What exactly is a "Medical Assistant"?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by dupa, Jan 25, 2011.

  1. dupa

    dupa Home Sweet Home

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    I guess I'd just like a health care provider to be a little more than just any ol' body. I find nurses to be more personal when it comes to patient care. But that's just me.
     
  2. bardtoob

    bardtoob Well-Known Member

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    This is like asking, "What is a foster child and where are all the orphanages?" :lol:

    Medical Assistants have been taking care of patients in ambulatory care settings (clinics) since the 1950s.
     
  3. dupa

    dupa Home Sweet Home

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    You sound like you're a MA. Are you? :lol:
     
  4. Prancer

    Prancer Jawwalking Staff Member

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    Again, did you have a bad experience with an MA?

    I think being personal is a matter of personality more than anything else. I've had friendly, personable MAs and brusque, grouchy nurses and vice versa.

    It doesn't take years of clinicals to learn how to take vitals and a medical history, which is pretty much what MAs do. I don't understand how a nurse would, by definition, do those things better. But then, I also don't understand why people feel the need to see a doctor instead of a PA or NP when they have a minor problem, or why they have to see a specialist instead of a family doctor for routine care. Yeah, sometimes you need someone with more knowledge and training. Most of the time, you really don't.
     
  5. altai_rose

    altai_rose Well-Known Member

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    Yup. My point is that the person who you want doing these things is the person who has the most experience doing them.

    dupa, let's take a look at some of America's future doctors--my classmates. Some of us go out and party a lot, get drunk a lot, cram for exams, etc. Others have an appalling grasp of basic anatomy or care more about the disease than about the patient and perhaps will only go into residency as a "back up plan" in case they can't get a faculty position in a basic science lab. Does that make you feel better? :p:hat1:
     
  6. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Épaulement!!!

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    And may be it's because you had a bad experience. There are bad apples in every profession.
    I find it puzzling that the cost of health care is not a concern. You must be very rich. Our health care system is tiered and that's one of the ways to contain cost while providing high quality care as well as being efficient. The profession of PA is currently being studied by other countries.
    And hey, don't forget surgeons. They are the OGMs of grouchy.
    :respec:
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2011
  7. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

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    Here, a Nurse Practitioner is pretty much a GP. The program is relatively new (had its first crop of graduates within the last ten years) and was established to say the health care system money. NPs make less than doctors- but certainly make a very decent salary - and do pretty much everything that GPs do, aside from prescribing narcotics. And I assume there are other limits to their practice. A NP can in specialized areas such as peri-natal care, but I don't think they can go into surgery.
     
  8. bardtoob

    bardtoob Well-Known Member

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    If I was, it would not bother me so long as I was working towards something more inline with my capacity, not unlike MDs that worked as EMTs, RNs that worked as MAs, X-Ray Techs that worked as receptionists. It takes all kinds to build a healthcare team.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2011
  9. dupa

    dupa Home Sweet Home

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    I very rarely go to the doctor and neither do my kids. Other than my OB where I either saw her or one of her midwives I've only just established a relationship with a "primary care provider" in the last three years. My kids see her now too as they have outgrown their pediatrician. Believe it or not we all go once a year for our yearly check up. Bar regular child care checkups at the pediatrician, one cold last month for my older daughter who had a really bad cough for a month and my younger daughter spraining her ankle three years ago that's it. We are very lucky that we are as healthy as we are.

    The pediatrician's office always had a nurse (several over the years) who was very nice. I'm a little surprised I guess at how things are at the new office and the MA was kind of a bitch. For someone who goes to the doctor all the time I suppose it's just another day at the office. So I'm thinking, where're all the nurses? They're always very nice. :lol:

    My daughter has "post viral bronchial spasms" which I suppose is the new term for 'we refuse to give you antibiotics unless you are dying of pneumonia and have a fever of 105.' ;)
     
  10. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Épaulement!!!

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    Well, you must have met a mean MA. I assure you there are plenty of nice ones out there. And plenty of not so nice nurses. And vice versa. And don't let me get started on doctors, especially some surgical professions.

    Yes, they do try not to give antibiotics unless they absolutely have to, to prevent the development of resistant strains.

    Here's another recent development in tiered medicine: nurse anesthetist. So if you are having a routine procedure that doesn't require an ICU stay, chances are you could have a highly trained nurse managing your anesthesia, under the supervision of an MD.

    Like altai_rose said, and I find this very important: it doesn't matter what the letters after the name are, rather the amount of practice/experience they've had.
     
  11. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

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    Why do you think all nurses are going to be nice because you experienced a nice nurse before? That was a person and he or she was nice and just so happened to be a nurse. You could run into another nice person who happens to be an MA as well.
     
  12. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    I was at the doctor a week ago. The MA who was actually not quite an MA yet--doing her internship--was very nice. She did my vitals and history and took blood. She did a great job--and I was asked how she did since she's training. There is a nurse (LPN) at my doctor's office, on the other hand, who is and always has been quite prickly. I assume these are personality traits of the people in question, not reflections of their training or qualifications.

    Meeting one MA and deciding they are all bad based on that person's demeanor seems very unfair.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2011
  13. emason

    emason Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, but any ol' body cannot do it. The MA at my doctor's office is fabulous; for instance, she is the only one who can draw blood from me who can find a decent vein in under ten minutes. I've been to clinics where the help dithers around for half an hour before anyone gets anywhere and I've been to the hospital where I ran through 3 doctors in 20 minutes before anybody could draw blood successfully. Elizabeth at the doctor's office nails it every time in about 60 seconds flat.
     
  14. Buzz

    Buzz Well-Known Member

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    Not too long ago you only needed as little as two years of training before calling yourself a nurse and one year before becoming a registered practical nurse. Now that has changed and nurses can study for four years or more now before becoming qualified nurse. An RPN (that what we call the job here in Canada) study for two years while support workers or healthcare aides study for about nine months, up from as little three months a few years ago. Nurses are also in high demand and smaller offices and towns have problems finding nurses to fill certain positions. Maybe that has changed now with the downturn but increasing training and scope of responsibility for healthcare aides helps to alleviate some of the problems caused by increasing health care costs and staff shortages. There are also nurses who are able to prescribe drugs. The job descriptions for each of the above positions have radically changed over the years and so must our perception of what people in those positions are capable of doing.
     
  15. 1lutz2klutz

    1lutz2klutz New Member

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    Nurse Practitioners have a master's degree in nursing and can work independently in clinics. They have a certain range of medications that they can prescribe including anti-biotics and some pain killers. You can often find Nurse Practitioners in places like Minute Clinics. My sister is an NP in Neurology and specializes in Parkinson's disease and movement disorders.

    A Physician's Assistant also has a master's degree and can perform similar duties to an NP BUT a PA must always be working under the direction of the MD. An NP actually has more freedom to practice independently than a PA does.
     
  16. mkats

    mkats New Member

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    dupa, honestly, as an MA I'm kind of insulted that because you met one of us who's mean, apparently we seem to all make life difficult for you. Generalizing much?

    No, I'm not an nurse, but I did undergo a good deal of training to get my MA certificate. I have a bachelor's degree in biology from Duke, spent countless hours volunteering in a hospital, and am in the process of applying to graduate school. I have given hundreds of shots and had a grand total of zero complications. Last week I gave a PPD to a lady who said it was the least painful one she'd had in 30 years. With the exception of once, I have never had to go beyond one stick to get blood. Every single day, every single patient, I make sure I give the best possible care.

    I know my patients by name and their histories and what sports teams they support. I make sure to welcome new patients and tell people happy birthday if they're unlucky enough to be here on their birthdays. When patients call, they ask for me by name because I do a damn good job and they know it.

    So yeah, I guess I'm just some ol'body out there. And I can say with 100% honesty that the two MAs I work with give it just as much effort.

    Did it ever occur to you that maybe you just hit one bad egg?

    :rolleyes:
     
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  17. bardtoob

    bardtoob Well-Known Member

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    You are precisely the type of person to which I was referring, and there is a lot of opportunity to advance within healthcare beyond the simple tracks of either being a physician or a nurse.

    However, I will say there are very respectable people that will end their careers as MAs, and they will have found their careers to have been very satisfying. They, along with their Nursing Assistant counterparts in Acute Care and Skilled Nursing facilities and Home Health Aides, do a lot of the day to day care of patients as the profession of nursing moves towards care planning/prioritizing, interventions, and advanced clinical skills.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2011
  18. ArtisticFan

    ArtisticFan Well-Known Member

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    The technical college I work at has a very popular medical assisting program, as well as a certified nursing assistant program. The medical assisting program is much more stringent and there is a waiting list a mile long to get into the doors to even take the placement tests.

    There is often a discussion about the lack of nurses and other healthcare professionals, but there is also a lack of qualified and good healthcare teachers. A good nurse does not necessarily make a good teacher and vice versa.
     
  19. BaileyCatts

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member

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    Kinda of off topic .... so a Medical Assistant actually does more than work the front desk/office management then? I was thinking of applying for some medical assistant jobs because the descriptions all describe office management/desk work/administrative tasks, but not doing medical tasks (which I have no training for). I'm a secretary, so probably not a good idea to apply for "medical assistant" jobs then?
     
  20. Buzz

    Buzz Well-Known Member

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    You could work for a doctor or in a medical setting as medical secretary. I have seen jobs in the health care field that are purely clerical. There was a position in a hospital near me for a full time person to deal with the menu and patient meal orders etc. (I hope I remember that right. LOL ) But yeah if you want to be a medical assistant you will need additional training.
     
