What do Medical Assistants do and how much do they make?

What do Medical Assistants do and how much do they make?

Medical Assistants (MAs) work with physicians and other healthcare staff to ensure patients receive quality health care. Trained in both administrative and clinical and are considered patient liaisons. They assist patients by easing the tension between exams, help physicians and other staff by informing or collecting patient records and often explain instructions and after exams to patients. But what does it mean to be a medical assistant?

Being a medical assistant means having diverse skills, supporting both patients and staff, and performing more duties is so much more than patient care. To understand the role of a medical assistant, let’s look a little closer at the profession. 

What do they do?

As an essential part of the healthcare system, medical assistants help to keep their busy facilities running. They are unique because they perform both patient-facing duties and front end administrative work. A medical assistant’s role is divided into clinical and administrative, so their responsibility may differ depending on the location, i.e., state or facility needs.  

As an administrator, welcoming patients and ensuring their safety is the number one priority.

  • Answering phones and screening patients
  • Updating and filing patient records
    • Connecting with patients and healthcare staff to ensure records are up to date
    • Most MAs use electronic health records (EHR) systems. 
  • Scheduling appointments, i.e., patient exams, laboratory services, admissions
  • Coding and Billing
    • Filling out insurance forms
    • Bookkeeping

On the clinical end, medical assistants focus on assisting physicians with patient care. 

  • Recording patient vital signs during a check-up
  • Under the supervision of physicians, assistants administer medications.
  • Preparing patients for examinations
  • Managing lab test and X-rays, including drawing and examining blood, urine, and other physician authorized samples.
  • Helping with authorizing prescription refills
  • Sterilizing equipment

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Are Medical Assistants considered nurses?

No, although MAs and nurses, specifically, LPNs, have similar job duties, i.e., assisting patients and administering medicine, they are not the same. While a physician or registered nurse supervises, both assistants work in clinics and ambulatory care. LPNs typically work in nursing homes and long-term care.  Although assistants have both clinical and administrative duties, they’re more likely to assist, i.e., documenting and prepping, while LPNs focus more on caregiving.

Note: Some nurses are certified medical assistants. 

How do you become one?

Becoming a medical assistant can take a year or less, depending on the level of experience, location, etc. Most states do not require certification, just a high school diploma or GED, but most employers prefer certification and training

There are two ways to earn certification through a vocational or training program or earning an associate degree. A certificate program takes one year or less, and the courses focus on medical billing, lab procedures, and medical terminology. An associate degree takes between 18 months to 2 years and includes a hands-on approach with clinical experience, with an ambulatory healthcare facility externship.  

Frequently Asked Question(s)

What Are The Different Types of Medical Assistants

There are three types of medical assistants:

Clinical: Focus on patient care by conducting assessments, performing minor treatments, or assisting physicians with medical examinations, documenting medical history, records, and vital signs.

Administrative: Performing administrative duties such as answering calls, scheduling appointments, and assisting with billing and coding. 

Specialized: Focus on specialized clinical practice and work directly with patients, assisting physicians in day-to-day practices. The specific task depends on specialization, size of the practice, and certifications i. e geriatrics, urology, internal medicine.

What are the top skills needed to be successful?

Medical assistants have to be to work under pressure, friendly and organized due to their job. They should also have these 4 skills to become successful.

  • Interpersonal Communication: To help patients, convey information effectively, and interact with diverse patients and healthcare staff daily.
  • Customer Service: To screen patients before they enter the facility. They are helping patients with forms, i.e., insurance and Medicaid.
  • Attention to Detail: To observe and document patient information and issues.
  •  Knowledgeable: Must understand medical terminology, treatment techniques, administrative procedures, and systems.

How Much Do They Make?

On average, medical assistants make $35,720 or $17 an hour. Depending on their experience, location, and training/certification, assistants earn between $33,389 and $39,106. 

Top 5 States With The Highest Pay

  • Alaska:   $45,630  ($21.94  hourly)
  • District of Columbia: $44,530 ($21.41hourly)
  • Washington: $43,760 ($21.04 hourly)
  • Massachusetts: $41,780 ($20.09 hourly)
  • Minnesota: $41,710 ($20.05 hourly)

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Is the profession in demand?

Medical Assistants are always in demand, especially now as the pandemic continues. They rank the top five healthcare professions in the US and is one of the most flexible jobs. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects medical assisting to grow by over 30% by 2022.  

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About the author

Joycelyn Ghansah

Joycelyn Ghansah is a former Healthcare Organizer with a background public health, include reproductive and sexual health. When she's not freelance writing, she's transcribing interviews and researching ways to strengthen healthcare labor laws.

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