Saturday, October 13, 2012

Techniques To Implement A Well-Managed Medical Office

Courteous Actions and Words

An inviting gesture and pleasant personality goes a long way in the medical office. The medical assistant can create a friendly atmosphere and feelings of comfort and trust by being intentionally inviting to patients who come and go to their appointment. These medical assistants are generally well liked and their positive approach further influences the impression and level of satisfaction patients experience. Good words to use are:
  • “Good morning.”
  • “Have a great day.”
  • “Please tell me about it.”
  • “What can I do for you?”
  • “Is there a problem?”
  • “May I help you with that?”
  • “Thank you.”
Everybody arriving at the medical office should be addressed in a courteous and friendly manner. The medical assistant, as the first point of contact of the well-managed practice sees to it that full focus lies on the doctor's success and the patient's needs. When they arrive for their appointment they provide full attention and personal involvement, clearly state expectations and give directions with relatively little wasted time, confusion, or disruption, and remain focused, work-oriented but in a relaxed and pleasant climate. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Medical Assistant Job With No Experience

What doctors want and new medical assistants don't know... have you ever decided to skip a job ad and not apply because it specified 1–2 years job experience which you don't have (or may be you do, but you don't know it)? Here is why and how you should apply for these positions anyway.

We have been writing a lot about the medical assistant job application process, resume writing and how to word your cover letter. In essence, a cover letter speaks of the reasons why you should be considered for an available position and why you feel you are the perfect match.

In the past, we have also discussed the so-called catch-22 situation when new medical assistant school graduates without job experience wish to apply for advertised jobs, but do not have the expected years of experience. While there hardly ever are any clear cut answers that work one-hundred percent all the time, we have made several suggestions that should prove helpful and at least, get the attention your application deserves.

We want inexperienced medical assistants to realize that there ARE opportunities for them out there, and persistence pays off. Don't let your peers discourage you, and don't let the words 1–2 years experience deter you from your ambitions.

Valued Attributes and Related Job Experience From Other Jobs

In today's fast paced job market ANY employer says in their ads that they want experience, which to some extend is true, but what you need to understand is that work related experience comes in many forms, and your successful completion of your externship and prior other job experience, or volunteer work, or even your engagement in extra curricular activities, such as, for example, being involved in a community garden project counts as valuable experience, however you have to be able to present it as such and make it count.

The following job announcement perfectly illustrates our point. It attests to the fact your cover letter is a very important part of the application, and experience comes in many forms:
On 2012-05-26 MedLion, a medical practice located in Ryan Ranch, Monterey posted a Medical Assistant position. In the ad they describe their company as a rapidly growing, modern medical office with a friendly, sophisticated atmosphere and genuinely caring and compassionate staff. The office is seeking a friendly, polite, hard-working individual for their open medical assisting position. Their perfect candidate, so they say, will be well-spoken, quick to smile, and enjoy being efficient. Formal training is a must and experience is a plus. Those with highly polished customer service skills and excellent references will be best suited for the position, they say. 
The job announcement closes with: Interested candidates must submit a cover letter explaining why they want to be considered for a position at MedLion.
So, lets see, are you someone who is
  • polite
  • hard working
  • genuinely caring
  • friendly
  • compassionate
  • efficient
  • and have customer service skills?
If so, then you are at least half way there, especially if you take the time to write a matching cover letter that expresses your sincere interest.

What Doctors Expect and New Medical Assistants Don't Know

Valuable personal traits and attributes, and prior related job experience that's important for this position count, even if it was "as-little-as" a  previous waitress job, sales associate position, Burger King cashier, or your involvement in a community volunteer project, or workshops, where leadership, effective communication, friendly disposition, active engagement, hard work and team spirit was the pinnacle of your success. By the way, many new medical assistants don't realize it, but customer services and friendly disposition can make or break a medical practice, more so than most other skills, and doctors know this.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ready For the Job But Not Enough Experience?


You have achieved your goal and successfully completed your medical assistant training program; but now that you are going through the job search and application process, you realize that most medical assistant positions offered require at least 1-2 years of experiece. Now what? How can you land a job to gain experience if no one wants to hire you?

You Might Not Think So, But YES - You Have Experience!

Remember, as a medical assistant student you did spend a considerable amount of time in the clinical lab practicing important patient care skills under the supervision of your MA instructor. Lexi, a successful Certified Medical Assistant told us:
"Did you do an externship? If you did an externship, put every bit down on your resume, and applications. Make it look awesome, e.g. I live in a very rural area and traveled an hour and a half each way to school! I used this on my resume when I first got out to show how motivated I was to future employers."
 For example:
  • Basic concepts of EKG, ESR, hematocrit
  • Urinalysis, stool samples, throat cultures
  • Drawing up exact amounts of medications from vials
  • Injections: intradermal, subcutaneous, deltoid, and Z-track
  • Basic wound care
  • Vision screening, Snellen eye chart
  • Venipuncture/Phlebotomy
  • Collecting and organizing data for research and patient care
  • Data entry and safe keeping of records
Prior experience in the healthcare field, such as a nurse's assistant, or home health aide is very helpful and should not be forgotten either, as well as other work experience that will now be applied in a medical office.
Or, as a medical assistant without experience, but other related experience, you can write your cover letter along these lines:

Dear Ms. Jones: I am responding to your ad in The Sun Herald for the Medical Assistant Position. Attached is a copy of my resume that outlines my qualifications and career experience. I have successfully completed a 2 year degree in Medical Assisting (Associate of Applied Sciences), and completed my externship in a busy multi-physician practice. I also have 2 years prior experience as a hotel receptionist where I applied and solidified my customer service and interpersonal communication skills required for your position. I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you to discuss my qualifications and how they could benefit your organization.

