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What Does a Medical Assistant Do?


What does a medical assistant do?

Medical assisting is one of the quickest entry points into the healthcare industry. In addition, medical assistants (MAs) are emerging as one of the most in-demand jobs … which isn’t surprising, considering 76.4 million baby boomers are in the healthcare system in some way.

The increasing demand for medical assistants — a 23 percent increase over the next few years — means pay is competitive, averaging $30,590 per year. Even better: The certification typically requires just one year of schooling.

But what do medical assistants actually do?

Medical assistant duties

The daily tasks of a medical assistant can generally be broken down in two categories: administrative and clinical work. In many practices, MAs are expected to work both areas. Wherever you end up, you’ll need good written and spoken communication skills, analytical skills, and solid technical skills.

Related resource: The Greatest Benefits of Becoming a Medical Assistant

A normal day as a medical assistant might include the following administrative duties:

  • Greeting patients
  • Updating medical records
  • Answering phones or email
  • Scheduling appointments for patients, admissions, or laboratory services
  • Filling out insurance paperwork
  • Managing billing and bookkeeping

On the clinical side, medical assistants will often:

  • Prepare patients for examination.
  • Assist the physician or nurse while an exam is going on.
  • Conduct basic tests.
  • Sterilize equipment.
  • Draw blood.
  • Change dressings or remove sutures.
  • Work with medical equipment, such as X-rays.
  • Assist with the administration of medication.
  • Help with authorizing prescription refills.

There’s no real limit to what you could do as an MA, though. Different workplaces will have different specializations, and the day-to-day tasks MAs perform can vary greatly depending on what kind of work environment they’re in.

Expectations of medical assistants

Because the role of a medical assistant is so varied, you’ll find different expectations depending on where you work. Most practices expect medical assistants to have an educational foundation, be certified, promote a positive attitude of service, and keep a neat appearance.

Related resource: Common Interview Questions for Medical Assistants

Education and MA certification

The first step toward becoming a medical assistant is education. You must graduate from an accredited medical assistant program. You can find MA programs at universities, community colleges, and healthcare schools. Most programs take about a year to complete.

Ameritech’s accredited MA program takes 10 months, and prepares students to take certification tests to be a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA), National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA), Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), or Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA).

Degree in hand, medical assistants can then be qualified for CMA (AAMA) or other certification, and be designated by the American Association of Medical Assistants as a Certified Medical Assistant. Once you pass the CMA test, you’re a Certified Medical Assistant! Certification is not necessarily required to work as a medical assistant.

Neat appearance

As with any job, medical assistants must appear neat, clean, and professional. Many healthcare facilities and schools, including Ameritech, require a certain color or style of scrubs. Scrubs should be clean and pressed; shoes should also be clean. The MA’s hair should be neat, and fingernails must be short and natural. Many facilities require tattoos to be covered up.

Related resource: 4 Reasons We Love Medical Assistants

Promote a positive attitude

In the healthcare system where patients are not feeling their best, a cheerful smile goes a long way. You’ll be expected to be friendly and promote positive interactions with patients. Having a service mindset promotes positive experiences. Medical assistants are the right-hand men and women for doctors and nurses in need of all the hands they can get.

If you have an analytical mind, a hands-on approach, and a passion for serving others, chances are you’d make a great medical assistant!

At Ameritech, we’ve been training Medical Assistants for over 30 years, making us one of Utah’s longest-running programs. Visit our website to learn more about our MA curriculum, nursing, or other programs.