How To Become A Medical Assistant (MA)
The following article is a detailed response to the numerous queries that people make about becoming a medical assistant (MA). The intended purpose of this article is to discuss the MA role and the different ways in which an individual may become a MA.
Medical assistants (MAs) are healthcare workers who work under the supervision and direction of physicians, chiropractors, and other types of health care providers. Keep in mind that MAs may be known by other titles such as medical office assistants, medical administrative assistants, and medical office secretaries.
Front office MAs keep the medical office or clinic operating efficiently by dealing with administrative and secretarial duties that may include answering phones, greeting patients, filing, setting up appointments, maintaining medical records, completing and submitting insurance paperwork, and managing electronic medical records.
Back office MAs also maintain the smooth workflow of the doctors' office or clinic by dealing with clinical aspects such as obtaining vital signs, recording patient histories, preparing examination rooms, assisting physicians with procedures, sterilizing equipment, and properly discarding medical waste. Some back office MAs may change dressings, remove sutures, collect specimens, withdraw blood, perform electrocardiograms (ECGs), administer injections, and conduct other types of tests.
The tasks that MAs may complete are often determined by state laws. MAs who work in small doctors offices might be responsible for carrying out a mixture of front office and back office duties. Remember that the MA is performing these skills under the licensure of the health care provider(s) in the medical office or clinic.
No formal education is needed to become a MA. In fact, many people in the field possess a high school diploma or GED and have received on-the-job training from medical offices who have been willing to train the 'right candidate.' However, completion of a formal training program may increase one's chances of securing employment as a MA.
The person who wants to become a MA may complete a diploma or certificate program at a community college, adult education center, trade school, or technical college. In addition, interested parties may complete the associate of applied science (AAS) degree in medical assisting at a local community college or technical college.
Although certification is not mandatory, it is desirable and might result in a slightly higher hourly wage. At the present time, four entities offer certification to MAs:
- The American Association of Medical Assistants - Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
- American Medical Technologists - Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
- National Center for Competency Testing - National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
- National Health Career Association - Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
Being a MA is not easy, and it is definitely not for everyone. However, the MA role is perfect for someone who is a quick learner, technically adept, fast-paced, and excellent with interpersonal skills. If you are a team player who can handle the joys, pains, ups, and downs of healthcare, the MA job might be a perfect fit for you.Last edit by Joe V on Jul 12, '12
About TheCommuter, BSN, RN Moderator
TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.
Joined: Feb '05; Posts: 38,035; Likes: 69,253
CRRN, now a case management RN; from US
Specialty: 11 year(s) of experience in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psychJul 13, '12as usual another enlightening article from the commuter, thank you for sharing this informative behind the scenes on how to become a ma and their socpe of practice....aloha~Mar 19, '15Yes people give us medical assistants a bad name and why we want to go into nursing BC its so differentJan 12, '16Certification is becoming mandatory due to CMS requirements for Meaningful Use, the government EHR incentive program. Many medical assistants are losing their jobs because they do not have the proper education if trained on the job or they are not certified. The certification is required to enter orders into the EHR. This is a HUGE step for medical assistants and protecting their title in the medical field!Jan 12, '16Quote from NursePJ2015Hopefully mandatory certification for EHR purposes will serve to elevate the role of the medical assistant. IMHO, there's something for everyone at the healthcare table, and all our roles are vital.Certification is becoming mandatory due to CMS requirements for Meaningful Use, the government EHR incentive program.Jan 12, '16Quote from TheCommuterI am very involved with the research and implementation of the EHR program requirements at the facility I'm at. The purpose of requiring the medical assistants to become certified is for patient safety with documenting and entering prescribed orders. Doing this, according to CMS, will allow the nurse and the Physician to be more involved with the patient, the family and their care by allowing the medical assistant to do more of the documentation and such.Hopefully mandatory certification for EHR purposes will serve to elevate the role of the medical assistant. IMHO, there's something for everyone at the healthcare table, and all our roles are vital.
However, I have not witnessed this yet. I have noticed it had required more time and paperwork for the MA, RN, PA and the MD. BUT it's still in a work in progress...
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