How To Become A Medical Assistant

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Considering medical assistant training? Ask yourself: Are you an efficient multi-tasker who works well with people? Do you want to incorporate your organizational skills with the fast-paced environment of a medical facility?

Pursuing any career is not as simple as choosing the school to attend or setting aside funds to get medical assistant training. Rather, you have to go deeper and learn as much as you can about a profession to help you make a an informed decision.

Medical assisting has taken on greater significance as more people seek medical attention on a regular basis. Expanding medical practices have necessitated a more efficient support team, both in the front and back office. Computers, insurance and specializations demand more prudence especially in the area of administrative work.

Labor statistics indicate the medical assistant demand will continue to grow, in terms of more job opportunities, until 2018. Do you have what it takes to be a certified medical assistant? Sure, medical office assistant training can equip you with both office and clinical skills but the job isn’t just about knowledge and proficiency. There are some obstacles and challenges you probably need to be aware of before finally pursuing this career path.

What Should You Look Out for in Medical Assistant Training Schools?

There are many veteran medical assistants who never had formal training but learned on the job. Hands-on experience allowed them to develop their expertise, both in office work and assisting with patients. Tasks include setting appointments, getting patient information and keeping their medical records updated, assist in filling prescriptions, bookkeeping and simple accounting.

They also learned to prepare patients prior to seeing the doctor by taking their vitals, handling laboratory and diagnostic procedures, administering medications, assisting with simple surgical procedures, and performing emergency care when necessary.

Today, formal medical administrative assistant training is almost a prerequisite before landing medical assistant jobs. You can choose between technical and vocational colleges or even universities for your medical assistant training, and a couple of them may be in your vicinity. But location is just one aspect when choosing where to get your education. You’ve got to do a bit of sleuthing (time and opportunity permitting) to make sure your time and resources will be worth it.

1.When possible, talk to the prospective school’s graduates who took up the same medical assistant program. Ask about their experience, specifically how valuable it was in preparing them to become professionals. Were they adequately prepared in terms of theoretical knowledge and practical training? Alumni are rich sources of information. Find a few good ones and they can give you the heads up whether it is worth to start your career path in the particular school.

2.You’ll want to find out the percentage of graduates from a particular school who pass the certification exam, administered by a professional organization. Presently, you can take the test to become a certified medical assistant (CMA) or a registered medical assistant (RMA). While primarily a written test, it will draw on your experience as well. If a school adequately prepares you to become a pro, then passing one or even two certification tests will be a piece of cake.

3.Who makes up the faculty of the school? As a student of a medical assisting training program, you need mentoring. And the most effective instructors and guides are those who practiced (or still practice) the profession and can make you see what it’s really like on the job. Your medical assistant school may not have the big campus set-up, but if the quality of faculty is top-notch, then you should be in good hands.

4.Employability of graduates is also a factor to consider when choosing medical assistant schools. Passing the medical assistant certification test, which is voluntary, is one thing. But to actually be hired because of your skills, and to stick with the job is a better indicator of how well you were prepared.

5.When scouting for medical assistant training programs, find out if the school helps its graduates in finding work opportunities. A school that offers placement assistance for its graduates means they have established a network of employers who rely on them for qualified individuals ready to take on the challenge of medical assisting.

If you’re current employed or live far from an accredited school you may also consider getting your medical assistant training online.

What Additional Skills can Boost a CMA’s Marketability?

Let’s face it, the competition is tough for most allied health care jobs. With so many schools offering similar medical assistant programs and a continuous stream of graduates, employers won’t resort to drawing lots when choosing who to hire. So if you’re part of the employment pool, how can you increase your chances of being selected out of several options?

Arm yourself with additional skills. The medical assistant’s work is multi-faceted. You have to be adept at both clerical or administrative tasks, as well as clinical assignments. However, you can take additional courses and get the proper medical assistant certification attesting to your competence and boost your market value. These can include learning phlebotomy, or drawing blood samples, for diagnostic screenings; operating the EKG machine, taking x-rays, and handling medical billing and coding,

You are also required to have first aid and CPR training, and preferably become certified for both. That’s why EMT personnel who eventually decide to become medical assistants, have added advantage because of their skills and experience. If you’ve got a knack for running an organization or an office, don’t hesitate to make this known to your prospective employer, even just by including any experience in your resume.

You can definitely expect better compensation with such skills up your sleeve. And employers will certainly give you a second look simply because you are more skilled and supposedly more competent.

Certified or Registered Medical Assistant?

There is confusion among medical assistants, especially the younger ones, with regard to credentials.  Although voluntary, employers increasingly prefer medical assisting training graduates to be certified. Medical assistant certification attests that an individual has both the knowledge, skills and in some cases, experience, to be the professional they need at work.

There are several professional bodies that administer the medical assistant certification exam, but the two most known are the Association of Medical Technologists (AMT) and the pioneer American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Credentials from either one are nationally recognized.

How do you get certified? Depending on where you hope to practice as a medical assistant, there will be different requirements so it is best to check this information out to give you ample time to prepare and think of your options.

The most obvious method, as with most certification processes, is to complete training from an accredited school. Accreditation is granted to a program either by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). More particularly, the requirement is to complete 760-900 hours of classroom work and internship.

If you are taking the certification exam of AAMA, the fee is $90, while AMT charges just $25 for a similar test.

For a medical assistant without formal training but has been practicing for at least five years, the AMT will allow you to sit for their exam to earn the credential.

Once you pass either exam, you are deemed certified and ready to practice. However, there has been a controversy with regards to the title “certified”. The AAMA has fought for, and been granted the exclusive right to use this term. AMT then had to settle calling successful passers, “registered” medical assistants.

Is there a difference? In reality, a certified medical assistant (CMA) or registered medical assistant (RMA) have the same knowledge and even level of skills. They are both employable and have equal chances of growing in their career. Unfortunately, there exists some competition between the organizations, that affect the workers. A common instance is when an applicant is deemed “unqualified” because she is an RMA and not CMA, simply because the medical office is affiliated with AAMA.

To overcome this stumbling block, applicants have been advised to do one of two things: indicate in their resumes, but in small letters after their name, that they are a certified medical assistant; or secure a letter from the AMT attesting that a registered professional is equivalent to a certified one. If either tactic does not work, move on to the next opportunity.

In the end, it is your passion and dedication to work, and not just a credential, that will bear out if you deserve to be a medical assistant or not.

Is There Room for Growth as a Medical Assistant?

Aside from additional skills that can increase your proficiency level as a professional and correspondingly the medical assistant salary, there is another way to career growth as a medical assistant.

Of course it will need additional medical assisting training, but specialization is an option many practitioners look to in the future. The medical assistant job is not confined to general practices, physicians with specialty also need their assistants to be well versed in their field of expertise.

Cardiology, pediatrics, geriatrics, podiatry, opthalmology and chiropractics are just some of the areas in which you can choose to specialize in. They require specific knowledge and while experience can be a great teacher, there is still need for some formal education to give recognition to your expertise.

Others eventually pursue healthcare administration and management courses if they realize their strength is in this field. Or you can take up teaching credits and become a medical assistant instructor. Having gone through training yourself, or at least practicing for so long, you are in a good position to pass on what you learned over the years to those aspiring to build a career in medical assisting.

There is more to the medical assistant job that just studying and finding the right opportunities and the more prepared you are, the better your chances at success.

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