It Pays to be an Medical Assistant

Julie Shenkman
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Four of the fastest-growing occupations are in the healthcare industry, according to data collected by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. By training as a healthcare assistant, you can break into this industry without the extensive training required to become a nurse or a doctor. Healthcare assistants, usually called medical assistants, perform a variety of clinical and clerical duties in hospitals, private physicians' practices, and other facilities. Learn more about becoming a healthcare assistant to determine if healthcare employment is right for you.


As a healthcare assistant, you have the opportunity to work with patients and assist physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants with their duties. The clinical duties of a healthcare assistant include assisting with examinations, taking blood pressure and other vital signs, and preparing laboratory specimens for analysis. Clinical medical assistants sterilize instruments, prepare patients for diagnostic tests, change wound dressings, draw blood, and perform other clinical duties.


If you train to become a healthcare assistant, you should also expect to perform a variety of clerical duties. These duties include greeting patients, filling out medical insurance forms, purchasing supplies for medical offices, scheduling appointments, and answering the telephone. Some administrative medical assistants also perform medical billing and coding tasks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment in this field to increase 31 percent between 2010 and 2020, so this is an excellent career choice if the number of jobs available is one of your top concerns.


The use of electronic health records (EHR) will affect the way you perform your duties as a healthcare assistant, so it is important that you know how to use EHR software. In an article published on the American Academy of Family Physicians website, James Arvantes says that it is not unusual for a medical practice to lose at least one staff member when implementing one of these systems, as not all staff members are comfortable with the changing technology. If you have basic computer skills and the ability to learn new software, it is possible to build a satisfying career as a healthcare assistant.


If pay is one of your primary concerns, it helps to know that it really does pay to be a healthcare assistant. In May 2010, medical assistants in the United States had a median annual wage of $28,860. Although this is slightly less than the median annual wage for other healthcare support jobs, this salary is possible with fewer than two years of training. Some employers may even be willing to provide on-the-job training, reducing your educational expenses and making it possible to earn this salary faster than health professionals who must complete four or more years of training. Alex Kecskes warns that competition in the healthcare industry is fierce, so be prepared to work hard to get your first job once you complete your healthcare assistant training.


If you want to break into the medical field without spending years of your life training to become a nurse or physician, becoming a healthcare assistant is a great way to do so. This type of healthcare employment offers opportunities to perform clinical or administrative duties, making it a great way to learn valuable skills that will help you in future jobs. Working as a healthcare assistant also gives you the opportunity to earn a good wage while working directly with patients and healthcare professionals.


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