Although not as highly trained as nurses, medical assistants perform an important role. They provide a variety of support services to doctors and nurses, and their contribution is vital to the efficient running of many busy medical centres, clinics and hospital departments.
To become a medical assistant requires between 6 months to a year of training or more depending on the level of certification required. Good high school grades are normally required for acceptance into a basic medical assistant training course, while a recognised degree is the standard requirement for acceptance into a more advanced physician associate course.
Part of the training can be done at a college or university and includes basic anatomy, physiology and routine medical procedures. The more practical aspects of training can be done in the workplace under the guidance of a doctor or nurse, who will demonstrate medical procedures on real patients. Other staff members will provide training on many of the non-medical duties that a medical assistant is required to perform.
The duties of a medical assistant can be roughly divided into two main categories: medical and administrative, and it is these duties that a medical assistant’s education and training are based on.
A medical assistant can perform a range of medical tasks including collecting bodily fluid samples from patients, recording temperatures, or taking blood pressure readings. Their duties normally don’t include invasive procedures such as administering injections or drawing blood, although further specialised training leading to more advanced certification can be taken that expands the medical duties the assistant is authorised to perform.
The administrative duties of a medical assistant can be highly varied depending on the type of medical environment the assistant is working in. These include arranging appointments, maintaining patients’ medical records, billing, preparing diet sheets, sending samples to laboratories and much more.
In the course of their career, a medical assistant will find many more training options become available leading to positions of greater responsibility.