Medical assistant programs usually span a period of four semesters, or two years, and cover a range of coursework designed to train medical assistants in requisite administrative and clinical skills. Additional practical training via two unpaid externships, are also necessary to complete the certified medical assistant, or CMA training program.
The only requirements for admission include the college application and a high school diploma or certificate of General Educational Development (GED). However, certain technical standards are also demanded of applicants to medical assistant programs. These include higher levels of reading and comprehension, above average oral and written communication skills, data gathering and analytical skills, mental and physical health and fitness, normal visual acuity and color perception, normal hearing, manual dexterity and good reflexes to perform technically difficult or potentially hazardous procedures, excellent personal hygiene, and a calm and rational disposition. Exceptions to these technical standards may be accommodated in the case of the physically disabled, who may still undergo CMA training, but are expected to have slightly limited function as medical assistants.
Administrative tasks that medical assistants are expected perform involve basic secretarial skills such as telephone operations, coordinating patient and physician schedules, as well as hospitality services towards the patients, among others. To address this, trainees undergo must take the subjects Medical Secretarial Procedures and Medical Office Procedures. Of course, effective communication skills are cultivated by basic English Composition courses.
Medical assistant programs also facilitate the acquirement of record keeping skills by including courses in Medical Terminology, Medical Transcription, and word processing with Microsoft Word. CMA training in book keeping is tackled by courses in Mathematics and Medical Insurance Code and Billing.
Medical assistance also entails clinical tasks that are routine such as obtaining the patient’s medical history and vital signs, preparing the patient for clinical procedures, performing specific laboratory procedures, updating the patient’s medical records, administering medications, as well as urgent undertakings such as recognizing emergencies and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Relevant CMA training courses would include Human Biology, Fitness and Wellness, Medical Assisting Lab Procedures, Medical Assisting Clinical Procedures, Principles of Pharmacology, Introduction to Psychology, and Medical Legal Concepts, Practices, and Ethics. All the knowledge gleaned from these courses will be applied during the unpaid externships.
Upon completion of the medical assistant program, some states require undertaking certification exams before medical assistants are able to perform specific clinical tasks. Most certainly, most prospective employers will consider hiring certified medical assistants over non-certified individuals.
Employment opportunities for medical assistants are projected to be increase over the next few years in response to a burgeoning healthcare industry. This fact, in conjunction with the comparatively short medical assistant program, would make this a logical career choice for many.