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dupa
01-25-2011, 03:02 PM
What exactly is a "medical assistant"? How does one become one? And, why am I trusting a medical assistant to handle certain aspects of my wellness checkups at my doctor's office. Are there no nurses anymore?

GarrAarghHrumph
01-25-2011, 03:44 PM
A medical assistant is a combination of a clerical job plus low level clinical. So this person has been through a formal medical assistant training program, which usually takes a year or so at either a community college or trade school.

They handle things in a medical office such as scheduling, medical records, bookkeeping, and basic clinical tasks such as showing patients to the room, taking vitals, taking patient histories, etc. Medical assistants work under the supervision of the physician. What a medical assistant can do clinically varies by state.

You may be seeing more use of medical assistants v. nurses because, to be blunt, medical assistants are cheaper.

IceAlisa
01-25-2011, 05:05 PM
They also give injections, put on dressings, draw blood, do urine dipstick tests, as well as assist physicians during in-office procedures like suturing.

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-does-a-medical-assistant-do.htm

Front Office

Secretarial work
Contact with insurance companies
Answering phones and making appointments
Ordering supplies
Greeting patients
Pulling and filing patient charts
Calling in or faxing prescriptions
Converting charts to electronic charting


Back Office

Escorting patients to rooms
Weighing patients
Taking blood pressure
Taking medical histories
Listening or questioning patients on current health issues or the issue of concern for this visit
Assisting doctors with medical procedures
Giving injections or drawing blood
Clarifying doctor’s instructions with a patient

dupa
01-25-2011, 06:07 PM
So basically it's a somewhat non-professional person that went through some one year program so they could get a job paying a little more than minimum wage.

Why would I want this person to handle some areas of my, or more importantly my kids health?

IceAlisa
01-25-2011, 06:12 PM
So basically it's a somewhat non-professional person that went through some one year program so they could get a job paying a little more than minimum wage.

Why would I want this person to handle some areas of my, or more importantly my kids health?

Taking blood pressure, drawing blood and giving injections is not rocket science but rather a matter of practice. But if you want your doctor to keep a very expensive registered nurse to perform these low skill tasks, are you willing to shoulder the price difference of your health care?

Flatfoote
01-25-2011, 06:19 PM
Along the same line of question, what is a physician's assistant? Is that the same thing? When my mom was in the nursing home for rehab recently, she saw an actual doctor maybe twice (once that I know of). All other visits from her doctor's office were made by the physician's assistant.

IceAlisa
01-25-2011, 06:21 PM
Info on PA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physician_assistant

Kasey
01-25-2011, 06:26 PM
My mom works as a medical assistant. She required no additional training, as she'd been a CNA for years and was used to taking vital signs, documenting patient complaints/observations, etc. She doesn't give shots or draw blood (that would require different training/certification, so she is I guess not an "official" medical assistant).

To her credit, whenever a patient calls her "nurse", she gently corrects them, saying she has a daughter who is a nurse who went through a great deal of schooling to be called that, and she herself hasn't ;)

GarrAarghHrumph
01-25-2011, 06:27 PM
Along the same line of question, what is a physician's assistant? Is that the same thing? When my mom was in the nursing home for rehab recently, she saw an actual doctor maybe twice (once that I know of). All other visits from her doctor's office were made by the physician's assistant.

A physician's assistant is not a medical assistant. Two different jobs. A PA has gone through a post-graduate (post-bachelors) program for physician's assisting. They do work under a physician's supervision, but they can handle high level clinical work.

GarrAarghHrumph
01-25-2011, 06:28 PM
They also give injections, put on dressings, draw blood...


Depends on the state, and in some states, on what additional training/certifications they've received.

GarrAarghHrumph
01-25-2011, 06:34 PM
So basically it's a somewhat non-professional person that went through some one year program so they could get a job paying a little more than minimum wage...

No, this is a professional job that requires specific education and training. And in many states, they must become a CMA in order to work - certified medical assistant, which means their program meets certain requirements, is accredited in specific ways, and they've sat a national exam. I don't know if that's true for your state, though.

barbk
01-25-2011, 06:36 PM
So basically it's a somewhat non-professional person that went through some one year program so they could get a job paying a little more than minimum wage.

Why would I want this person to handle some areas of my, or more importantly my kids health?

Because they're just taking some simple measurements and recording data that would otherwise take the doctor -- often a primary care doctor -- several minutes to do. Primary care doctors already receive very, very low reimbursements for office visits, so they pretty much have to make very efficient use of their time or go broke.

I saw my internist for a physical in December. After her medical assistant took height, wt, blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and confirmed meds and supplements, my doctor then spent twenty-five minutes with me. She'll probably deal with at least three phone calls this year from me, and will write several prescriptions, and I'll probably talk to her nurse (her R.N.) several times as well. For all this work she got paid less than half of what my dermatologist's office got paid for a 5 minute skin cancer check and a quick (under five minute) biopsy of a suspicious spot (that turned out to be nothing at all), both of which were done by the dermatologist's P.A.

The system is seriously underpaying primary care doctors.

PDilemma
01-25-2011, 06:47 PM
Medical Assistants get paid more than a little over minimum wage. My cousin has been a CMA for ten years and makes around $14 an hour. Payscale.com reports a current average starting wage over $10 an hour. It is certainly not an unskilled or unprofessional job. Her training was over a year and included national certification exams.

dupa
01-25-2011, 07:19 PM
Taking blood pressure, drawing blood and giving injections is not rocket science but rather a matter of practice. But if you want your doctor to keep a very expensive registered nurse to perform these low skill tasks, are you willing to shoulder the price difference of your health care?

Yes. I'd rather have a nurse. It's unfortunate that's not the way it seems to be anymore.

Why not just install one of those machines like at Target for the blood pressure? The lab draws the blood and I can get my shot at Walmart. ;) (and I'm only half kidding)

IceAlisa
01-25-2011, 07:30 PM
Yes. I'd rather have a nurse. It's unfortunate that's not the way it seems to be anymore.
It's really like requesting a neurosurgeon to put a Band Aid on a boo boo. But if you want, you could find a posh private practice that's cash only and charges $500+ a visit. None of those riff raff MAs there. Le shrug.



Why not just install one of those machines like at Target for the blood pressure? The lab draws the blood and I can get my shot at Walmart. ;) (and I'm only half kidding)

As a matter of fact BPs are taken by machines these days, operated by nurses or MAs as the case may be. I don't understand the need for an overqualified individual to perform rather simple tasks. People take their own temps and BPs all the time. Drawing blood and giving injections are skills that are given more than enough time to learn and practice in a typical MA course.

It's not like the MA is determining the course of treatment, making clinical decisions or writing Rx.