Determination Wins the Job

We recently came across a very creative way where a new medical assistant puts the word out that she is looking for work on Craigs List. This medical assistant school graduate showed that she is determined, confident, energized and eager to get to work. Her ad also showed, very discretely, that she is looking for work to gain experience and is willing to start low, at the front desk, or as a receptionist, which not every medical assistant is willing to do. Great move.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Medical Assistant Training Options: Diploma or Degree?


When it comes to vocational training and education, aspiring medical assistants have options. To achieve individual educational goals and career path choices, they must ultimately decide whether they want to enroll in a post-secondary vocational training program to earn a medical assisting diploma, or enter into a college program to earn a Medical Assistant Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree, however, what is the difference?

Medical Assistant Diploma or Degree?

In a nutshell, a medical assistant diploma requires much less time from start to finish, costs less, and will lead to recognized credentials that enable the individual to enter the job market as a qualified medical assistant. The medical assisting AAS degree takes at least twice as long, approximately 2 years and unlike a diploma, the breadth of education and college credits earned can be used toward a higher college degree, or other salaried professional careers in the health care industry.

OCCC's Medical Assistant Degree Program as an Example

Let's use Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) and their medical assistant program as an example for many community colleges in other cities coast-to-coast. In this example, to earn their Medical Assistant AAS degree the student must earn a minimum of 65 credit hours.

Their major courses encompass essential medical assistant knowledge and skills, such as medical assistant applications, medical law and ethics, clinical and administrative medical office procedures, medical office laboratory procedures, pharmacology for medical assistants, as well as an externship, add up to 36 credits. The student must still pick up additional credit hours through other courses (minor) in general education, life skills, and support courses, such as medical terminology, human anatomy, and even English composition and math.

Anyone interested what the OCCC's medical assistant A..S. Degree entails can review their catalog online. It really (truly!) stands for most other similar medical assistant degree programs. Ultimately, every future medical assistant student has to decide on their own whether a diploma, or a degree is best for them, which in turn depends on their individual short and long term career goals, available time, and budget.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Continued Warnings About Bad Medical Assistant Schools and Diploma Mills


We have criticized, reported and warned about misleading advertisements and fake schools targeting potential medical assistant students seeking online courses on our website for years. Now, Donald Balasa of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) legal department is also raising awareness among prospective medical assistant students with a public note of caution.

Mr. Balasa points out that several AAMA members have informed him of misleading advertising fliers from St. Augustine School of Medical Assistants, a self-study online program. the following language is used in their advertising: "Medical Assistant Program Online. Medical Assistant Home Study Program. Nationally Accredited and Certified Program. 24/7 Convenient Online Classes. St. Augustine School of Medical Assistants now offers a Nationally Accredited and Certified Medical Assistant Program completely online. Yes, Complete This Program in as little as 6-8 weeks." You can read their article titled Misleading Advertisements on their Eye On The Law blog.

Similar warnings about such schools that may not deliver what you expect, including St. Augustine School of Medical Assistants have been on our own websites and medical assistant blogs since 2005. We also filed a rip off report against St. Augustine School of Medical Assistants on the Rip Off Report website for taking content from our Medical Assistant Net website without our permission and publishing it on their own site.
Mr. Balasa states that approximately three years ago the AAMA also reported St. Augustine School of Medical Assistants to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and promises that they will continue to report medical assisting diploma mills to the appropriate governmental authorities.

St. Augustine School of Medical Assistants also has also received several negative ratings with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) from students who feel they were misled, or that they did not receive what they paid for. When it comes to vocational training, especially online, awareness is the key to successes! If an online post-secondary training program, non-traditional university, or so-called virtual college attended is not legit students may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Monday, May 07, 2012

What Is A Medical Assistant Allowed To Do?


Medical assistants are unlicensed employees in the healthcare system, and local and state laws require that a supervising physician, surgeon, or podiatrist must be present whenever clinical tasks, especially direct patient care procedures, are performed.

Employers, often doctors, who are willing to train their medical assistant directly on the job usually expect at least some prior related work experience in a professional office setting, but what if the medical assistant will be working on the clinical floors administering direct patient care as part of the daily routine?

We know that often there is confusion, because we receive many emails and forum post with questions about specific clinical duties. These questions almost always revolve  around whether a medical assistant is allowed to do a certain tasks, such as:
  1. phlebotomy
  2. X-rays
  3. Holter Monitor and ECG/EKG
  4. physical therapy
  5. start IV lines
  6. transcutaneous nerve stimulation
  7. hot and cold pack treatments
  8. nebulizer treatments
Despite of the continued absence of specific legislation and licensure requirement for medical assistants in many US states we caution each and everyone that authorized clinical procedures for medical assistants can change from state to state, and that there is NO universal answer.

There still are certain laws that regulate the medical assistant's duties, and spell out what a medical assistant can and cannot do, especially in a clinical setting, for example, some US states mandate limited licenses, or recognized certifications in certain medical technical procedures, such as phlebotomy, IV therapy, and exposing patients to x-rays, or certain therapeutic modalities.

This in turn, also strongly influences what should, and can be taught. If you are planning to pursue a medical assistant career, or are in charge of training a new medical assistant, but are unsure whether there are certain limits, or restrictions, the best source of information regarding the medical assistant's scope of practice is your state's Medical Board/Board of Medical Examiners, State Nursing Board, Department of Health, and professional membership organizations for medical assistants, such as the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), or American Medical Technologists (AMT) legal department.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Searching the Internet for "Medical Assistant" - Is Google Search Still Relevant?


When I enter the search term medical assistant into any search engine query box, I essentially mean "what is a medical assistant", not medical assistant jobs, medical assistant training, or one page that gives me a general blah-blah-blah rewritten from the authority sites to get users to click on their over-optimized ads.

