What Does a Clinical Medical Assistant Do?
The role of a clinical medical assistant is to directly assist physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals in providing patient care, with the focus being on performing clinical duties rather than clerical tasks. Unlike an administrative medical assistant, whose duties are mainly involved with ensuring the smooth running of the front desk or reception of a doctor’s office, clinical medical assistants work closely with physicians to carry out jobs directly connected to caring for patients.
As a clinical medical assistant you will be required to assist healthcare professionals in patient assessment, examination, diagnosis and treatment, working closely with patients who are sick or injured. You need to be compassionate, but at the same time have the ability to keep a professional distance. Patients may be experiencing a whole range of emotions such as anxiety, anger or helplessness and you will need to be sympathetic and understanding of their needs.
Skills and Qualities Required
Being a good listener is an essential attribute of a clinical medical assistant, especially when multitasking. You will need to be very organized and efficient, as you will be required to deal with a lot of information and a number of patients at once. In addition, you must be able to think quickly, pay attention to detail and work calmly under pressure.
You will need to prioritize your responsibilities. For example, dealing with patients in person should take priority over working on pending tasks such as phoning patients with results and ordering prescriptions. As a clinical medical assistant you can save time when assisting doctors or nurses with clinical procedures by anticipating when a procedure needs to be performed and getting equipment ready in advance, although supplies should not be opened until instructed. You will need to keep patient rooms clean and organized in preparation for the next patient. By setting each room up in the same way you make it easier and quicker to find items and complete tasks.
In order to work as a clinical medical assistant you will need to complete training courses in medical terminology and procedures, so that you can interpret patients’ records. During your medical assistant degree or diploma program, you will learn how to use specialized clinical equipment such as EEG and EFG machines and lab equipment.
The day to day duties of a clinical medical assistant will of course depend on the specific job description, as well as the type and size of the healthcare facility. However, typical daily tasks may include:
- Preparing treatment and examination rooms for patients
- Getting patients ready for examinations, treatments and procedures
- Assisting with examinations and routine procedures, including minor surgery
- Taking blood samples and specimens, dressing wounds and recording vital signs
- Performing routine lab tests
- Aseptic technique and infection control
- Sterilization of equipment
- Administering medications
- Performing some administrative duties, for example arranging lab work and prescriptions or filing patient records
The average pay for a certified clinical medical assistant is $13.62 per hour, with an average salary of around $29,000 per year. Like most professions, pay is very much influenced by the level of experience and the skills that an individual has. Entry level clinical medical assistants will typically earn 7% less than the national average whilst those with 10-20 years experience will typically earn 12% more than the average. For those individuals who have made this their life time vocation and have more than 20 years experience, salary expectations can be as high as 19% above the average.
Skills Impacting Pay
The most important skill that positively impacts a clinical medical assistant’s pay is wound care. On average those who have experience in wound care will earn 10% higher than the national average. In addition to this, those with experience in cardiology and orthopedics saw a 9% and 7% higher than average salary respectively. The table below show which skills lead to higher wages for certified clinical medical assistants.
Completing your training on an accredited degree or diploma program is important, especially if you want to become certified after graduation. Only graduates of accredited medical assistant programs are eligible to take the certification exams offered by professional organizations. You should check that your chosen program is accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). This shows that the standard of education meets or exceeds set thresholds in certain areas. Although the is no legal requirement for clinical medical assistants to become certified, the demand for those with at least one credential is increasing and employers are increasingly hiring credentialed job applicants in preference to those without. Therefore it is sensible to train on an accredited program that will give you the option of taking a certification exam should you wish to.
General medical assistant certification opportunities are offered by professional associations such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), which awards the credential of Certified Medical Assistant, CMA (AAMA) and the American Medical Technologists organization (AMT), which offers the title of Registered Medical Assistant, RMA (AMT).
The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) runs exams at sites throughout the country for graduates to obtain the credential of Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, CCMA (NHA). This qualification is valid for 2 years and medical assistants must recertify by retaking the exam or completing 10 continuing education units (CEUs).
Clinical medical assistants who are certified are more likely to earn a higher hourly wage or average annual salary and find it easier to advance in their careers than those with just a diploma or degree. For more information on certification please read our guide on how to become a certified medical assistant.
As mentioned previously, a key consideration when choosing a training program is to make sure it is CAAHEP or ABHES accredited so that you will be allowed to sit a certification exam after successfully completing your education. If you are sure you want a career where you specialize in the clinical aspect of medical assisting, then you could enroll on a specific clinical medical assisting program. However, many people complete their diploma or degree on a general medical assisting program and then choose to specialize in the clinical field once they have some employment experience.
The top performing schools and colleges offer externships as part of the curriculum. An externship at a real world medicine practice, such as a physician’s office, clinic or hospital, can give you valuable practical experience and insight into the medical assisting field. Some educational institutions have close relationships with their externship providers, who often end up hiring students once they graduate. The job placement rate is something to consider when selecting your training program.
It is also worth looking at what support a school offers to prepare students to take certification exams at the end of their final semester, such as study classes and practice tests, as well as the help available to find a job, such as classes in interview technique and resume writing. A good training program will equip you with the knowledge, skills and competencies needed to be a professional medical assistant and offer support in finding your first entry level job.