For over 50 years medical assistants have been establishing themselves as a fundamental part of the medical field. Due to a shortage of nursing staff during World War II, physicians were required to look for additional help in their private offices. They were in need of people who could not only perform the many administrative needs of a clinic, but also of people who could serve as an assistant, helping to perform certain skilled techniques so that the physician could treat more patients efficiently. These needs eventually lead to medical assistants and the corresponding qualities of the professional niche available today.
Through proper training, medical assistants are now capable of providing a very wide range of services within a medical practice. They are capable of performing operational functions such as medical billing and coding, filing, answering multi-lined telephones, and even scheduling laboratory services or hospital admissions. They are often also qualified to use computer programs to schedule appointments and update electronic medical records. When assisting the physician with patient care, medical assistants are able to prepare patients for exams, take their medical history, and explain treatments and medications. They are also able to remove sutures, perform electrocardiograms (ECGs), and carry out simple laboratory tests. There are additional certifications for medical assistants that allow these professionals to draw blood and even take radiographs or X-rays.
Finding Accredited Online Medical Assistant Programs
The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) are the only two organizations recognized by either the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or the American Medical Technologists (AMT) for certification testing. Students must attend courses in medical assisting at an accredited location in order to sit for any certification exam.
Accreditation involves a site visit and documentation that indicates the program meets specific criteria. This process can take up to a year before it is fully approved. However, once approved, the school will remain accredited for a certain number of years before they are required to repeat this process for recertification.
Financial assistance is another reason to consider an accredited school, as only some lending programs will supply aid to students in authorized institutions. In addition, if students need to switch schools mid-course, it is easier to transfer the credits they have attained when working with an accredited institution.
Types of Accredited Medical Assistant Certifications
There are currently two types of certifications available to students graduating from accredited medical assistant programs. One is a certification awarded through the AAMA; the second is offered by the AMT. Those holding an AAMA certification are called certified medical assistants, or CMAs. Students who receive certification from the AMT are known as registered medical assistants, or RMAs. While some professionals consider being a certified medical assistant as more preferable, there is little difference between the two certifications and many physicians consider them to be equal. It is important to remember that certification is not permanent and must be renewed every five years. Although neither CMAs nor RMAs are required to be certified, it is highly advised, as physicians are more likely to hire certified candidates.
Both CMA and RMA programs are now offered at many brick-and-mortar universities, and there are also several institutions that offer these programs online. The course work required for medical assistant programs is very similar regardless of where the certification is earned or not. Students should expect to take physiology, CPR, pharmacology, anatomy, and medical terminology classes. Additionally, students will have course work in medical ethics, patient record keeping, electronic medical records (EMR), and medical law.
This medical assistant program provides students with a diploma rather than a degree. As a result, the program can be shortened to between 12 and 18 months depending on how often a student is able to attend classes.
Working as a medical assistant can be a very rewarding career for those who enjoy caring for others. People in this field often work very closely with both the physicians and secretarial staff of any medical facility and must be able to maintain close interpersonal relationships.