At this moment, the 1st page results for "medical assistant" is not good and I am sad to see Google has strongly affected the rankings of, which used to be the top ranking, most active site for aspiring and seasoned medical assistants on the Web. We don't sell anything...we only provide pertinent, expert written information users seek and use.

Over the years we, here at, the leading website for medical assistants have received many UNSOLICITED emails from happy users, who spontaneously send us comments of appreciation, such as this one from 05.01.2012:

"I just wanted to tell you I found your site. Medical Assistant NET provides clear information that I find helpful."

Christi S....., RN
Nursing Department Manager
Gr.... Pa.... Clinic, LLP
495 SW Ramsey Ave.
Grants Pass, OR 97527

Users who type medical assistant are usually looking for a definition. After the so called Panda and the latest Penguin algorithm changes at Google, their search results are a real mess, and I mean truly. For example, when I search for a simple query, such as "medical assistant", I do not mean medical assistant job, medical assistant school, medical assistant training, or a one page blah-blah page to rank the site. Unfortunately, looking at Google, many authority sites that define the search term and offer original informational content for the said key word are virtually gone, even the Bureau of Labor (BLS) page for “medical assistant”, and that is sad.

I have already changed my default search engine to BING as its results are much better. I also like DuckDuckGo. Google’s layout is way too messy for me – cluttered up by dozens of ads top and right, shopping results, images, then predictably all the big name stores, plus eBay and Wiki… Come to think of it, it’s not just the layout, the results are a mess and do not feature sites that deliver usable content for the user.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Student Medical Assistant Saves Lives At the Scene of a Serious Accident

Author: Danni R., Owner/Founder
Amanda Cesare, who had recently completed her Emergency Situation CPR for Adults & Children certification as part of her medical assistant training, played an instrumental role as first responder at a serious highway car accident scene in Connecticut. Thanks to her medical and emergency training, Amanda was able to quickly assess the situation while the police, ambulance and EMS services were still en route to the accident scene. She knew that moving an injured person could make an already critical situation far worse.

"I climbed into the badly mangled car and I put a flashlight on the man's face," she said, adding that she noticed immediately that the man was seriously injured. "And I saw that his chest was rising up and down." The next day, while back at Brandford Hall vocational training institute where she is receiving her medical assistant training, she shared the previous night's events with her classmates and instructors. "They were all saying; oh, now you're a hero," Amanda said with a laugh.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Preparing for Your Medical Assistant Final Exams and Certifications

Author: Danni R.

The objective of a medical assistant training program is to provide comprehensive training to the medical assistant student body so that they can perform job related duties in medical offices and ambulatory clinics where health and medical services are provided.

Evaluation in traditional courses typically involves administering knowledge-based tests, quizzes, and exams. The final examination for medical assistants typically consists of a written and practical (hands-on) test given to students at the end of the course to assess each student's knowledge of subjects taught throughout the program.

Medical assistant students take shorter exams at the end of each academic term, and the "big one" at the end of the very last semester of the program. Passing these finals is a prerequisite for earning the desired degree, or diploma and determines the student's final course grades. The exam covers just about any  and everything that was taught in class, therefore, the student's own notes, homework assignments and quizzes become one of the most important and valuable test preparation tools. Medical assistant instructors usually provide study guides outlining job-related skills and theoretical knowledge that will be covered, and often hold a mock examination to simulate the real exam and hold a final review of the topics covered.

- Don't Sweat Your Final Exams

Most medical assistant students are nervous, some even experience a degree of anxiety and concern about the upcoming finals. One way to cope with this is being well prepared, informed and confident in your knowledge and skills.

Being ready and prepared for your medical assistant final exam, however, does not start the very last moment by cramming your notes and textbooks, but rather, it begins from day one by applying yourself, regular attendance and participation in class, reaching out to fellow students and instructors and lending a helping hand wherever possible in the clinical lab, being proactive when it comes to special projects, asking questions, partaking in class field trips and volunteer events, such as holding a blood pressure clinic in a nursing home, or setting up an information booth at the mall.

Satisfactory completion of training is based on achievement of all specified competencies. If medical assisting classes are held 5 times a week, and you have been missing half of the time, you have good reason to be worried. Also, if you have not done your homework assignments, or skipped important quizzes, you will again, likely be in trouble when it comes to taking your final exams and passing because you probably lack the competency and skills performed to a specific standard under specific conditions.

- Consider Sitting for the Certification Exam

Graduates of a qualified (and recognized) medical assistant training program, who wish to earn certified medical assistant credentials, are usually eligible to sit for a separate certification exam to become a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), sponsored by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA), sponsored by the American Medical Technologist Association (AMT), or a National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA), sponsored by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). There are separate fees for these exams, which sometimes are, or aren't covered in the cost of the program.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Choosing the Right Career after High School

Danni R.
Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC

There are many young Americans today just graduating from High School that are looking to go right into the job market, or start new career within two years of graduating.

Let’s face it,  with today’s economy still down, unemployment remaining  high, high college tuition and college loan interest payments and immediate employment for college graduates not what it used to be, both parents and young adults are seriously considering skipping the four year college for now. An increasing amount of parents are encouraging their kids to consider post-secondary schools, vocational training, and private or public two year schools which cost considerably less than an academic degree and lead to a meaningful career in less time.

The good news is that there are many opportunities available for bright young adults who are willing to learn and apply themselves. A few opportunities available are:
  • Firefighter
  • Automotive Service Technician
  • Accounting Clerk
  • Carpenter
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Electrician
  • Police and Law Enforcement
  • Web Design and Desktop Publishing
  • Fitness Trainer and more.

All of these are great careers, however the career field that offers the most opportunity for employment and for advancement is of the healthcare industry.

In particularly the career with the most promise is that of Medical Assisting. A medical assistant performs administrative and clinical tasks in doctor’s offices, ambulatory clinics connected to regional hospitals, emergency and walk-in clinics, and sometimes pharmacies. Some medical assistants can be trained right on the job, but most are opting to complete a one or two year formal training program.  Depending on the state you live in, a medical assistant can earn as much as $30,136 a year, or even more.

Another great aspect of becoming a medical assistant is that it offers opportunity for advancement into other healthcare fields like: 

Medical Laboratory Technicians or Medical Technologists; performs laboratory work to identify, diagnose, and treat diseases. They use laboratory equipment, computers to perform laboratory procedures. They may collect blood and prepare culture specimens and can earn as much as $40,000. 

Medical Library Technicians; collects and organize medical information and help practitioners find the information they need for patient care, education, research, and administration.  Most of the information is now stored in electronic databases and information systems. They can earn from $25,000 to $35, 000 per year or up to $55,000 for Librarians. 

Medical Records Specialist; obtains, post, and analyze medical, workload, finance, and insurance data.  They ensure that this information is properly recorded into medical records so practitioners can plan and evaluate health care provided to patients. They can earn $25,000 to $33,000 (Medical Records Administrator can earn as much as $40,000). 

The list of job opportunities for a medical assistant to advance in other fields goes on and on, such as Ultra-Sound Technician, Nuclear Medicine Tech, Patient Representative, Radiation Therapy Technologist, or Medical Appliance Technician, who helps patients learn to use medical devices prescribed by podiatrists or prosthetists, etc to name just a few. We could go on to list at least another 30 different job opportunities in related fields, but the main point we are driving home here is that becoming a medical assistant, especially in a large group practice, or HMO can actually put a young person in the right place at the right time for advancement; where opportunity is always knocking.

More at Medical Assistant NET website.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Medical BackBone Radio Interview: Joey Truscelli - Life Gift Cards

Medical Assistants: The Backbone Of A Medical Office


Danni R., Owner/Founder

Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC

Backing The Medical Office Team

Most medical offices consist of a team of allied health and medical professionals, non-licensed assisting staff and skilled workers. The team may consist of doctors, licensed clinicians, senior care specialists, nurses, physician assistants, lab technicians, phlebotomists, CT Scan technologist, ultra-sound tech, etc… often all under one roof in a lager group practice, HMO, or comprehensive medical care establishment. All are very important members of a medical team, but the medical assistant can only be considered the backbone of the entire team.  All of the professionals mentioned above rely heavily on the medical assistant in order to do their jobs more efficiently.  Some may consider MA’s as the cornerstone, or foundation of the office.  The entire process of receiving medical care starts with the medical assistant (MA).

Important Contributions of the Medical Assistant (MA)

The first step is taking or scheduling the appointment. This task is usually handled by the MA.  They don’t just pencil in a time on the doctor’s schedule, a lot of this is done via computer entry and data processing systems. A medical assistant collects vital information and patient demographics, including healthcare and medical insurance, the patient's reason for the visit, or complaint of injury, quickly assesses if the illness, or injury should be immediately addressed by the doctor or nurse, or should be escalated to emergency services requiring a 9-1-1 call.

First In Line at the Point-Of-Service Front and Back

Once the patient enters into the medical center, the first one at the Point-of-Service is the medical assistant, also know as the medical office receptionist. After the patient has been registered at the front desk, he or she is taken in by a medical assistant from the back, to read and record vital signs,  and then escort the patient to the doctor’s office, or care specialist, each of which are briefly interviewed by the MA prior to seeing the patient.

Heroes Are Defined by the Role They Play – Not By Medals

The duties of an MA are extensive and he or she must be able to be swift and multitask. Some of these task include but not limited to; sorting mail, filing, updating patient charts, electronic medical data records (EMR), handling doctor and medical specialist referrals, disposal of bio-hazards, replacing and emptying prescription pads, etc…, because of the hard work of the  MA, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals have more time to evaluate and treat more patients, more efficient and effectively.

So MA’s be proud to know, like the backbone in your body, or the linebacker of the football team, it is you who holds up the medical center, or office.  You most likely won’t get a commendation medal, raise, promotion, or not even a pat on the back, but what does in matter? Pride is a personal experience anyway, so STAND TALL. It often is the unsung hero that makes a world of a difference to people, and you are one of them.

More at Medical Assistant NET website.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Can Medical Assistants Be Sued?

Laws that Govern Medical Assistants

Many working medical assistants are under the impression that when there are no specific laws and organizations that govern them then there are no liabilities. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is NOT TRUE that Medical Assistants cannot be sued and held legally responsible for their actions!

The Tex Med Website has put it so well where they state: the term “medical assistant” has no real legal significance. Medical assistants (MAs) are not licensed, certified, or registered by any agency of the State of Texas, nor are they recognized under federal Medicare or Medicaid laws as a species of “provider.” There is no reference to medical assistants in the Medical Practice Act, or any other Texas Statute, thus, there is no specific legal regulation of medical assistants in Texas.

The same applies to many other US States, however, it doesn't mean total absence of laws and regulations for medical assistants. Fact is...

Medical Assistants Can, Have and Will Be Sued If They Cause Harm

It cannot be said often enough: although medical assistants are dependent hires working under the employ and direct supervision of the physician, or supervised by a licensed practitioner, or clinician, it does not exonerate them from direct liability, nor protect them from being sued, should anything that causes injury or losses happen to a patient--and not only injury, but any medical assistant who inadvertently oversteps their bounds and scope of practice, e.g. writes and signs a prescription, instead of the doctor, or carries out a full range of physical therapy modalities, which will constitute practicing medicine without a license, to name just one of many possible scenarios, exposes her/himself to a civil fine of at least $10,000 per violation and almost always other severe charges, penalties and consequences.

