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Medical Assistants: Not Just Sidekicks

Doctors' offices are extremely busy places. There are almost constantly patients to see or consult with on the telephone, medical records and insurance records to update, tests to run, appointments to schedule, billing and bookkeeping responsibilities to handle, and many other duties and needs. Doctors may hardly have time to see all of their patients, let alone handle the rest of these tasks. This is where medical assistants step in.

Medical assistants are basically the doctor's right hand. They keep the office running smoothly, taking care of any clerical and some clinical aspects so that the doctors can focus on providing direct patient care. Many doctors have large practices, especially those in populous rural areas where there are fewer doctors per person, and if all responsibilities are left to the doctor, the quality of the patient care can suffer.

There is never a typical workday as far as medical assisting is concerned because it is a very busy and varying occupation. They may focus on reception, records, and billing one day and perform simple lab tests and change dressings and sutures the next. They may even be needed to assist doctors in procedures or by taking x-rays or administering electrocardiograms. Medical assistants also explain medication and procedures to patients, providing them with the knowledge and understanding they need to better care for themselves. The responsibilities and challenges, as well as the opportunities, are endless.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 800,000 doctors in practice in the United States, with only 500,000 medical assistants working for them. As such, the medical assistant field is expected to grow substantially within the next ten years, especially as more doctors become overloaded with patients. The job is challenging, but there are many rewards, not in the least the chance to provide patients with the best care available.

Programs to Consider: