Medical Assistants

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    Medical assistants are medical support staff who perform routine administrative and clinical duties under the direct supervision of a physician or other licensed healthcare provider. It is one of the fastest-growing careers today. Medical assistant duties vary according to location, specialty area, certification, and state/ local laws.

    Medical assistants are medical support staff who perform routine administrative and clinical duties under the direct supervision of a physician or other licensed healthcare provider. Nearly three quarters work in physicians' or other health practitioners' offices. Medical assistants are employed in outpatient/ ambulatory care facilities, medical offices and hospital-affiliated clinics. Their duties vary according to location, specialty area, certification, and state/ local laws. For instance, podiatric medical assistants make fiberglass foot casts, clip toenails, bandage patients' feet, and assist with foot/ ankle surgery; chiropractic medical assistants help prepare patients for chiropractic treatment, lift/ move patients, and apply hydro-collator packs; cardiology medical assistants obtain vital signs and perform 12-lead EKGs; and ophthalmic medical assistants perform the first series of tests before the actual eye examination (i.e., visual acuity tests, eye muscle tests, and vision measurement). Medical assistants should not be confused with physician assistants, who are mid-level providers who diagnose and treat patients.

    Work Environment

    Medical assistants work in a medical office environment or clinics affiliated with healthcare facilities. Most work in physicians' offices, to help ensure the medical office is running smoothly. Those who are employed in larger physician practices tend to specialize in medical specialty areas with additional duties associated with the specialty's unique set of characteristics and specific roles. Those who work in hospital-affiliated clinics generally have a greater scope of responsibilities, with higher salaries and better benefits and perks.

    Duties / Responsibilities

    Medical assistants need to be able to multitask - that is, handle multiple responsibilities at the same time. They are cross-trained to handle both administrative services and clinical duties, such as:
    • Using computer applications.
    • Recording information in health records systems.
    • Filing patient medical records.
    • Handling correspondence, billing, DRG coding, and bookkeeping.
    • Scheduling appointments or arranging hospital admissions.
    • Ordering supplies.
    • Communicating effectively to patients.
    • Taking medical histories.
    • Providing education to patients.
    • Measuring heights, weights, and vital signs.
    • Administering medications, injections, and immunizations.
    • Applying splints and dressings.
    • Removing sutures.
    • Preparing exam and treatment rooms.
    • Explaining treatment procedures to patients.
    • Setting up patients for examinations.
    • Preparing medical instruments, equipment, and supplies, including sterilization.
    • Collecting and preparing specimens.
    • Inserting urinary catheters.
    • Drawing blood.
    • Performing basic laboratory tests, electrocardiograms, and allergy skin tests.

    Education Requirements

    Medical assistants currently are not licensed in most states, nor are there national standardized educational requirements for becoming a medical assistant. The entry-level education is a high school diploma or GED and many learn through on-the-job training. Some states require education and/or credentialing as a legal prerequisite for the performance of certain duties. Diploma or associate-degree college programs in medical assisting are available. The majority of medical assistant training programs are one year in duration. Most employers prefer applicants who are certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or the Certification Commission (SCMA).

    Job Outlook

    Medical assisting jobs are one of the fastest growing careers in America, with a projected increase of 31% from 2010 to 2020. Demand will stem from a rapidly aging population, the increasing number of group practices and clinics, the shift in healthcare focus from acute inpatient hospital care to outpatient settings, and the growing need for more support personnel who are flexible enough to perform both clerical and clinical tasks within these community care settings. Medical assistants with formal education, certification, and clinical experience have the competitive advantage and are offered the best job opportunities.


    The average annual wage of medical assistants is $30,550, or $14.12 per hour. The salary depends on experience, education, certification, location, and specialty area.


    American Association of Medical Assistants

    American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants

    Medical Assistants: Occupational Handbook Outlook

    Specialty Certified Medical Assistant

    Top 50 Health Care Jobs
    Last edit by Joe V on Dec 2, '13
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  2. Visit  VickyRN profile page

    About VickyRN

    VickyRN is a certified nurse educator (NLN) and certified gerontology nurse (ANCC). Her research interests include: the special health and social needs of the vulnerable older adult population; registered nurse staffing and resident outcomes in intermediate care nursing facilities; and, innovations in avoiding institutionalization of frail elderly clients by providing long-term care services and supports in the community. She is faculty in a large baccalaureate nursing program in North Carolina.

    VickyRN has '16' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds'. From 'Under the shadow of His wings...'; Joined Mar '01; Posts: 12,050; Likes: 6,492.

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  3. Visit  Carrie RN profile page
    Most of my colleagues are opposed to MAs. They are beginning in many clinics to perform procedures that previously were reserved for only RNs. If an LPN is not able to hang IV medication that is not through a piggy back per that BON, and an MA is doing IVs essentially on the license of an MD. Why have RNs anymore?
    Marisette and OCNRN63 like this.
  4. Visit  Pudnluv profile page
    I was a medical assistant way back in the day before I became a RN. It was a new field at the time and I think my starting pay was around $5.50/hr. That was a couple dollars over minimum wage at the time. Back then, most doctor's offices were staffed by LPNs and medical assistants were a new and growing field. As a medical assistant, I had training in the clerical as well as clinical areas and I was lucky enough to have worked every aspect of it. Being a medical assistant prompted me to return to school and become a RN and the knowledge I gained certainly helped me.
    Nathifalr26 and VickyRN like this.
  5. Visit  AJJKRN profile page
    I think that nursing needs to keep an eye on the growth and scope of practice of medical assistants.

    Not only are they cheaper hires but there is a wide gap of education and accountability.

    Not only this, the public doesn't really know how integral nurses are to their safety or what nurses really do out in the real world.

    Add that to a MA not announcing themselves when they are checking in their patients and the patients thinking that they are receiving care from a nurse because they are just not aware of healthcare's love of alphabet soup acronym's!
    Marisette, Nathifalr26, Carrie RN, and 2 others like this.

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