Many medical assistants falsely believe that if there are no specific laws that regulate the medical assistant profession where they work then there are no laws to be followed.

Most state laws don't specify exactly which duties medical assistants can perform, but anything they do that goes above and beyond basic low level tasks which can be delegated, such as taking patient vital signs, can be questioned in court, should a lawsuit ensue. If a medical assistant makes an error, typically the lawsuit will be filed against the doctor under whom the medical assistant works, however, the medical assistant can also be named in the suit. Listen in as Gerry Oginski, an experienced medical malpractice, wrongful death and personal injury lawyer in and around the New York City vicinity explains.
What does this mean for medical assistants?

It means to always be sure to practice only skills that you have been taught and are clearly within your discipline's scope of practice. Never act on your own without a doctor physically present in the office when providing any type of direct patient health and medical care procedures. Don't independently give any kind of medical advice, don't ever share confidential patient information with other parties unless a valid need to know exists and never venture into territory that can be viewed as "practicing medicine without a license".

More at Medical Assistant NET website.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Become A Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA)


Exciting Opportunities in Medical Laboratory Assisting

A Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) is another fast growing and in demand career among allied health and medical professions.  Medical laboratory assistants are in demand in hospitals, major medical centers and specialized healthcare offices. Often, people who advance into this very interesting field already have a strong background in medical assisting, or phlebotomy.

MLAs are responsible for assisting phlebotomy technologists and lab technicians in collecting biological samples, operating technical equipment, data input, sterilizing equipment and tools, and maintaining laboratory cleanliness. The exciting thing about assisting in a medical laboratory is that you get involved in a wide variety of different medical laboratory sciences, including bacteriology, virology, parasitology, immunology, and mycology and automated processes with potential advancement to Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT), or with additional education to department supervisor, laboratory manager, or even laboratory medical director.

Medical Laboratory Requirements

The requirement for most hospitals for MLAs is an associate's degree in laboratory sciences, or an equivalent certificate. The major focus of the curriculum typically lies on chemistry, math, and biology. In addition to on-campus classroom instruction there also are many online courses available for Medical Lab Assistant, however, employers are looking for those who have hands on lab training or experience. Many community colleges and secondary schools offer laboratory training.

Medical Laboratory Assistant Pay

The pay for a MLA is usually between $15 and $21 per hour.  Of course the pay will vary from state to state and depending on the population and healthcare demand in your area. There are many units, specialties, and sub-specialties in a medical laboratory, ranging from:
  • microbiology, which receives almost any clinical specimen, including swabs, feces, urine, blood, sputum, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, as well as possible infected tissue
  • toxicology, which mainly tests for pharmaceutical and recreational drugs
  • immunology, which uses the concept of antigen-antibody interaction as a diagnostic tool, genetics, which mainly performs DNA analysis
  • surgical pathology, which examines organs, limbs, tumors, fetuses, and other tissues biopsied in surgery such as breast mastectomys
  • hematology, and blood specialty labs where whole blood is analyzed for full blood counts, and blood films as well as many other specialized blood tests
These are just a handful of the many different departments and exciting fields in a medical laboratory. If you are  just graduating from high school, or looking for a career that can open doors to bigger and better places in the healthcare industry, then you might want to consider becoming a Medical Laboratory Assistant.

More at Phlebotomy Pages website.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Medical Assistant Students Frustrated About Medical Coding Expectations


Can These Two CPT Codes Be Billed Together?

Medical assistant students enrolled in medical assistant courses often have difficulties understanding the medical billing claim form and have problems understanding evaluation and management codes. We often hear from frustrated students; many wind up venting on one of our active forums.
A medical assistant student recently posted that her instructor wasn't very helpful while teaching the administrative medical assisting module; she felt the instructor apparently wasn't well versed in the medical billing and coding process herself and therefore was unable to explain the process in a manner that made it clear to the class. The students are frustrated and overwhelmed. Another one posted in the forum: I work for a cardiologist. We are trying to get clarification on the following...

Can these two codes be billed together if both of these services are performed?
  • CPT 93454 (Catheter place in coronary arterty(s) for coronary angiography, imaging supervision, and interpretation.)
  • CPT 93458 (with left heart catheterization including intraprocedural injection(s) for left ventriculogy, when performed.
Another question that is often raised in our medical assistant forum is why medical assistant students should have to learn medical coding and billing in the first place, and why it is such an extensive part of the medical assistant certification exams.
I have received emails from frustrated medical assistants who contacted me right after taking their certification exam, where they state that they were totally stumped on the many medical coding questions in the exam. They encountered questions that were multiple choice and asked about specific numeric codes, or modifiers for a given specific diagnosis, or procedure.
Now, ask any medical assistant to give you a specific code without any reference book/manual and he/she would be hard-pressed to give the right one, since there are so many, not to mention specific modifiers. There are codes for evaluation and management from 99201 - 99499, such as 99201 - 99215 for office and other outpatient services; codes for anesthesia from 00100 - 01999, such as 00100 - 00222 for the head; codes for surgery from 10021 - 69990, such as 10021 - 10022 for general, and 60000 - 60699 for the endocrine system, Category II CPT Code(s) – Performance Measurement (optional), Category III CPT Code(s) – Emerging Technology (Category III codes: 0016T - 0207T, to name just a few.
We also heard from a physical therapy instructor who teaches basic medical coding and billing as it pertains to PT because the majority of his students do their own billing and coding, who is equally frustrated at times, not knowing the exact codes and how to apply them.

Do Medical Assistants Really Need Medical Coding Skills?