  21. mkats

    mkats New Member

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    BaileyCatts - I don't do any front desk work at all; we have 3 MAs and we all work purely in clinical. I think the main job of MAs is usually in the back but may include a little front work if the days are slow.
     
  22. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

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    IIRC you are a PA? right? As an RN, I find your digs at a "highly paid expensive RN" rather :huh:. There are things that an "expensive nurse" can do that a CMA doesn't. My physician's office employs: PA, RN, LPN, CMA. In my state physicians often look down the noses at APRNs because of the medical vs. nursing models of practice.

    The CMA does a good job of vital signs and blood draws. But she does not have the nursing background to recognize drug interactions, know the right questions to ask about dosages . The RN does the ECGs, blood draws from PICC, infuses drugs via the PICC, etc. The PA sees patients with routine illnesses, the physician does all the major illness management, complicated illnesses. The RN also gets reports from the hospitalist, schedules any diagnoistic studies, etc. The RN calls with normal and abnormal lab reports and what the dr. wants to do. The RN will call prescriptions into the pharmacy per physician orders. The medical secretary does scheduling, reminder calls, directs phone calls to the appropriate care provider, etc.
     
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  23. dupa

    dupa Home Sweet Home

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    Who's generalizing?



    Yes it did, which is why I asked the question in the first place. Defensive much?
     
  24. indicatoto101

    indicatoto101 New Member

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    I've been to appointments at various clinics and didn't care if I was serviced by an MA or nurse. In fact, I couldn't even tell the difference. From my point of view, I don't care how much education someone has in doing vitals and taking medical hx since more direct experience will offset knowledge. Really, why pay more for the same service?
     
  25. bardtoob

    bardtoob Well-Known Member

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    There is no dig. Keep in mind that IceAlisa lives in an area where RNs receive, due to high demand and low supply, some of the highest pay anywhere in the US and about double to triple the pay of an MA in that area, and, based on your quote of her post, she is facetiously saying that Dupa thinks only a Nurse Practitioner (NP) is qualified to take vital signs in a clinic, which is silly since nobody needs to have a Master's Degree and years of ICU, ER, or OR experience to take a blood pressure in a clinic. In fact, it is a waste of resources that are in low supply.

    And, of course, Cardiac Monitoring in a clinical setting, IV Meds, PICC Line access, etc. are things an RN should be handling, not only because those are so complex and/or invasive, but because any patient that needs those things is or has been very ill and, therefore, has a complex clinical history that needs consideration.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2011
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  26. genegri

    genegri Active Member

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    Aha, so that is what we met in Minute Clinic in Miami. I wondered about her! My dad had a sore throat while we were on vacation and we went to a Minute Clinic and this young girl saw him. I thought she was too young to be a doctor but didn't like to ask.

    After reading this thread, I bet she was an NP. Well, that particular girl was completely useless. But overall I can see the benefit of having an NP instead of a doctor when it comes to minor illness like a cold or a small infection.
     
  27. mkats

    mkats New Member

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    Uh, you?

    But by all means, if your poor little median cubital is too :drama: at the thought of being pricked by an MA, then by all means, let the MD know... just don't be surprised when he sends you right back to me. Or tells you to find a new doctor, which is probably what he'd do. ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2011
  28. Kelli

    Kelli Member

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    To add to this, NPs are licensed and regulated by the state Board of Nursing, so their scope of care is determined on a state-by-state basis. In New Hampshire, an NP can function fully independently, while other states require collaborating physicians. PAs always practice under a physician. As a huge generalization, NPs tend to focus more on primary care while PAs work in procedure based specialties like surgery or orthopedics. But that's also pretty dependent on location. In my area, there are more NPs than PAs. Most jobs are advertised as an NP job but say in the description a PA is acceptable as well. That's mostly due to the fact that we have a number of NP programs in the area and few or no PA programs.
     
  29. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

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    According to this site, CMA average salaries, LPN in a clinic setting, RN in an Outpatient Clinic setting, nurse practitioner (APRN) - depends on speciality, PA salaries,

    The RN and LPN salaries reflect a wide range of what a Outpatient Clinic Nurse is defined as including a speciality clinic where the RN is the lead manager of several nursing employees. The CMA typically works in a physician's office and is managed by the physician. The nurses in an office setting that I know, earn less than that average because they trade salary for benefits of no weekends, no nights, no on-call status, weather days off, usually do not have health insurance benefits, etc.
     
  30. bardtoob

    bardtoob Well-Known Member

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    ^ Yeah, then IceAlisa was coming from a totally different perspective. These salary ranges are not at all applicable in her area. The cost of housing requires that the median salary be significantly higher than the national average.

    ETA: I just typed in my own zip code, and every one of these jobs has a salary range that is above the 90th percentile nationally.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2011