written by: Emma Lloyd•edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 4/7/2009
Good nurses are in high demand in America, and in many other countries too. With a severe nursing shortage currently in effect, many doctors have begun employing certified medical assistants to provide the services they need.
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What does a Certified Medical Assistant Do?
During the course of a day at work in a doctor’s office, there is virtually nothing that a certified medical assistant can’t do. While only a doctor can consult with and diagnose patients, the certified medical assistant can act in any other capacity. They can schedule appointments, take patients’ vital signs and draw blood, order prescriptions, get involved in patient education, transcribe medical reports, and bill insurance companies.
In addition to practical skills, students working towards a certification as a medical assistant will also learn about medical law and ethics, working with patients, and other theoretical aspects of the job that provide insight into how the medical field works, and the importance of preserving an ethical relationship between patients and medical professionals.
Around 70% of medical assistants work in the offices of doctors and other health practitioners such as chiropractors or podiatrists. Approximately 12% work in hospitals, while the remainder work in other types of health care facilities, such as nursing homes.
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Education and Certification
The typical medical assistant program consists of either a one-year diploma or two-year Associate’s degree. Programs are usually provided in vocational or technical schools, and junior or community colleges. Accredited qualification programs generally include an internship at a hospital or doctor’s office, to provide the student with some practical experience.
Although the law does not require that a medical assistant gain certification, it is very advantageous to do so, and in fact around 90% of medical assistances do gain certification. While certification isn’t required by law, most employers prefer to hire certified medical assistants, and in some states, certain procedures (such as drawing blood or performing x-rays) can only be performed by certified employees. Certification also improves long-term job security and will improve your career advancement opportunities.
To get certified, you must graduate from a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.
Job prospects are excellent for certified medial assistants, with rapid employment growth projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics over the next decade.