I can see where medical assistants need to have an idea of medical practice financial management, such as banking deposits, accounting and bookkeeping, dishonored check processing, payroll - and even that is nowadays often outsourced. Nevertheless, in any profession you should get a picture of how the whole kit and caboodle functions to make it run.
I think, as far as medical assistant students are concerned, it is okay to briefly introduce them to the billing and collections process to give them a general understanding of how things work. The medical assisting instructor should also provide commonly used standard forms, such as laboratory requisition slips, which often already have CPT codes already printed on them, a Superbill, health insurance claim forms, medical history, and HCFA-1500 forms for the students to fill out, and practice. This way, they can better address patient questions and communicate with the medical billing and coding staff efficiently should certain issues arise.
However, as far as spending a great amount of time looking up CPT and  ICD-9 codes and drilling billing and coding procedures, and assigning specific codes from memory to procedures, diseases and injuries from memory in final exams, from my perspective as a former working medical assistant and medical assistant program instructor, it seems redundant.

More at Medical Billing and Coding NET website.

A Gentle Touch a Day Keeps White Coat Syndrome At Bay

A medical assistant should know how and be able to provide a personal and caring touch that helps a patient feel comfortable, or at ease. This does not have to always be a physical touch, but can be as little as a friendly gesture and positive attitude. Establishing a pleasant environment can be very important when measuring vital signs; for instance, did you know  that a person’s blood pressure reading will tend to be higher in a hospital, or medical center environment? Yes this is correct. With all of the hustle and bustle on the floors, phones ringing, conversations everywhere, white walls and the pre-mindset, or the hypochondriasis of medical office and hospital settings, these will definitely cause ones blood pressure to rise.

A medical assistant must have the pre-mindset that this hypochondriasis, or more commonly known as white coat syndrome anxiety exists in most patients to varying degrees. The vital signs are the doctor’s window to a persons body, condition, and mindset.  The blood pressure typically rises and falls with the effect of external stimuli, but  the healthcare provider is looking for a BP that is obviously to high, or too low.
The physician is also looking for consistency in blood pressure (BP) readings. The medical assistant can assist the doctor and the patient in getting a more accurate and consistent reading. This can be done by first starting a conversation with the patient; a little friendly talk. Make sure the patient realizes that you are listening.

Give the patient feedback when they tell you about how their day is going, share their health concerns, or describe the pain they are experiencing.  Give a smile or tell a joke if the moment calls for it.  We are not saying that you have to be a psychiatrist. You don’t need to try to solve people's personal problems.  Your objective, in your role as a medical assistant, is to get the patient to relax and get good vital sign readings. You will find that the elderly and young children would need a little more of your personal touch than others.  If you can get them to smile, it might just make their day a little brighter, and therefore yours, and the doctor's as well.

More at Medical Assistant NET website.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Working in the Healthcare Industry


Healthcare is the largest industry in the American economy and includes public and private hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, offices of physicians, dentists and other licensed practitioners, home healthcare services, outpatient care centers and other ambulatory healthcare services and medical and diagnostic laboratories. Occupations within a medical office and healthcare facilities are plenty and varied, and their rate of growth remains rapid and above average.
The list of jobs that are essential to the medical field and healthcare industry is long:
  • physicians
  • surgeons
  • dentists
  • dental hygienists
  • nurses (RN, LPN, LVN)
  • physician’s assistants
  • social workers
  • physical therapists
  • psychiatrists
  • psychologists
  • radiologists
  • audiologists
  • chiropractors
  • dieticians
  • nutritionists
  • pharmacists
  • optometrists
  • podiatrists
  • medical records
  • health information technicians
  • clinical laboratory technologists
  • diagnostic-related technicians
  • emergency medical technicians
  • paramedics
  • ambulance drivers
  • nursing aides
  • home health aides
  • orderlies and attendants
  • occupational therapists
  • speech-language pathologists
  • medical assistants
  • personal and home care aides
  • medical transcriptionists
  • custodial and food service workers
and those functioning in either management or administrative support roles for clinicians who provide direct services.
Many of these occupations, including nursing and medical assisting, often involve potential exposure to airborne and bloodborne infectious disease, needle stick and sharps injuries, back injuries, latex allergy, stress and other dangers. Some are at risk for occupational exposure to a variety of hazardous chemicals and situations that can be physically demanding and stressful; being aware of the potential hazards in the work environment makes them less vulnerable to injury. Past reports issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that musculoskeletal injuries were the most common type of non-fatal injury or illness for nursing, psychiatric and home health aides who represent nearly two-thirds of all healthcare support occupations.
Qualification Standards

To safely and efficiently perform work related duties the healthcare worker must be able to physically and mentally satisfy the requisite skills and be able to perform required job related duties with or without a reasonable accommodation. Essential functions which the healthcare worker must be able to perform are based on factors such as education and job-related work experience, the reason for the position, the number of other employees available to perform the same duties or among whom the function can be shared and the degree of expertise or skill required to perform the duties.

Many healthcare establishments operate around the clock and need staff at all hours. Shift work is common in some of the above mentioned occupations. It is not uncommon for healthcare workers hold more than one part-time job, of which each one comes with unique challenges and health hazards. Healthcare workers, especially nurses, clinical laboratory workers and medical assistants, face unique situations at work of which some may pose safety concerns. Medical office and healthcare facility workplace settings typically involve direct patient care with invasive procedures, exposure to body fluids, handling bio-hazardous materials in a fast-paced setting. Errors and oversights due to the demanding nature of duties may result in health or safety consequences.

Exclusion Due to Disability
If a job requirement excludes a healthcare worker, including a medical assistant working under the direct supervision of a doctor, from a position due to a disability, the requirement must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. Some requirements will obviously meet this standard, such as licenses required by state and/or local governments for doctors and other healthcare professionals. In other instances, however, an employer may need to consider whether the standard that is excluding an individual with a disability from employment accurately predicts the individual’s ability to perform the job’s essential functions.

