Careers aren’t born, they evolve. Over time, you develop new skills and become better at your job. But as a new graduate, your priority is to gain experience. So, let’s examine your job description as an entry-level medical assistant and how you climb the career ladder.
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Medical assistants manage clinical and clerical tasks in healthcare settings under the supervision of a doctor, nurse, or office administrator. Their many responsibilities include:
- Taking vital signs.
- Rooming patients.
- Taking health histories.
- Updating medical records.
- Collecting lab samples.
- Performing diagnostic tests.
- Administering medications.
- Helping with treatments.
- Assisting with procedures.
- Stocking exam rooms.
- Ordering supplies.
- Billing and coding.
- Patient education.
But your role will be different at first as you learn the ropes in an entry-level position.
What is the Job Description of an Entry-Level Medical Assistants?
Graduates enter the medical assisting field with little practical experience through externships in school. So, they’re assigned basic tasks to warm up on while waiting for learning opportunities. Not all tasks are performed daily, so it can take a while to practice your many skills.
At first, you’ll likely be paired with a mentor, an experienced medical assistant, who can answer your questions and guide your progress. In no time, you’ll be working independently on the tasks for which you were trained, including:
Scheduling is complex. You must know how long different types of visits take and the equipment and personnel they require. In an entry-level position, you’ll help schedule routine visits and follow-up exams. However, as you get to know the doctor and familiarize yourself with the routine, you’ll become a resource for the front office when they’re scheduling complex or urgent care. Once you have the hang of it, you’ll be given more responsibility.
Triaging Clinical Phone Calls
A medical assistant is a doctor’s liaison. As their representative, you’ll engage with clients on their behalf. However, strong working relationships take time to develop, so you’ll start by responding to clinical, inquiries while the doctor decides what to do.
Medical assistants can’t dispense medical advice, it’s beyond their scope of practice. However, once you earn the doctor’s trust, you’ll advise patients independently based on their treatment plan.
Greeting and Rooming Patients
Greeting and rooming patients are the best ways to learn how the workflow is managed in your medical office. You’ll escort patients to treatment rooms, learning more about them as you take their vital signs and update their health records. It’s a chance to hone many skills from data entry to the soft skills you need to connect effectively with patients.
Performing Diagnostic Tests
Medical assistants are trained to perform a wide range of diagnostic tests from EKGs to pacemaker checks. However, while entry-level medical assistants are well-prepared to handle these technical tasks, many lack the confidence that only comes with experience.
The equipment and supplies used in your office may also be different from what you learned with in school, so there’s a learning curve. Accuracy is critical, so expect close supervision for the first few months. As your expertise grows, so will your responsibilities.
A medical assistant can give medications to clinically stable adults, but there’s much more to drug safety than what you learn in school. Training programs can’t cover every medication or situation. As a new medical assistant, you’ll be entrusted with routine vaccinations and low-risk medication such as vitamin injections.
Assisting with Treatments
Medical assistants are the doctor’s right hand when it comes to treatments. You’ll participate in minor surgical procedures and tackle some of your own, such as suture removal. You’ll watch at first and then help with supervision. Once the doctor is confident in your skills, you’ll be on your own.
Maintaining Exam Rooms
Entry-level medical assistants learn a lot about infection control and inventory management by maintaining exam rooms. From exam room cleanings to stocking the shelves, you’ll learn what goes where, what doctors need for treatments, and what it takes to keep patients safe from communicable diseases. Later, you’ll use this experience to manage inventory and infection control programs.
Billing and Coding
Billing specialists handle most of the invoicing in private practices, but everything medical assistants do contributes to the process. Coding paperwork properly is particularly important. Using the wrong codes and insurance claims may be denied. You’ll get some exposure to the billing aspect of medicine when you’re orienting in your new job. As you learn your role, you might assist with other billing and coding activities.
Drawing blood is a valuable skill, but it takes years to master. You’ll learn everything you need to know in a vocational school training program, but practice is limited to peers and perhaps a few patients during externships.
In some practices, you may draw blood daily while in others, it’s rare. So, it can take time to build expertise. As an entry-level medical assistant, you’ll start with simple draws on adult patients and move on to complex cases as your mastery grows.
Medical assistants help the front office with filing, faxing, recordkeeping, and correspondence in their downtime. A part of your administrative responsibilities, no task is too small to help with. A good way to get an overview of how the office functions, it will help you learn more about individual patients, privacy regulations, and practice outreach efforts.
Client education is an essential part of your practice as a medical assistant. However, only through experience can you develop the professional judgment and clinical expertise needed to guide patients. In the early days of your career, you’ll handle basic education, such as reviewing presurgical instructions or blood test restrictions. As your knowledge base grows, you’ll engage more with patients within your scope of practice and soon, you’ll be a go-to source for information.
Where Do Medical Assistants Work?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 57 percent of medical assistants work in doctor’s offices while 15 percent work in hospitals and 12 percent are split between outpatient care centers and chiropractic offices. One of the many benefits of being a medical assistant is having your choice of employment settings. Each has something different to offer.
Medical assistants working in doctor’s offices enjoy a close-knit, supportive environment. It’s a fast-paced setting but the work isn’t overwhelming. You’ll have busy days, but because visits are by appointment, there’s structure.
Unlike in hospitals, you’ll manage the needs of a consistent client base. And if you have an aptitude for one type of medicine, such as pediatrics, gerontology, or women’s health, you can specialize.
Hospitals are exciting settings for medical assistants with flexible skills. If you enjoy the administrative aspect of your job, you’ll like working as a unit clerk. However, if you prefer a more clinical role, a job in a day surgery unit or the emergency room might be a better fit. You’ll see different patients every day and interesting cases that you rarely run into in a private practice.
Smaller than hospitals but larger than most doctor’s offices, outpatient clinics are a fun setting for medical assistants with both clinical and administrative talents. Among limited staff, you’ll be a jack-of-all-trades, doing everything from rooming patients and taking vital signs to filling out insurance forms and collecting payments.
Chiropractors have offices like doctors, but their practices are more holistic. They hire medical assistants to manage the front office and handle billing as well as maintain exam rooms and equipment. Less medical than wellness-focused, a chiropractor’s office is a good place to work for medical assistants interested in alternative therapies.
How Do You Become a Medical Assistant?
Medical assisting is an ideal career for students interested in healthcare but not college. If you attend full-time, you can graduate from a vocational school training program in as little as nine months. Training is comprehensive and prepares you for entry-level positions. And with a diploma, you can become a Certified Medical Assistant, adding credentials to experience as you further your career.
Graduating from a vocational school medical assisting program is the first step toward a rewarding, lifetime career. It takes time to gain experience, but every day you work is another rung climbed on the career ladder.
Want to Learn More?
The objective of this Medical Assistant training program at Peloton College is to prepare the student for employment as an entry-level Medical Assistant performing administrative, clerical, and clinical duties within the health care field.
The mission of Peloton College is to be the premier provider of hands-on training and education by providing students and graduates with the necessary skills to secure occupational careers. Contact us today to learn more.