Choosing to work in healthcare is a smart move for many reasons. You’ll find ample job opportunities all over the country and will feel satisfied in having a significant impact on the lives of those you interact with each day. In particular, medical assisting schools allow you to complete a program and dive into the job quickly.
So what does a medical assistant do? Midwest Institute has all the information you need about medical assistant schools and medical assisting in St. Louis.
Looking to Become a Medical Assistant in St. Louis?
With the growing number of people visiting medical clinics and hospitals in St. Louis (and across the US), the job market’s demand for this allied health professional is on the rise. Fortunately, training programs that can last a year or less are lowering the barrier to entry for parents and others with full-time jobs. Those who choose medical assisting schools in St. Louis are able to level-up their careers in a field where they can make a real difference. A career in medical assisting offers a number of different tracks to choose from and is a great option for individuals who are level-headed, good with people, and love helping others.
Types of Medical Assistants
There are several kinds of medical assistants. Some assistants have a clinical focus, performing functions like preparing patients for the doctor, providing minor care to patients—even authorizing prescription refills—that are normally associated with nurses. Others spend most of their time on administrative front desk and back office responsibilities like checking patients in and handling the facility’s paperwork. Most perform a combination of the two. In every case, though, the medical assistant reduces the strain on doctors’ time by taking critical tasks off their plate.
Licensing requirements vary from state to state. Medical assistants in St. Louis, Missouri are usually directly involved in patient care and treatment (under the direction of either doctors or nurses) in addition to some clerical work. Hence, most employers require all their medical assistants obtain either a RMA certification (by American Medical Technologists, or AMT) or a CMA certification (by the American Association of Medical Assistants, or the AAMA) by attending medical assisting schools.
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Some medical assistants are required to offer mostly administrative support to the practice where they are employed, such as making appointments and submitting insurance claims. Others are assigned more clinical or care-based tasks, such as taking down a patient’s height and weight.
During a medical assisting school’s degree program, all medical assistant trainees learn the skills they need to provide both clinical and administrative support to the medical practice where they are ultimately employed. On the job, medical assistants are often expected to do some of both, depending on the specific needs of the employer. Medical assistant duties often include:
- Manage patient records
- Make appointments
- Answer phones
- Manage referrals
- Greet patients
- Maintain the front desk and reception areas
- Perform general accounting and billing
- Record vital signs
- Prepare patient rooms for examinations
- Explain treatments and procedures to patients
- Go over medical histories with patients
- Assist physicians with the examinations
- Conduct basic procedures (such as drawing blood and removing sutures)
- Collect and prepare specimens for basic laboratory tests
- Instruct patients about medication and special diets
NOTE: Medical assistants working in specialist practices may perform duties specific to the practice’s specialty.
- Assist with trimming nails, splints, casts, and minor surgery as a podiatrist’s assistant
- Perform electrocardiology (EKGs) and assist in stress testing procedures as a cardiology technician
- Perform diagnostic testing, assist in eye treatments and emergencies, and perform patient education as an ophthalmology medical assistant.
- Assist with Pap testing and breast exams, minor gynecological surgery and caring for pregnant women as an OB/GYN medical assistant.
Tools and Supplies Commonly Used by Medical Assistants
- Biohazard containers (for biohazardous waste removal)
- Exam gowns
- Cotton balls and swabs
- Masks and gloves
- Sterilizing solution
- Tongue depressors
- Ear scopes
Places Where Medical Assistants Work
Graduates of a medical assistant program have many options to choose from when it comes to work environment.
These are smaller-scale and often focus on one niche of medicine (pediatrics or cardiology, for example). Medical assistants at a medical clinic can expect a smaller number of regular patients, few urgent or complicated concerns, and regular, consistent work hours.
Outpatient Care Centers
Outpatient care centers focus on pre-planned surgeries. They share some attributes with medical clinics, such as the stable schedule, but they have a constantly changing roster of patients. As outpatient centers associated with hospitals and other large facilities increase their caseloads and assign medical assistants more specialized tasks, positions here are likely to become more fast-paced.
Private Medical Practices
Like clinics, these practices are specifically tied to one or more professionals who own the facility. Because they work so closely with the lead physician, a medical assistant here is likely to need to shoulder a greater percentage of the administrative responsibilities and also be flexible as the doctor adjusts hours, caseloads, and pay scales in order to meet the needs of patients while keeping the lights on.
Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities
Although it depends on the facility, nursing homes often pay better than a clinic. Unlike the steady flow of new patients you’ll experience at an outpatient care center or hospital, patients at nursing homes will remain under your care for longer periods of time. Because nursing facilities provide 24-hour care to their residents, you may be required to work in shifts or during weekends.
Hospitals typically offer staff higher pay and a fast-paced work environment. Because of their size and the high number of patients they treat, hospitals often have a wider variety of roles available for medical assistants. However, hospitals may require medical assistants do shift work or weekend rotations.
As you can see, different environments for medical assisting in St. Louis have their own schedule, pace, and feel, meaning freshly minted medical assistants can position themselves for a career that fits well with their interests and personality.
Qualities for Medical Assisting in St. Louis
Because of the varied roles that a medical assistant can fill in a medical practice, a career in medical assisting is a great fit for almost anyone interested in medicine. However, there are some important qualities that all aspiring medical assistants must have in order to be successful at the job including:
- Organization skills
- Good listening skills
- Working well with people
- Following directions closely
- Enjoying doing a variety of tasks
If these qualities describe you, medical assisting might just be your dream job come true!
Medical Assisting Schools Education and Certification Requirements
Educational and certification requirements vary from state to state. Medical assistants in St. Louis are not required by the state to have a degree. However, graduating from a quality medical assisting education program and passing certification will give you a strong advantage when applying for medical assistant positions. It is increasingly a requirement to be employed at many hospitals and clinics.
While Missouri technically does not require medical assistants to complete a degree program or be certified, many employers do require it. In most cases, those interested in obtaining a medical assistant certification will need to graduate from a medical assistant college in St. Louis that is accredited in medical assisting.
Certification Requirements in Missouri
Those who graduate from medical assistant college in St. Louis should expect to take and pass an exam for either the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) or Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential. This will demonstrate that they understand and have committed to nationally-recognized standards and best practices. Again, these credentials are not required or overseen by the state of Missouri, but many employers treat them as a precondition for employment, or at least for promotion.
Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Credential Exam Fast Facts
- In order to qualify to become an RMA, you must either:
- graduate from a medical assisting school
- graduate from a military medical service training program
- work for at least 5 out of the last 7 years as a medical assistant
- have worked as an instructor for a medical assisting program for 1-5 years
- 147 out of 210 questions (70%) must be answered correctly in order to pass.
- The test is timed, and students are given exactly 2 hours to complete it.
The RMA can be renewed every three years, in compliance with the Certification Continuation Program (CCP) as long as AMT Standards of Practice are adhered to.
Ready to Become a Medical Assistant in St. Louis?
Now you know the variety of important tasks involved with this vital healthcare career! This is a hands-on job that requires accuracy and professionalism. Graduating from the medical assistant program will bring a very rewarding career to those who have initiative, compassion for people, and those who want to make a difference.
If you’re up for the challenge of caring for patients in a medical setting, learn more about medical assistant college in St. Louis at Midwest Institute. We are a private college that has been successfully delivering medical assistant training for over 50 years. The school was founded on the medical assisting program and has expanded to offer other allied health careers.
Our experience has earned a reputation in the community as one of the top medical assistant schools in St. Louis. Give us a call at 314-344-4440 to schedule a campus tour so you can learn how Midwest Institute can help you get there!