Many states and localities have disability anti-discrimination laws and agencies responsible for enforcing those laws. EEOC refers to these agencies as “Fair Employment Practices Agencies" (FEPAs). Individuals may file a charge with either the EEOC or a FEPA. If a charge filed with a FEPA is also covered under the ADA, the FEPA will “dual file” the charge with the EEOC but usually will retain the charge for investigation. If an ADA charge filed with the EEOC is also covered by a state or local disability discrimination law, the EEOC will “dual file” the charge with the FEPA but usually will retain the charge for investigation.
Healthcare job applicants or employees who believe that their employment rights have been violated on the basis of disability by a private sector, state government, or local government can file a Charge of Discrimination proceeding with the EEOC. The charge must be filed by mail or in person with a local EEOC office within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Medical Assistant Responsibilities and Day-To-Day Operations


Front Desk Duties

Medical Office Management

Some medical assistants, especially those with combined skills and work experience in the front and back areas can eventually take on the role of the medical office's practice manager and administrator. Naturally, this role brings on a whole new set of duties and responsibilities in day-to-day operations, which may include, but not limited to accounting, marketing, strategic planning, interviewing, hiring, counseling, evaluating, training, scheduling, disciplining and firing staff. Another important aspect of becoming a medical office manager is being familiar with federal, state and local laws concerning the practice of medicine and human resource such as pay roll, sexual harassment, and legislation that addresses the scope of practice of medical office personnel, and guidelines including OSHA, ADA, EOE, FMLA, CLIA, COLA, JCAHO, FACTA, HIPAA, Stark I, II & III.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Medical Assistant Information Technology (IT)

Gone are the days of clip boards and medical charts carried by the medical assistant, or nurse. Today's medical assistants, especially certified medical assistants, are headed toward the future and need to be prepared and well trained in Information Technology ( IT) and computer applications. Many are carrying iPads, smart phones, tablet PCs, and other high tech mobile devices that are directly linked to a central database, or are designed to upload into a central unit.  

A tremendous amount of medical centers, hospitals, ambulatory health clinics, and doctor’s offices are looking for medical assistants trained in computer applications which includes proficiency in appointment scheduling, electronic medical record (EMR) management, medical terminology,  understanding and managing computer databases,  medical transcription, and bookkeeping etc… Some medical assistants may be required to perform medical  billing and coding, medical insurance claims processing, and utilizing CPT and ICD-9 diagnostic codes (soon upgraded to the new ICD-10 already used in Canada and many European countries). 

Judy Jondahl, director of accreditation for the American Association of Medical Assistant (AAMA) who certify thousands of medical assistants year after year, reported that associate degree programs in medical assisting are now putting a bigger focus on information technology skills and requiring IT competency as part of the their curriculum. Two year degree or Associates Certified Medical Assistants programs can provide most of the up to date computer applications training you need to compete in today's computer tech world.  Having these skill will not only help you to get hired, but it would also allow you to earn more than the average or less qualified non-certified medical assistants. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Medical Assistant Unsung Super Hero


Based on my own first-hand experiences as a former Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) I agree with the study mentioned in the recently published article on the CNN News website titled Why Physicians Lie, and find the statement that the doctor-patient relationship is a complex one to be accurate.

Difficult Situations In A Medical Office
Dealing with people who are sick, or have health concerns and feel out of control can be difficult and stressful. Certain medical and healthcare establishments are busier than others by nature, and some experience a higher stress level internally or among their patients depending on the medical specialty and sub-specialty focus area. A pediatric hematology and oncology department, or an OB/Gyn clinic, where the work load is heavy, the hours long, the liability high, and the outcome of a treatment plan not always easily predictable can quickly drive the stress level up on both sides. Certain seasons, like the cold and flu, or allergy season can leave both, the patient and the medical office staff flustered, hoping for better days, especially in a pediatric or internal medicine practice. This is where the doctor’s medical assistant can make a world of a difference. 
Medical Assistant: I've Got The Power!
Remember the old-school classic by Snap! "I've got the power"? This definitely is a song a medical assistant can sing a song about, however, often the medical assistant remains the unsung hero of the medical office.
Medical assistants are the first line representative and “point of service” of the modern medical practice and in an excellent position, often in a better one than the doctor, to recognize, alleviate and ease some of the daily stresses and frustrations through courteous interactions and excellent interpersonal communications skills; as a matter of fact, the medical assistant is often the ONLY person who can put patients at ease even BEFORE they are seen by the doctor in the examination room through mindful interaction and a gentle touch.

How the Medical Assistant Makes a Difference
Doctors generally agree that they depend quite heavily on their medical assisting staff member's 
knowledge and skills to make the day go over well and keep their practice on track.

As far as difficult situations, no one wants to be the bearer of bad news, and doctors are just as human as their patients. To tell a mother her child has a serious disease is never easy. This is where true empathy will make a world of a difference to the patient, and make the doctor’s job and day a little easier.

A friendly “hello, how are you” can go a long way, along with a gentle reminder discretely passed on to the doctor that he/she is on running on schedule, that a patient didn’t show and there is room for a brief break, or that h/she is starting to fall behind the schedule and need to speed up the pace a little to catch up. You can learn more about the

More at Medical Assistant NET website.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Medical Assistant Mobility Now and Beyond


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68.1 percent of 2010 high school graduates are enrolled in colleges or universities, which means that close to 32% of high school graduates will be entering the job market immediately, or seeking post high school education programs from vocational schools.

Considering the Current Job Market

The unemployment rate for recent high school graduates not enrolled in school was 33.4 percent, compared with 22.8 percent for recent graduates enrolled in college. In layman terms, approximately 1 million people ages 16 through 24 are all in a sudden, and all at once looking for careers, or direction that would lead them towards a happy and prosperous life style through a meaningful career. Now when you add in the number of people who are currently out of work and/or looking to make career changes, then the competition for a good job looks bleak, however, on the flip side, for those who are actively engaged and carefully plotting their career path the future is actually looking very bright, if they choose wisely.

