Healthcare is a fast-moving field in every sense. And as the healthcare industry continues to grow, the demand for medical professionals is on the rise. Clinical medical assistants are an integral part of patient care. The demand for their crucial professional expertise is stronger than ever.
This comprehensive guide will provide you with everything you need to know about becoming a clinical medical assistant- including job description, requirements, and career path.
Clinical Medical Assistant Job Description
Role and responsibilities of a clinical medical assistant
Most busy medical facilities rely on a team of dedicated support staff. Medical assistants are at the heart of this support corps. They handle a wide variety of duties to ensure the unit runs efficiently. A typical medical assistant in a physician’s office handles everything from filing insurance claims to drawing blood and recording vital signs.
Clinical medical assistants are slightly more specialized than standard medical assistants. They may help with administrative tasks, but their primary focus is on clinical responsibilities. They support the licensed practitioner in direct patient care. Some of the clinical assistant’s many responsibilities include:
- Recording patient medical histories
- Taking vital signs (blood pressure, pulse)
- Disinfecting and sterilizing equipment
- Preparing patients for medical procedures
- Assisting doctors and nurses with patient examinations
- Drawing blood and taking other patient samples
- Administering testing of patient samples
- Administering medications
- Removing stitches
- Cleaning wounds and applying appropriate dressing
Skills required by a clinical medical assistant
Successful clinical medical assistants must have a wide range of skills. Firstly, clinical medical assistants must have excellent interpersonal skills. They must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with patients, physicians, and other healthcare professionals. They should be good team players. They must also be compassionate and empathetic.
Another important medical assisting skill is attention to detail. Clinical MAs need to be able to follow instructions precisely. They must ensure correct medical procedures are performed at all times. They must also be able to multitask and juggle multiple responsibilities, so good prioritizing skills are a must.
Clinical medical assistants work in a variety of medical settings. These include hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, chiropractors’ offices, and dental offices. They may work full-time or part-time. Their schedules may include evenings, weekends, or holidays. They may also be required to be on call for emergencies.
The work environment for clinical assistants can be fast-paced and demanding. They are often on their feet for long periods.
These professionals will also be exposed to infectious diseases and other health hazards at times. They must understand and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their patients.
Difference between a clinical medical assistant and other professionals
It’s helpful to understand the differences between clinical medical assistants and other healthcare professionals. Clinical medical assistants work under the supervision of senior healthcare professionals. They focus on supporting patient care. They may also be tasked with administration support from time to time.
Registered nurses (RNs), on the other hand, have more advanced education and training. A registered nurse usually has more autonomy in patient care decisions.
Physician assistants (PAs) have also completed a higher level of education than clinical assistants. They often work independently or jointly with physicians to diagnose and treat patients.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) have even more autonomy. In certain circumstances, they will diagnose and treat patients without the supervision of a physician.
Education And Training Requirements For Clinical Medical Assistants
Certification and licensing
Clinical assistants aren’t required by law to be licensed or certified. Some states have regulations that restrict assistants from performing certain clinical duties if they aren’t certified. For example, clinical assistants aren’t allowed to give injections in some states without certification.
Career-minded medical assistants often choose to further their formal education and become certified. We look at various ways the clinical medical assistant can get ahead through education and certification.
Education and certification
The first step to a successful clinical assisting career is a high school diploma or equivalent. High school graduates and GED holders with an interest in health care are sometimes accepted into entry-level clinical positions that provide on-the-job training.
Certification is not required to work in medical assisting, but it can help career advancement, as many medical facilities prefer to hire certified medical assistants. Certification shows that the assistant has acquired the knowledge to pass an industry-standard exam.
4 ways for a clinical medical assistant to get certified
Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
Registered medical assistant is the industry credential issued by American Medical Technologists (AMT). To become RMA certified, a clinical assistant must have at least 3 years of work experience, or have completed a medical course in the military. Alternatively, applicants can complete an accredited medical assistant training program.
Qualifying applicants can then register to write the registered medical assistant exam. The exam is designed to test both administrative and clinical knowledge.
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
Certified medical assistant certification is awarded by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The AAMA is a leading professional organization for all medical assistants and the oldest body in the industry. To register for CMA certification applicants must have completed an accredited medical assisting program.
After completing their studies, applicants are eligible to write the certified medical assistant exam administered by the AAMA. Knowledge of general assisting, administration, and clinical procedures will be tested.
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
CCMA is the certification offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). To be eligible for certification, aspiring clinical assistants must graduate from an approved education program, or have at least one year of supervised work experience.
They must then pass a three-hour exam consisting of 150 questions. The certification exam is designed to test knowledge of clinical work and medical procedures. Some administration content may also be examined.
National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA)
NCMA represents certification through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). To qualify for NCMA credentialing the applicant must have completed an accredited program, or show two years of work experience under the supervision of a licensed physician.
