Registered medical assistants (RMAs) play a crucial role in our healthcare system. A registered medical assistant performs a wide variety of clinical and administrative tasks to support the efficient running of a medical unit. Registered medical assistants help doctors and nurses focus on their primary calling – delivering the best patient and medical care.
Every medical unit has certain admin demands. A medical assistant usually takes on a share of this responsibility. In addition, the skilled medical assistant will do everything from drawing blood, to safely disposing of contaminated materials, to comforting anxious patients and their families.
Some people start medical assisting without formal training. But getting trained and credentialed offers great rewards: better pay and job prospects, for one. Medical assistants who want to progress and enjoy a fulfilling career usually choose to get registered or certified. Here is how you can make the most of your career as a registered medical assistant.
Understanding The Day-to-Day Responsibilities And Skills Of An RMA
Some medical assistants may focus solely on administrative tasks. Others may only handle clinical duties. But the registered medical assistant is expected to be a true multi-tasker. A qualified RMA handles a combination of both administrative and clinical responsibilities. Here is a breakdown of typical day-to-day duties:
- Schedule appointments
- Assist with patient files and updating records
- Assist with insurance claims and queries
- Deal with patient queries- online, telephonic, or in-person.
- Help with medical billing
- Greet patients and set them at ease
- Take vital signs (weight, blood pressure, temperature)
- Arrange diagnostic and laboratory testing where necessary
- Sterilize equipment
- Draw blood
- Remove stitches
- Assist doctors/ nurses with routine procedures and examinations
- Reassure anxious patients and families
- Instruct patients about their medications and dietary plans
7 Steps To Become A Registered Medical Assistant
1. Acquire a high school diploma or pass the General Educational Development (GED) exam
Medical assisting is a role that requires a high school diploma or equivalent. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you will be allowed to enroll in an accredited medical assisting program without a diploma or GED. Employers also insist on this foundational education level.
2. Complete an RMA training program
Medical assistants with over three years of recognized work experience within the last seven years can skip this training step. So too can certain candidates with a military background. People who completed a medical services training program through the United States Armed Forces in the last four years can happily move to the next step.
If you don’t qualify on the above grounds, it’s recommended you find a recognized school and register for an accredited medical assistant training program. This will set you on the path to gaining the knowledge and abilities required to become an RMA.
Numerous institutions offer reputable medical assistant training. Depending on your personal and professional goals you can enroll in a university, community college, online school, or vocational school. It’s essential that the program provides 720 hours of instruction. This must include 160 hours of externship.
3. Gain hands-on experience
Before and after graduating it is important to accumulate workplace experience. The profession wants to see that you have the aptitude and attitude to apply your training in real-world settings. A good medical assistant program will facilitate work experience as part of the curriculum. Ensure that these hours are properly documented.
To be considered for a position as a registered medical assistant, you must demonstrate practical expertise in both clinical and administrative tasks.
4. Obtain RMA certification
The next step is to take your RMA exam. American Medical Technologists (AMT) is the primary professional body that administers the exam. Check the AMT website and schedule a date and time. Allow yourself adequate time to prepare. The exam comprises 210 multiple-choice questions and must be completed within two hours.
The results should be available shortly after the sitting. Once you pass the exam, you are all set to work as a registered medical assistant!
5. Create a winning resume and cover letter
Your resume is your chance to boast about all you have achieved. It may be helpful to have a core resume that you can modify slightly depending on the job. If you are applying to a medical office, you can emphasize your medical office experience. If you are applying to a diagnostics center, you can stress the laboratory tests you administered.
State all performed duties and responsibilities clearly and succinctly. Highlight achievements that exceeded the norm. Detail your working knowledge of industry administrative systems and tools.
Ask medical professionals you worked with if they would provide you with references. You should usually accompany your resume with a cover letter. Prepare a draft. Covering letters should briefly describe your professional self and the skillset you can bring to any organization. It should also express your strong interest in the job.
6. Find and apply for registered medical assistant jobs
Treat job hunting as if it’s a job in itself. Be sure to lean into your resources and connections. The saying, ‘it’s not what you know but who you know,’ is as true today as ever. Register with relevant agencies and online communities. Keep in contact with the lecturers, administrators and alumni from your school. Follow the job boards.
About half of U.S. registered medical assistants work in physicians’ offices. Other medical facilities that employ clinician assistants include hospitals, outpatient care centers, and chiropractors. Dentists, optometrists and mental health practitioners hire in smaller numbers.
- Search for potential employers in your local area. These may include specialized clinics with obstetrician-gynecologists, pediatricians, or podiatrists.
- Draw up and maintain a list.
- Don’t hesitate to reach out to offices where you might want to work.
- Ask about possible upcoming vacancies. Keep your inquiries professional at all times.
7. Attend further education courses for RMA
Once you are working in the field, it is vital to stay current. Healthcare is constantly evolving due to new technology and procedures. To excel in the profession requires continual learning. You may also decide to specialize in a particular niche for a period. Here are some ways to upskill and broaden your horizons (or pursue a specialty):
- Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA): This certificate augments your RMA credentials. It allows you to carry out additional responsibilities like managing and administering injections.
- National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA): A NCMA places greater emphasis on the clinical aspects of medical assisting. You can pursue this certification immediately after completing your RMA training program.
- Podiatric Medical Assistant Certification (PMAC): The PMAC equips you to take a position in a podiatry office. This offers an opportunity to specialize. Work experience in podiatry will be required to become fully certified.
- Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA): A COA supports ophthalmologists with both medical and administrative duties. Here is an opportunity to undertake training and specialize in eye care. Of course, this needn’t restrict you for the rest of your career.
Tips For Becoming A Successful RMA
It’s important that you keep your RMA credentials current. You want to renew your AMT certification annually and not let it lapse. A commitment to continual learning shows your dedication and professionalism. Attend relevant lectures and conferences. If your employer offers to send you on a course, take advantage of the opportunity.
The good news is, your skillset is in demand and transferable. We can all become bored in our jobs. If you feel stagnant in your current position, there may well be other openings to explore. A broad range of relevant experiences will enhance your resume (provided you don’t job-hop too frequently).
Becoming a registered medical assistant takes dedication and commitment. There is plenty of support available to aspiring RMAs on their journey. Numerous accredited training opportunities will help you. Industry associations like AMT exist solely to support and promote the profession.
A job as a registered medical assistant can provide a fulfilling and rewarding career. It’s no secret that certain occupations are shrinking in relevance today. The opposite is true for medical assistants. Official projections show that medical assistant jobs will grow 16% per year until 2031. This is much faster than many other occupations.
Imagine the scene: urgent bloodwork is needed, patient files have been corrupted, and an expectant mother’s water has broken. A registered medical assistant can step up and own all of these emergencies until the doctor (or computer tech) arrives. RMAs serve as an invaluable support to medical professionals. They are part of the backbone of the healthcare industry.
How long does it take to become a registered medical assistant?
This depends on the training program you choose. An associate degree usually takes two years. A diploma or certificate may be completed in under nine months. Alternatively, you could work as a medical assistant for three years, and then apply to write the RMA exam.
Is a registered medical assistant the same as a certified medical assistant?
RMA is not the same as CMA. Both are nationally recognized credentials, but certified medical assistants obtain their certificate through a different organization- the American Association of Medical Assistants. Both are highly regarded credentials in the field.
Medical Assistants : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov)