Medical assistants are hired to provide specific technical supportive and patient care services in an ambulatory medical office setting. The supervising physician, licensed, practicing healthcare provider, or clinician who hired them authorizes these services to patients who are under his, or her care. These services, whenever provided must be a usual and customary part of the medical office, or practice where the medical assistant is employed. A record of any medical care and services rendered must be made in the patient’s medical record or chart by the medical assistant who provided it, indicating the name, initials or other identifier, the date and time, and a brief description of what was done signed, or initialed by the physician who gave the order. The supervising physician may, at his or her discretion, provide written instructions to be followed in the performance of such tasks. It is the physician’s responsibility to assure the medical assistant is competent and proficient in performing any such delegated technical and patient care services at the appropriate standard of care. According to Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA, and executive director and legal counsel for the American Association of Medical Assistants, the standard of care of a reasonably competent medical assistant is not necessarily the same in all parts of the United States.
In general, NO, you don’t have to be a certified medical assistant to accept a medical assisting position. Check with your State Medical Board, the State Medical Board/Board of Medical Examiners is the entity which oversees how doctors run their medical practice and how their staff can be utilized and is to be supervised.
Often the minimum requirement to qualify for a medical assistant position is being 18 years old, having a high school diploma, CPR and First Aid certification, and a clean criminal record background check, if that much, since this does not apply to everywhere; however, there ARE a handful states that require special training and specific limited licenses for medical assistants whose duties include highly technical and invasive skills, such as venipuncture and phlebotomy, starting and flushing IV lines, administering certain types of injections, dispensing medications, or exposing patients to X-rays and ultrasound examinations. The State Board of Medical Examiners in your state can tell you more.
It is common sense, you will be treated as you appear and are dressed. People are judged by others by their attitude and clothes. It may not be fair and it may not be right, but in the real world our all too visible self is under constant scrutiny.
It is not what is but what is perceived, therefore, when working in a medical office you are much better off making your attitude and appearance work for you. The key is looking appropriate, not just looking good. Successful people dress for success and a good medical assistant dresses as professional as the doctors and nurses around them. They, in turn, will appreciate it, knowing that you, in your role as an important part of the health care team are a walking, talking advertisement for the practice.
Punctuality is just as important. When you arrive at work late with a cup of coffee in your hand and a scowl on your face you have just made a statement about yourself. The statement you make influences how your boss, coworkers and the patients see you–you can bet it is not that of a dedicated employee, professional and care giver. On the flip-side, when you come to work a little early you have time to organize your desk and get exam rooms and materials ready for the day. It creates a positive climate and builds an impression of respect, credibility, responsibility and knowledge.
Medical assistants go to work each day dressed in business attire or institutional uniforms, depending on their role they fill, which could be administrative, clinical or managerial in nature. The typical dress are nice, clean scrub tops, matching pants with pockets and nursing type shoes, such as white sneakers, or soft-soled clogs with a closed toe and heel strap. Sandals, flip-flops, running shoes, sweats and t-shirts are for the beach, or mall. Make no mistakes, medical assisting is about caring, helping others and teaching to encourage better health and well being and this begins with your appearance and attire. When people like you they will respect you, learn from you and follow your instructions.
Along with appropriate attire comes positive self-concept and attitude. The medical assistant’s friendly smile and inviting act can make a positive difference even on a hectic day. Every day brings opportunities to reach out and make someone happy and create a friendly work atmosphere. Since the medical assistant at the front desk is usually the first person a patient sees an inviting smile and greeting can go a long way.
Words that go a long way:
- “Good morning.”
- “Please come in.”
- “How can I help you?”
Inviting personal behavior:
- Holding a door
- Waiting to speak
Disinviting behavior and negative attitude will quickly create an uncomfortable atmosphere, just as your spoken words, or self-talk, it can either motivate or derail you. So, by all means, refrain from looking at your watch when a patient voices concerns, yawning, sneering, or letting a door swing behind you. All this sends little signals not only about you, but also prevents proper communication with others and hampers your own potential and growth.
Do Employers Prefer Certified Medical Assistants?
Doctors can be quite particular and choosy in their expectations and surely you must have noticed that there are so many more certified medical assistant jobs advertised when you check the classified ads for jobs in your area.
Most employers demand:
“We want CERTIFICATIONS before we hire!”
Certified, registered, or other credentials add a kind of value to their practice that goes far beyond words. Doctors everywhere strongly agree that medical assistant certification provides assurance to them and their patients that they are dealing with someone who is knowledgeable, trained and qualified for the job.
Some doctors have been burned badly by a previous employee and they don’t want that to happen again. Where you will be dealing with people who are sick and have special needs and proper patient care, technical procedures and communication skills are essential, most of them set their standards high and specifically target their available positions toward medical assistants with formal training and recognized certifications only.
Professionalism, care, courtesy, empathy and attention to detail are high on the list. You will be bound by any existing state and local laws and obligated to follow moral and ethic principles in everything you do. Typically, you will work within an ambulatory medical practice setting where you apply your skills under the direct supervision of the doctor who hired you. At times you might be asked to carry out tasks delegated by a supervising nurse, or other licensed healthcare practitioner who is in a supervisory position during the doctor’s absence.
The Purpose and Benefits of Certification
Recognized medical assistant credentials are your secret weapon, your “ace in a hole”, the sure thing that makes you stand out from the rest. When job vacancy announcements specify: “We seek a certified medical assistant, certification is preferred,” then typically, only those who have earned the distinction of a certified, registered, or otherwise credentialed medical assistant will be considered for these positions, although, from time to time, they might consider a non-certified applicant, with the expectation that he, or she obtains certified credentials within a given time frame.
Medical assistant certification can make a big impact on your resume and a huge difference when applying for jobs. Don’t make the mistake to assume because certification for medical assistants remains largely voluntary and is NOT generally required to get a job you don’t need it. You may be tricking yourself into thinking that since you already have a nice job there is no point in getting certified right now, however, sooner or later you might wish you had obtained it since the dynamics and rules at the workplace may have changed. Recognized medical assistant certification exams are available for those who meet certain educational and work experience requirements as determined by the medical assistant professional membership organizations. For more information visit www.certmedassistant.com.
Good medical office management is a prerequisite to excellent patient care, customer services and a facility to run smoothly, safely and profitably. It is in the best interest of the medical office staff and patients to properly manage the practice, but naturally, each one comes with its own set of rules, policies and challenges—when they occur they must be instantly recognized, addressed, handled and resolved by virtue of the special knowledge and experience of the medical office’s practice manager.
Role and Function of the Medical Practice Manager
The decisions they make directly affects nearly every aspect of a practice’s operations–from staffing to hiring and firing, financial performance reports and studies, productivity, budget development and implementation, benchmarking operating procedures and revenue, input to management on the development of policies and procedures, and last but not least, coordinating the staff’s and doctor’s appointments, work shedules, shift coverages and vacation time.
Considering the diversity of functions, someone holding an office manager position is expected to have many talents which only years of experience and special training can provide. Some of the competencies which the medica office manager is expected to possess are problem solving and decision making abilities, integrity, assertivity, flexibility, accuracy and the ability to cope with pressure. Of course, with all this additional responsibility comes better wages, more benefits and higher salary.
Many community colleges and universities offer excellent healthcare management training and professional membership associations provide industry recognized credentials. Here is a small collection of the better known ones:
- American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE) – credentials and continuing education
- Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) – education and certification
- Professional Association of Health Care Office Managers (PAHCOM)
- Professional Office Managers Association of America (POMAA) – several different certifications
- Practice Management Institute – several certifications
But not every medical practice manager you encounter is alsways formally trained. An experienced medical assistant with years of experience, whether in different offices, locations and specialties, or in the same medical practice under the same doctor, can work his or her way up into supervisory positions and eventually become the medical office manager through dedication, continuing education, and excellent work ethics and interest. This is demonstrated by obtaining recognized medical assistant certifications, participation in continuing education programs, workshops and seminars, online course work and simply by always being proactive and engaged.