The job of medical assistants is to support doctors, chiropractors, physician assistants, nurses and podiatrists. Usually, they greet customers at the front desk, show them where the waiting room is and guide them to the doctor’s chamber when it is time. While these are common tasks, the job description is not limited to these. If you wish to serve in the health care industry but have only minimum relevant education, the career of medical assistant will be a good idea. It is, in fact, a great option for anyone seeking a profession with challenging and diverse responsibilities.
Duties of a Medical Assistant
The duties in this career vary largely based on the location and workplace. Usually the size and nature of office determines what the responsibilities will be. Smaller offices often have only 1 medical assistant for both clinical and medical duties while more organized companies may hire several people and assign them roles. However, common responsibilities of a clinical medical assistants include taking vital signs, recording patient history, providing explanation for treatment procedures, preparing patients for any physical examination and helping the doctor during the process.
As a medical assistant, you will also be expected to collect laboratory specimens, conduct laboratory testing under physician’s supervision, dispose the contaminated equipment, provide instructions about medication dosage and diet plans, draw blood and prepare them for x-rays, record electro grams, administer medication, remove sutures, change dressings and prepare medical instruments for doctor before patient examination.
The nature of job changes depending on which specialty you work under. You could be an ophthalmic, optometric or podiatric medical assistant. In each case, your tasks would be different.
This profession does not require you to follow any legal processes in Texas. Even though you are not expected to fulfil too many requirement, having competitive qualifications can always come handy. If you attain prior formal education, training and experience in the field, you will obviously be regarded as better than those without good qualification.
Therefore, if you wish to prosper, your aim shall be to make yourself one of the competitive candidates, pursue employment as a Texas medical assistant and maintain your relevant qualifications by continuing education whenever needed. The legal regulations in Texas which cover this profession allow the employing physician to decide what minimum requirements and qualifications they want in the person they wish to hire. The state does not require the employees to have any licenses or certification. There is no regulation about any credentials. Legally, anyone can become a medical assistant.
However, there are a few rules which physicians must follow when deciding who to employ. They should hire someone who is qualified and well-trained. The employer must supervise the personal assistant as he will be responsible for all activities. He must select task for the medical assistants responsibly and consider how practical it is. Safety should be top priority at all times. Even though medical assistant can authorize drugs under some conditions and perform certain procedures, they cannot represent themselves as being authorized to practice medicine.
Education is the best way to become a competitive job candidate. Individual employers often expect some common qualifications from medical assistants. One of the most common expectation is that the candidate should have prior work experience in the medical assistant field. If he has worked in either a medical office environment or even served at a general office, it is an advantage. In terms of formal education, you can graduate from a medical assistant training program in Texas. Enrolment at a medical assistant school which offers associates of science degree is another option.
A typical bachelor’s or associate’s degree program will consist of diverse range of courses. Some common courses that are included are Medical assisting clinical and laboratory procedures, Health care communication and medical terminology, Medical reception and office management, Patient electronic health record, Electronic medical assistant procedures and medical office software and Medical insurance billing and coding. Other subjects include Pharmacology, Medical office emergency procedures, Medical assisting internship or practicum, Anatomy and physiology.
Upon certification, you can enjoy credentials like the following:
1. Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
This is the most common credential for medical assistants in all over US. You can earn this title if you pass the Certified Medical Assistant examination arranged by American Association of Medical Assistants.
The CMA exam consists of 200 multiple choice questions from 2 areas of interest – clinical subjects, administrative subjects and general subjects. You will be granted total 160 minutes to complete the paper. After deciding that you want to give the exam, you can apply online. Testing centers in Texas are dispersed around 4 locations. There are 2 centers in San Antonio area, 2 in Dallas Fort Worth area, 1 in Austin and 1 testing center in Lubbock.
2. Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
The Registered Medical Assistant credential is sponsored by AMT, short for American Medical Technologists. It recognizes being a CMA credential as a pathway of eligibility for the RMA credential. This means, after you attain the CMA certification, you can apply for this one as well.
3. Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA)
This credential is sponsored by the National Association of Health Professionals. Eligibility for the NRCMA credential is also the same as the CMA credential. However, you must pass another examination to obtain this. After you complete the essential education, you can fill up the NAHP exam application form and enroll for the exam.
There are many different academic programs in Texas schools directed towards individuals who wish to become medical assistants. It is best to choose a program accredited by either Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) as it will qualify you to work towards elective national certification. After completing any of these programs, you will be eligible to apply for CMA, RMA or NRCMA posts.