Applicants can then register to write the 3-hour NCCT exam. Successful candidates join the ranks of credentialed certified medical assistants.
Accredited training programs for clinical studies
You will note that education and training are major parts of the certification process. There are many institutions that deliver quality training in the discipline. Universities, colleges, community colleges, and vocational schools all offer reputable medical assisting programs. A growing number of online educators offer approved programs as well.
When selecting a study program, it is important to check that it is approved by the certifying agencies. The American Association of Medical Assistants and other certifying bodies can direct candidates to accredited program providers.
CMA certification requires that the training program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). A condition of registered medical assistant certification is that the program provides at least 720 hours of instruction, including 160 hours of externship.
Students can study for a diploma, certificate, or associate degree. Course fees and duration of study will depend on the student’s choice of program. Diplomas and certificates can be earned in around 9 months, but degrees usually take 2 years. An accredited program covers subjects like medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, clinical procedures, and medical ethics.
Continued education and career advancement
Certified clinical MAs have committed to a career of continual learning. This attitude is essential to get ahead in the dynamic field. It also shows dedication and professionalism. Professionals take advantage of any training opportunities their employer might offer.
Every few years, certified medical assistants must recertify their credentials with their professional body. Recertification depends on the member proving they have earned a certain number of continuing education credits. They must record their CEUs (Continuing Education Units) with their certifying authority to be recertified for another cycle.
Career Path And Job Outlook
Potential career paths in clinical assisting
There are many potential career paths for clinical medical assistants. Some clinical assistants may choose to specialize in a particular area of healthcare. Popular areas of specialization are cardiology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, and podiatry. Others may pursue further education to become registered nurses or physician assistants.
Clinical medical assistants may also advance into supervisory or managerial roles. With additional education and experience, they may also become healthcare educators.
The clinical medical assistant job outlook
The career outlook for clinical assistants is very promising. According to official labor statistics, medical assistant jobs are expected to grow by 16% by 2031. This is much faster than most occupations.
The median annual wage for medical assistants is $37,190. A certified medical assistant with clinical expertise is well-positioned to find many exciting job opportunities in the coming years.
Upskilling and professional development
There are numerous accredited training opportunities to encourage professional development.
Industry associations like AAMA and AMT exist solely to support the profession. They actively encourage and promote learning opportunities to empower their members. Certified medical assistants and those keen to upskill their clinical expertise should reach out to the resources available.
How To Become A Successful Clinical Medical Assistant
Tips for success
If you are interested in becoming a clinical medical assistant, here are some key tips for success:
- Pursue education and certification. Completing a medical assisting program and becoming certified can help you stand out to potential employers and demonstrate your expertise.
- Develop strong communication skills. This is crucial for building rapport with patients and healthcare professionals.
- Be flexible and adaptable. Healthcare is a dynamic field, and you may be required to adapt to changing situations and priorities.
- Be disciplined and organized and pay attention to detail.
- Stay up-to-date with healthcare trends and developments.
Strategies for staying current
Registered medical assistants should be sure to keep their certifications up-to-date by paying their annual renewal fees. Every few years, certified professionals must recertify their credentials. Certified medical assistants should focus on earning the necessary CEUs to recertify. This helps them stay abreast of the latest developments in the medical field.
Career-minded medical assistants are advised to attend relevant lectures and conferences. The certification associations can be great networking platforms. Medical assistants who attended school can benefit from joining networks of alumni, instructors, and peers.
Advice from experts and experienced medical professionals
Experts and experienced medical professionals tend to emphasize the same points as in the tips above. They stress the need to be flexible, disciplined, and organized. They highlight the importance of training and professional development.
It’s widely agreed that the most important responsibility of a clinical medical assistant is ensuring patient safety and comfort. Clinical medical personnel must be able to communicate effectively with patients, put them at ease, and provide reassurance during medical procedures. Active listening, empathy, and sensitive communication are vital skills.
Do I need to go to school or college for training to become a clinical medical assistant?
It is possible to become a clinical medical assistant without enrolling in a formal training program. It depends if an employer is willing to hire you and provide you with on-the-job training.
Many medical offices don’t have the time to train someone with limited knowledge of medical terminology or clinical duties. Employers would rather hire a trained or certified medical assistant.
What’s the difference between a certified medical assistant (CMA) and a clinical medical assistant?
A certified medical assistant (CMA) is a healthcare assistant credentialed through the American Association of Medical Assistants. A certified medical assistant who is employed to perform mainly clinical tasks and work closely with patients can be considered a clinical medical assistant.
Clinical medical assistants play a crucial role in the healthcare industry. They provide essential support to physicians and other healthcare professionals. If you are interested in becoming a clinical medical assistant, education and certification can set you on the path to success.
With a strong commitment to patient safety and self-education, you can thrive in a rewarding and fulfilling career. You may make a meaningful impact in the lives of patients and their families in the process.
Medical Assistants: Occupational Outlook Handbook: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov)