It's time. Time to pound the pavement and look for a job as a medical assistant. Whether you're a fresh-faced, recent medical assistant graduate or a seasoned Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) looking for a job better suited to you, you'll probably ask yourself, where do I want to work? Do I want more administrative or clinical responsibilities? What type of practice would I flourish in? A clear-cut answer would be nice, but a `one size fits all' approach to job hunting won't work. A little introspection early on can go a long way toward helping you find the right job.
Step 1: Assess yourself
Before you start your career journey, establish what you like to do. Think back to previous jobs and ask yourself why you liked them. List the pros and cons, as well as your talents and strengths. Assess these three job conditions to understand your "job personality": Once you have made your lists and established your personal requirements, consider the different practice environments.
Step 2: Consider the setting
Small practice vs. large clinic
In a small practice, medical assistants perform numerous skills learned from college. For one patient, you might take a knee x-ray, call for an orthopedic referral and file the insurance. In a small practice, everyone pitches in where needed. Before you know it, you've gained a great deal of experience as a generalist and utilized the majority of the skills you learned in college. Medical assistants in this position can usually declare, "I've done it all!" This type of position also translates well into moving on to another medical office, because you go with a wealth of experience under your belt.
In a larger clinic with four or more providers, CMAs may specialize. Kathy, for example, works in pediatrics and is in charge of childhood immunizations and well-exam schedules. Carla is assigned to a specific physician. She works Dr. Green's schedule and keeps up with the ongoing care of the patients. If your job personality craves consistency and stability with a well-defined role, a larger clinic may be for you.
Specialty clinic vs. family practice
In a specialty practice, such as a dermatology or cardiology office, you generally perform the same skills on a regular basis. At the cardiologist's clinic, you are the expert troubleshooter when the leads on the Holter monitor aren't connected properly. You should be comfortable honing in and performing select skills. If you don't really like seeing the same symptoms in patients every day, a specialty is not for you.
In a family practice setting, you encounter all types of patients. Diane VanderPloeg, MS, CMA, and a medical assistant program educator in Ankeny, Iowa, requires all medical assistant externships to include at least one family practice rotation. "Family practice is a good starting point. Here you get exposure to all types of patients and problems. This helps you decide what patient population you like to work with best," says VanderPloeg. In other words, during this rotation, you can determine if you have the patience for pediatrics, the composure for different emergencies or the stamina for multitasking.
Walk-in and emergency clinics
Emergency clinics pose special circumstances. In these no-appointment offices, CMAs must thrive on and expect the unexpected. VanderPloeg says that each day is different at a walk-in clinic. "You don't know who is coming in, yet you have to be prepared for all situations. One minute there's a [patient with a] sore throat, next you have a child's laceration repair, and to top it off, [you encounter a patient with] an abdominal pain."
As a CMA at a walk-in clinic, you need to possess a wide range of ever changing skills. You must be constantly updated on recognizing emergencies, operating various equipment, and dealing with a diverse patient population.
Step 3: Weigh the benefits
There is more to assessing a job than the job setting itself.