If you are confused where you can contact and how to start training, there are many different institutes in Texas which cater your needs. Special medical assisting programs are offered at different private vocational schools. You can also contact junior and community colleges and they have such programs too.
Typically, these programs last 1 year and include coursework. The course can be on medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, computer skills, accounting, office management and insurance claims processing.
In this program duration, you will be taught various clinical and diagnostic procedures. Other course content would be basics of pharmacology, laboratory techniques and first aid. Most of these programs also offer an internship experience. This simply allows students to gain a real-world experience in a private medical office or a healthcare facility. The internship period will enable you to test your education in the practical world.
Again, neither the education or certification is a requirement of the state. Therefore, it is possible to secure a job without any of these. It is, however, unlikely because the pool of candidates is quite competitive. You need to be better than the rest to secure a job in a good company and earn a good earning salary.
If you wish to become a medical assistant, Texas is a great state for the career. Currently, over 52,000 people assume the position in different locations of the state. It has been found that the urban areas cater more of these professionals. Depending on the size and facilities of different Texas locations, the number of people employed as medical assistants vary.
13,920 of them are employed in the Dallas Fort Arlington area. While this is the highest, Houston metropolitan area is a close second with 13,410. There are also impressive job openings in San Antonio, Austin, El Paso and surrounding areas.
In general, employers like someone who is a graduate of medical assisting program and has minimum 1 year of experience in either clinical setting or a physician’s office. It helps if the candidate has CMA credentials. A CPR certification can help as well.
The job growth in United States is expected to be quite high but medical assisting job growth in Texas is assumed to increase at a higher rate than the national average. In the 10-year period ending in 2020, it is assumed that job growth for Texas medical assistant will be 31.9%. The Texas Workforce Commission also predicts that addition of 2,260 job will be made during this period.
It is clear that Texas has an impressively high level of employment opportunity in this field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated in 2013 that Texas has the second highest level.
According to data published by the Texas Workforce Commission, average annual salary of Texas medical assistants is around $28,135. Depending on the person in consideration, this number varies. A very experienced applicant can even secure yearly payment of $31,928. Usually, entry-level employees who do not have the basic experience earn $20,550 on average annually.
While the aforementioned statistics sums up the general scenario of Texas, the scene varies from one location to another. Some of the most important determinants of salary include expertise, duties and cost of living. For example, the range can be a high $31,000 in north central Texas but as low as $20,000 in the Rio Grande Local Workforce Development Area.
It can be concluded that the salary is highest is Dallas but job opportunity is great in places such as Corpus Christ, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio as well.
Continuing Education and Maintaining Qualifications
Like general requirements, individual employer can decide what the continuing education standard should be. They also determine what requirements for maintenance shall be. In case your employer suggests that you have to keep your credentials as CMA, RMA or NRCMA valid, there are a few steps you must follow. They have been stated below.
If you are holder of the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credential, you must note that this is valid for only 60 months. In order to renew it, you can retake the CMA exam. Another option is to earn 60 re-certification points. Minimum half of these points are expected to be from continuing education courses approved by AAMA.
In order to maintain the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential, you have to complete 30 Certification Continuing Program points after every 3 years. It is also important to maintain annual membership with AMT. The yearly fee for this is $50.
The renewal process for the Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA) credential is a bit more detailed. You must have a current and valid CPR card and complete at least 2 Class A Continuing Education Units per year. You will also have to maintain a yearly membership with the NAHP. Keep in mind that you are excused from completing all these requirements during your first year of holding the credential.
Continuing education is another way of maintaining your qualifications. You can opt to take different collect courses which are related to medical assistance. The first step is earning a degree. You can later advance towards senior medical professional positions by learning more and getting more certifications.
To summarize, career advancement in this line of work is usually done by attaining additional experience or training. The immediate next position is perhaps becoming a trainer. You can go on to educate at community colleges or vocational schools. Other career advancement options could be becoming a physician assistant, physical therapist, or even a nurse. However, most of these will require you to enroll back in school and complete relevant programs. If you work as an administrative medical assistant, you can even advance to become an office manager cause the skill set for both jobs is same. You will be responsible for office operations and be in charge of supervising other office support staffs.
If you are living in Texas and are seeking a meaningful job with great return, then a medical assistant position seems ideal for you.