If you have ever been to the doctor’s office, you know how busy this facility is. Numerous patients keep doctors extremely busy. Without the help of a medical assistant, many doctors would struggle to see a dozen patients per day. Medical assistants help keep patient traffic flowing smoothly from beginning to end. You will know if your doctor uses medical assistants as those who do will rarely keep you waiting.

Medical assistants require at least one year of training. They spend many hours multitasking, so if you are interested in medical assisting career, you must be able to handle multiple tasks at once.

In California, medical assistants handle a variety of administrative and clinical tasks. A strong grasp of office administration and basic health care procedures are necessary. More than 65% of all medical assistants work in a doctor’s office, usually working for practitioners, chiropractors, ophthalmologists, and podiatrists. The remaining 35% are hired by hospitals or managed health facilities (nursing homes or respite houses.)

If you are planning to become a medical assistant, expect to handle the following daily chores on a daily basis.

  • Scan all patient rooms and waiting rooms to ensure they are clean and well stocked with the necessary supplies
  • Check list of patient appointments and set up equipment trays for the first patient
  • Greet the patient
  • Walk the patient to the appropriate waiting room and take down a general health history, weight, height, and blood pressure reading
  • If a finger prick or urine test is required, you will handle those tests and have the lab preparing them, if possible, for the doctor to review
  • Let the doctor know the patient is waiting
  • When the doctor completes his or her portion of the visit, medical assistants can administer necessary vaccinations if required
  • If a prescription is involved, hand the patient the prescription form that has been filled out and signed by the doctor
  • Go over any dietary changes, medication information, and follow-up care
  • Once the patient has left, you will move onto the next patient if necessary
  • The computer records for each patient will be entered by you if the health care office is not set up with a discharge clerk
  • If a phone-in prescription is required, you will fax the paperwork to the pharmacy
  • When hospitalization, lab tests, or other appointments are required, you are responsible for setting up the appointments and referrals for the patient
  • As required, you will also handle the telephones taking appointments and directing calls to the appropriate person

Additionally, some medical assistants have special training that allows them to handle patient x-rays and then develop them. In a hospital setting, medical assistants will read patient charts at time of discharge and go over any physician recommendations before the patient is discharged.

A higher pay scale is offered to medical assistants who have completed Certified Medical Assisting testing. You are required to graduation from an accredited medical assisting schooling program. These courses always cover:

  • Anatomy
  • Bookkeeping
  • CPR
  • Diagnostic Procedures
  • Ethics
  • Externship
  • Insurance Procedures
  • Lab Procedures
  • Medical Computer Programs
  • Medical Law
  • Medical Terminology
  • Medications
  • Office Administration
  • Pathology
  • Physiology
  • Vaccinations

Once you have completed the necessary courses, you take the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) CMA (Certified Medical Assistants) exam. The testing fee is $95 for AAMA members or $170 for everyone else. While California does not require medical assistants to complete this test, the duties you can perform as a medical assistant are limited if you opt not to gain CMA certification. In fact, many doctors will only higher medical assistants with CMA certification because they are a more valuable team member.

The CMA exam covers:

  • Anatomy
  • Bookkeeping
  • Computer Programs
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Dietary Needs
  • Emergency Care
  • Equipment Usage
  • Ethics
  • Infection Control
  • Job Interviews
  • Making Appointments
  • Medical Law
  • Medical Terminology
  • Medications
  • Office Procedures
  • Patient Management
  • Patient Treatment
  • Physiology
  • Processing Office Mail
  • Running Routine Tests
  • Taking A Health History
  • Telephone Skills
  • Writing Skills

Three hundred questions make up this test. You must wait until the test results are mailed to you to see if you have passed. Once you gain your CMA papers, you must renew your certification every five years. To become recertified, you must take the recertification exam or have completed sixty additional credit hours in that five-year span. CPR certification is also required.

To find a medical assisting program near you, visit our list of medical assisting schools in California.