What is a Medical Assistant Role in Healthcare?

Melissa Whetzel
Medical assistant

Medical assistants (MAs) embody a crucial component within healthcare organizations, directly influencing operational efficiency and patient care quality. Their role is foundational, blending clinical responsibilities with administrative tasks to ensure the smooth running of healthcare practices.

In this blog, we’ll outline what is a medical assistant role in healthcare and how they enhance the patient experience and contribute to the effectiveness and success of a healthcare organization.

Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant

According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), a medical assistant works alongside physicians, mainly in outpatient or ambulatory care facilities, such as medical offices and clinics. They are cross-trained to perform administrative and clinical duties including:

Clinical Duties

Administrative Duties

  • Take medical histories
  • Explain treatment procedures
  • Prepare patients for examinations
  • Assist physicians during exams
  • Perform basic laboratory tests
  • Prepare, administer medications
  • Transmit refills
  • Phlebotomy
  • Wound care and changing dressings
  • Answer telephones
  • Welcome patients
  • Update and file medical records
  • Code and fill out insurance forms
  • Schedule appointments
  • Arrange hospital admissions and laboratory services
  • Handle correspondence, billing, and bookkeeping

Educational Requirements and Certification

Becoming a medical assistant typically requires completing a 1-2 year program at a vocational or community college, where students gain a balanced education in clinical and administrative skills. These programs equip future MAs with the knowledge and abilities to effectively handle their multifaceted roles. In some states and organizations, certification is also required. Even when it is not required, it is highly recommended, as it bolsters an MA’s credentials and can open doors to better job opportunities.

What Is Medical Assistant Certification?

Medical assistant certification is obtained after completing educational requirements and passing a certification exam administered by an accredited organization. There are several types of certifications available for medical assistants, each with its own set of requirements and focus. The most recognized certifications include:

  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA): Offered by the AAMA, this certification requires passing an exam after completing an accredited medical assisting program.
  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA): Administered by the American Medical Technologists (AMT), candidates can qualify through education, military training, or work experience, followed by passing an exam.
  • National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA): Provided by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), candidates can qualify through education, military training, or work experience, similar to the RMA.
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA): Offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), this certification focuses more on the clinical aspects of medical assisting.

Why Become a Certified MA?

While medical assistant certification isn’t mandated in some states and by certain organizations, numerous institutions recognize the value of offering educational and professional growth opportunities to advance a medical assistant’s career.

Here are some of the key reasons why you should consider getting certified:

  • Enhanced Job Opportunities
  • Higher Salary Potential
  • Professional Recognition
  • Career Advancement
  • Increased Confidence and Credibility
  • Legal and Ethical Standards
  • Flexible Career Options

Maintaining MA Certification

The process of maintaining certification typically requires continuing education. This encourages lifelong learning and ensures that you stay current with the latest healthcare practices and technologies, thereby enhancing your competencies and performance.

For example, a total of 60 recertification points is necessary to recertify the CMA (AAMA) credential and must be renewed every five years. At least 30 points must come from continuing education units (CEs) that have been approved by the AAMA. MAs can earn up to 30 points from non-AAMA CE sources, such as contact hours, physician CME credits, and college or university credit.

MedTrainer provides 30 hours of continuing education (CE) courses that are approved by the AAMA, which, along with MedTrainer’s comprehensive library of CE courses, offers recertification points for AAMA-certified medical assistants through a unified cloud-based platform.

Read more about MedTrainer’s 30 hours of CEs approved by the AAMA.

Provide Continuing Education Courses for Medical Assistants

Employers benefit every time a medical assistant completes continuing education courses. Here are a few of the many reasons to provide additional education and professional development opportunities:

  • Find/Retain MAs: Keeping quality MAs is important for an organization that provides consistent, top-level patient care. Employers can build loyalty and trust in MAs by providing CE courses at no cost – a big cost saving for CMAs.
  • Improve Patient Care: Continuing education helps MAs improve their care skills and assist others in keeping up-to-date on the latest healthcare advancements and regulations.
  • Reduce Certification Lapses: When the required CEUs are easily available in a free, online platform, there are fewer excuses for MAs not completing recertification.

MedTrainer Learning is an enterprise cloud-based software for providers that contains the largest proprietary course library of healthcare content curated specifically to meet the requirements of regulatory and accreditation organizations. New and updated courses are added every month, so employers never have to worry if training is up-to-date. 

MedTrainer offers all the conveniences of a modern learning management system including automated completion reminders, assessments with every course, and the ability to upload your organization’s unique training. Course completions are automatically tracked and customizable reporting means that you are always survey ready. See how we can help.


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