On average, doctors can treat up to 20 patients per day. This workload requires them to move seamlessly from patient to patient, while still giving each person the highest quality of care. And to accomplish this task, they need a team of professionals helping them out—which is where medical assistants come in!
These allied health professionals act as liaisons between doctors and their patients by providing support from the beginning to the end of the visit.
Medical assistants play a vital role and wear many hats within a healthcare setting. They’re also one of the most popular jobs within medical facilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Whether they’re supporting patients or working to improve the flow of their clinic, medical assistants are key in helping doctors provide top-notch treatment. It’s important to understand the scope what kind of medical assistant’s position you need, the skills you need in an ideal candidate, and the questions to ask when hiring your next team member.
Let’s learn more about the role of a medical assistant, how to craft a comprehensive job description, average pay for these positions, and more.
What is a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants play a dynamic role in healthcare because they support both front– and back-office responsibilities. Medical assistants work alongside physicians in medical offices, clinics, hospitals, and emergency care facilities to provide clinical care and administrative support.
They are an essential team member because of their versatility. You can find a medical assistant performing duties ranging from patient intake to measuring vitals and preparing lab samples for physicians.
Through it all, their main goal is to help patients feel comfortable while keeping the medical clinic running efficiently.
Medical Assistant Job Description
The first step to hiring a medical assistant is nailing a job description.
Typically, medical assistants perform both clinical and administrative duties. They may check patients in at the front desk, take vital signs in the exam room, and draw blood at the end of the visit. In between appointments, they also answer phones, handle medication refill requests, and prepare the exam room for the next patient.
The duties of this role vary from clinic to clinic and from day to day, based on things like practice location, size, and specialty. At any given time, these healthcare professionals can expect to perform any of the following duties:
Daily administrative duties can include:
- Scheduling patient appointments
- Answering facility phones and answering patient questions
- Welcoming patients to the facility
- Filing and updating medical health records
- Coding and filing insurance forms
- Filling out patient intake forms and arranging laboratory services
- Supporting patient billing and bookkeeping
Common clinical responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Collecting patient medical histories in person or via telehealth
- Preparing patients for exams or surgeries
- Explaining treatments and procedures to patients
- Assisting physicians during patient exams
- Performing basic lab tests and preparing lab specimens
- Instructing patients about special care instructions or medications
- Administering medications such as intravenous, intramuscular, and intradermal injections as directed by a physician
- Transmitting prescription refills
- General wound care
By performing these duties, medical assistants can help doctors focus on the patient care process. And as a result, doctors are better able to perform the exams, tests, and procedures needed to help their patients get the treatment they need.
What Skills Does a Medical Assistant Candidate Need to be Successful?
Medical assistants need to be patient-facing and organized to be successful. Their role requires an individual who can excel at a mix of hard and soft skills within the medical field.
Some of the most in-demand durable skills you’ll want to look for when hiring a medical assistant include:
- Compassionate care: Medical assistants offer a unique form of customer service. They must attend to the individual needs of each patient with compassion for their situation and a genuine desire to see their health improve.
- Detail-oriented: The role of a medical assistant requires a mixture of organizational, multi-tasking, and computer literacy skills to successfully schedule patient procedures and keep their files straight.
- Medically proficient: In many cases, medical assistants are expected to explain procedures to patients and help them prepare for their visit. They need to be able to explain complex medical terms in jargon-free ways that help patients reach informed consent.
- Adaptable: The day-to-day responsibilities of a medical assistant can change based on the needs of patients and physicians, meaning that the ideal candidate will be flexible and able to respond swiftly to changes in their schedule.
Some of the primary durable skills needed for this role include CPR, taking vitals, phlebotomy, infection control, and more.
Because many medical assistant openings are considered entry-level, certifications and extensive postsecondary education are not necessary to land the job. However, they’re something to consider if you want to move up in this career path.
The three main certifications in the medical assistant field are:
The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) certification is available through American Medical Technologists (AMT). Before taking the exam, medical assistants need to have 720 clinical training hours and five years of work experience under their belt. After that, they have to pass the 230-question exam.
The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offers the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential. To qualify, medical assistants must first complete an approved accredited educational program. Then, they’ll need to earn a passing score on the 200-question exam.
The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) offers Nationally Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) credentials. Medical assistants need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, graduate from an accrediting training program, and work full- time in a healthcare setting for two years. Upon completing those steps, they will need to earn a passing grade on the 150- question exam.
Medical Assistant Interview Questions
Whether you’re looking for a rewarding career as a medical assistant or want to bring an accomplished allied health professional on board, these interview questions can help you achieve your goals:
- What, if any, medical training have you received?
- What led you to become a medical assistant—and how did you prepare for this career?
- How do you prioritize your daily tasks to ensure everything gets completed on time?
- What are your best ways to handle upset, stressed, or otherwise aggravated patients?
- Where do you see your medical assistant career taking you in the next five years?
- What is your prior experience working in a medical facility?
- How would you respond if a patient fainted while having their blood drawn?
- What does compassionate care mean to you?
- Have you ever not agreed with the care provided by your attending physician? How did you navigate the situation?
- Do you have prior experience working with electronic health records?
- What steps do you take to follow HIPAA regulations when intaking patients while also respecting patient privacy?
- Have you received phlebotomy training? Are you comfortable drawing blood, if needed?
- How do you communicate medical information to patients without using heavy medical jargon?
Career Outlook and Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the medical assistant field will experience 16% growth through 2031. That rate is much faster than average, resulting in 117,800 new jobs for these allied health professionals. Job security will continue to improve as the baby boomer generation’s need for medical care services increases with their age.
In addition to excellent job security, medical assistants often enjoy an excellent work-life balance and stable pay. The median pay for this role is $37,190 annually or around $18 per hour. With experience, the rate can go up to $48,170 per year.
Are You Ready to Hire A Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants are crucial to healthcare teams, as they perform a range of important duties that help to ensure the quality and efficiency of patient care while simultaneously managing vital administrative and operational tasks.
If you’re looking to boost patient care experience and clinic efficiency, it might be time to bring a new medical assistant onto your team. Fill out the form below to get started!
Looking for a New Medical Assistant?
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Updated August 23, 2023