While doctors, nurses, and dentists all play a vital role in the care of peoples health, it is important not to overlook the individuals that do much of the “leg-work”: The medical assistant.
Medical assistants carry out administrative duties such as interfacing face-to-face with patients, managing patients' medical records and insurance information, and appointment setting. Additionally, medical assistants carry out clinical duties including preparation of patients for examinations, performing basic lab tests, recording vital signs, and sterilizing medical instruments. These examples are merely a small sampling of the numerous tasks that medical assistants carry out daily, ensuring smooth operations of health care practitioner's offices everywhere.
There are many different types of assisting related to a number of health care specialties. Examples are:
- Dental assistants
- Medical records/health information technicians
- Medical secretaries
- Occupational therapist assistants
- Ophthalmic medical assistants
- Pharmacy aides
- Physical therapist assistants
- Podiatric medical assistants
60% to 70% of medical assistants work in doctors offices. Others may work in the offices of other health practitioners or larger environments such as hospitals. Constantly interacting with patients and doctors, effective communications skills and a pleasant demeanor are a must. Additionally, medical assistants often have to juggle multiple responsibilities at the same time. Working hours are typically a 40-hour week, however some do work on a part-time basis including evenings and/or weekends.
Currently, medical assistants hold around 387,000 jobs, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical assistants are expected to be one of the most rapidly expanding jobs through 2014. As of May 2004, the average wage earned by medical assistants was $24,610 with the lowest being $18,010 and the highest being $34,650. As with most occupations, salaries for medical assistants are commensurate with experience and education.
Additional information can be found by visiting the American Association of Medical Assistants.