that can wait. They take notes and deliver them to the doctor promptly, flagging those that need immediate attention.

Greeting Patients

Medical assistants help patients get settled in exam rooms while they wait for the doctor. They use that time to take vital signs, update medical records, and assist patients with physical needs, as mobility impairments are common. The goal is for the patient to be informed, comfortable, and fully prepared when the doctor arrives, saving everyone’s time.

Taking Vital Signs

Blood pressure, pulse, and respiration are reflections of health. It takes some technical expertise to measure, but doesn’t require the attention of a doctor.

As a medical assistant, you’ll get patients’ height and weight and measure vital signs at each visit to help doctors make the best clinical decisions. Over time, trends can indicate disease, and the dosages for some medications are based on weight, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Running Diagnostic Tests

Medical assistant training programs prepare students to perform certain diagnostic tests using the latest equipment and techniques. A medical assistant is also trained to draw blood and collect samples for in-house testing or to process and send to consulting laboratories.

Billing and Coding

We all wish money and medicine weren’t mixed, but physicians can’t offer their patients the care they deserve without revenue. Almost all health care in the United States is paid for by insurance companies, and claims must reflect why patients sought care and what services were provided.

Medical assistants keep practice earnings on track by coordinating with the billing office to ensure forms have the proper medical codes, which are alphanumeric sequences that describe things from disorders to supplies.

Patient Education

Everything in health care, from physicals to X-rays, requires some degree of preparation. Whether it’s physical or financial, medical assistants are there to help patients understand doctors’ instructions so procedures go smoothly. They also serve as a primary resource for timely health topics from seasonal vaccinations to medication safety.

What Are the Benefits of Medical Assisting as a Career?

There are many benefits to a career in medical assisting. They include a fast-track training program, job security, a good work-life balance, a team environment, advancement opportunities, and personal fulfillment.

Fast-Track Training Programs

Most roles in health care require a formal education. It makes sense since it’s an important field, and we all want to know the staff caring for us are well-trained.

But spending years at a university doesn’t make sense for everyone. It’s costly, and in some cases, it’s not even a path to get the job you want.

Medical assistant diploma programs at vocational schools are focused. You get the practical knowledge necessary for an entry-level position in health care without paying for elective courses. Full-time students can graduate in less than eight months, getting out of the classroom and into the field where they can earn and gain experience.

Job Security

A technical revolution is coming. Once popular careers are becoming obsolete, replaced by technology. It’s a step forward for humanity, but as individuals, it limits employment opportunities. Today’s students need to ask, will the education they pay for today still be relevant in a decade?

As millions of older Americans reach retirement age, the need for preventive medical care is soaring. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the health industry will create more than 140,000 new medical assisting jobs in the next ten years, which is almost a 19 percent increase.

A Favorable Work-Life Balance

All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Unlike other health care jobs that require long hours and on-call shifts, some medical assistants may rely on a steady Monday to Friday schedule. Spend evenings, weekends, and holidays with family, and go back to work on Monday feeling focused and relaxed.

A Team Environment

Some workplaces feel like echo chambers where your voice is the only voice you hear. But in health care, outcomes are best when everyone works together as a team.

Licensed clinical staff recognizes that being the first point of contact puts medical assistants in a unique position to represent patients’ needs, so your input matters. You’ll feel supported and appreciated by colleagues, and best of all, you’ll never feel alone.

Advancement Opportunities

Medical assisting is an entry-level position, but you don’t want your career to come to a standstill. With experience, you can grow into jobs with more responsibility.

Turn an aptitude for administration into a promotion to office manager. Or take talent drawing blood to a lab. Continuing education opportunities and certification programs pave the way for professional advancement.

Personal Fulfillment

People who love what they do are happier at work and in other aspects of their lives. Medical assistants not only help patients navigate the intricacies of health care, but they also offer an encouraging word and a hand to hold.

Feeling like you have a purpose is essential for personal fulfillment and perhaps the best reason to become a medical assistant.

Final Thoughts

If you’re tired of dead-end jobs or you just want to feel like you’re making a difference, a career in medical assisting is worth a second look. The prerequisites for success are compassion and a love for adventure. The right vocational school training program takes care of the rest.

Want to learn more about an exciting new career in the medical assisting field? The Medical Assistant program at Hunter Business School prepares competent, entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains required for professional practice.

The Medical Assistant program provides hands-on experience in a real medical setting where you can foster professional relationships with actual patients. Medical Assistant students spend 160 hours in an externship at a professional medical facility where they are supervised and taught in order to gain valuable on-the-job training.

Contact us today to find out more about how to become a medical assistant on Long Island.