Medical Assistant Career Path Opportunities

The one career path that still holds a lot of promise in the United States and around the world is in the field of healthcare, in particular, the career or job as a medical assistant. For most people, medical assistant is the one career, or job a person can start right out of high school in most states.  Some doctors and medical centers offer on the job training. But the best way to obtain the knowledge you need to be proficient in this craft is to attend some formal training; online or in a classroom.

Advantages of Becoming a Medical Assistant 

The first advantage a career in medical assisting has is take home medical assistant pay. When you consider someone basically coming right out of high school the medical assistant's wages are quite attractive for someone who is just starting out. The lowest 10 percent of people in this field, usually entry level, earn around $20,600 per year.  The highest 10 percent can earn as much as $40,000 per year. Those working in large regional medical centers and hospitals tend to earn even more than those working in physicians offices, outpatient care centers, or health practitioners.

The second advantage the medical assisting career offers is opportunity for mobility.  Medical assistant is the one career that gives you an overall view of the healthcare industry as a whole.  A medical assistant working in an hospital gets to observe and pickup additional skills outside his or her normal job duties.  For instance, the medical assistant takes a patient in, takes the vital signs, brings the patient to the doctor, assists and observes the doctor, refers them to a specialist, or medical technician, such as a phlebotomist, or x-ray technician, again observes and learns, reads the lab reports and other findings to the doctor, and handles many other clinical and administrative duties, such as medical billing, so essential to the health care deliver and medical system.

Medical Assisting As a Spring Board for Higher Goals

This experience provides the person with a foundation to use as a spring board to move on to the next level such as Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN) or a specialty medical technician, or technologist, e.g. in the laboratory, for which many hospitals and medical centers now offer free training or pays for the training on behalf of the employee. A person can literally move all the way from medical assistant to hospital administrator, nurse, or even doctor, if they take advantage of the educational offers so readily available in every state. In the end, the best advantage are the rewards you get from helping others in your community: Priceless.

Photo Credits: Class photo from Ana Rose, Deviant Art.

More at Medical Assistant NET website.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Medical Assistant With Prior Conviction Seeks Job

Phoenix posted the following in our medical assistant forum: 

Friend With Criminal Record Wants to Become a Medical Assistant

My friend lives in California and is considering becoming a MA. The problem is she has a criminal record. She wants to better her life now and start over. Will anyone hire her with such a background?


When potential employers of medical assistants, such as doctors and staffing recruiters review an application for employment and they see a gap of x amount of months, or years, a red flag comes up. I know medical assistants who were arrested and spent time in jail, changed their lives but have a hard time finding employment to earn a living wage and move on.

Finding a job for someone who has legal or criminal issues is difficult, even if it was just for a misdemeanor. Many companies today run background checks and employers use standardized application forms to screen people out. If an application form did not ask for the information, it is probably not relevant to the position, however, if it specifically asks: have you ever been convicted of a felony, then the answer should be yes, and you can list the offense. Unless the application asked specifically about convictions, it is okay to avoid bringing it up as a reason for leaving any prior employment. On the application, I would put "personal reasons."

How to Proceed On the Application and During the Face-To-Face Interview

Do not add on your application: I went to prison on the application form where it asks for the reason for leaving any prior employment, but rather, and if you must, put "personal reasons", or "will  discuss at interview" and then discuss it during the interview.
During the face-to-face interview do this:
  1. Bring it up early
  2. Be upfront
  3. Admit to making a mistake
  4. Say you have learned from this
  5. Keep it short
  6.  Move on 
It may take longer to get an interview then normal, but once you got it, be upfront. Your discussion with the interviewer should be honest and brief! Brief answers should go along the lines that you have made a mistake and paid for it, you have learned a valuable lesson, and would like a chance to prove to yourself and the community that you are a better person than that. That's it! Generalize rather that specify, and provide only what was requested.

"I would like an opportunity to speak to you about my past problems with the law privately." 

If the interviewer wants to know more, answer all questions politely, accurately, and without shame. Your reactions and demeanor will add to the over all impression that you fully understand the mistake you have made, intend to work hard, and not go back to your old ways. The interview is your chance to talk about your skills, discuss details of the job, and not to dwell on the ugly part of your past. Try to keep the conversation as general as possible and continue to remind the employer that it was in the past, you have made restitution, and moved on.

Everybody Deserves a Second Chance

Whenever someone is finger printed this record stays on file with the FBI for ever, even after an expungement, or when the charges were dropped the deferment will always be visible to law enforcement, the court system, and government agencies.

State and Community Funded Organizations that Can Help
Many states and communities in most states have so-called vocational rehab (VR), Work Force Development, and One-Stop Career Center services, some sponsored privately, others sponsored by the US Department of Labor to assist ex-offenders and felons seeking work. Also, there often are various community self-help agencies and workshops specifically targeted toward individuals coming out of jail and trying to make a new start. My recommendation is to explore these options in your own state.


  • Visalia Re-Entry Center (Turning Point, REAP Training Program) is a private company categorized under Employment Agencies and Opportunities that involves a wide network of employers who are willing to give felons a second chance. 
  • FEAP (Fresno Employment Assistance & Placement).  

  • Alaska's Department of Labor and Workforce Development has a Fidelity Bond which offers the employer as an incentive to hire a felon.  The bond protects the employer from losses up to $25,000.00 with approval from the bonding contractor. 

Finally, those seeking a medical assistant job or vocational training that leads to medical assitant diploma should contact the school, or the Department of Education to find out whether they will qualify for federal educational funding, and also contact the AAMA legal department to  find out if a former conviction will keep you from taking their medical assistant certification exam and working as a CMA.