Certified Medical Assistants, (CMAs) are often the first people patients encounter at doctors’ offices and clinics. They are versatile and flexible and set the tone and pace for visits to medical facilities. Their responsibilities may place them up front or in the back office. Their various duties may include the following:

  1. Greeting patients and scheduling appointments
  2. Obtaining vital signs
  3. Documenting patient histories
  4. Maintaining medication and other patient records
  5. Assisting with examinations
  6. Processing insurance and Medicare claims
  7. Maintaining confidentiality
  8. Keeping the nurse and doctor informed regarding patient concerns
  9. Providing reassurance and comforting the patient

CMAs have the clinical skills to make initial patient assessments such as taking blood pressure and blood samples, performing routine laboratory tests such as EKGs, and assist physicians with minor office procedures. They also have the knowledge and clerical skills necessary to perform administrative tasks necessary for efficient and proper business procedures. In large offices, the CMA may specialize in a particular area, but in smaller offices, responsibilities include both clerical and clinical tasks. Computer skills are a must for charting patients’ records and working in electronic medical records.

CMAs who specialize in particular medical fields also may have other responsibilities. For example, those specializing in podiatry may make castings of feet, expose and develop x-rays, and assist with surgeries. Ophthalmic medical assistants may administer diagnostic tests, measure and record vision, test eye and eye muscle function, show patients how to use eye dressings, protective shields, and safety glasses, and teach patients how to insert, remove, and care for contact lenses. They also may assist with surgeries and are responsible for maintaining optical and surgical instruments.

Work Environment

Certified medical assistants normally work a 40-hour week in well-lighted, clean offices. They constantly interact with people, so good interpersonal skills are essential. They may need to handle several responsibilities at the same time so multitasking skills are a plus as well. Almost two-thirds of all CMAs work in physiciansĂ­ offices or clinics. Other CMAs are employed in the offices of other health practitioners (chiropractors, optometrists, and podiatrists), hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities.

Career Outlook

Employment opportunities for medical assistants are expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. In fact, the U.S. Labor Department cites this field as one of the fastest-growing occupations in America. Job possibilities will be greater for medical assistants with formal training or experience, particularly those with certification.