Across the country medical assistants continue to be in high-demand. In fact, the projected average growth rate through 2024 is 24%.
Medical assistants can either choose to work as a general medical assistant or a specialized medical assistant. A specialized medical assistant will have taken extra classes or undergone some type of training to become specialized in a certain area. Popular medical assistant specialties include: Pediatrics, medical coding & billing, geriatrics, ophthalmology, and dermatology.
Today we are going to look at the role of a pediatric medical assistant. Pediatrics is the study of children and babies.
What Does a Pediatric Medical Assistant Do?
A pediatric medical assistant performs a combination of administrative and clinical tasks. The job requirements of a pediatric medical assistant depend on where you are employed. For example, if you work at a summer camp you will likely be dealing with less administrative work and more hands-on duties such as bandaging minor cuts and scrapes, and assessing for any sprains or broken bones.
If you work in the pediatrics department of a large hospital, your job duties may require you to stay up front; answer phones, register patients, and direct patients to other departments in the hospital for X-rays or other tests the physician has ordered.
Should I Become a Pediatric Medical Assistant?
You may have already decided that you want to be a medical assistant, but maybe you aren’t sure if you want to specialize in a certain field. Perhaps you already are a medical assistant but are thinking about specializing in an area to improve your job prospects.
Let’s take a look at a few qualities that would be ideal for a pediatric medical assistant to have:
- Enjoy teaching and instructing others
- Excellent time-management and organizational skills
- Enjoy talking and interacting with kids
- Previous experience taking care of kids
- Excellent communication skills
- A strong desire to assist and help others
Life of a Pediatric Medical Assistant
Curious about what the day in the life of a pediatric medical assistant looks like?
Meet Karen: Karen works as a pediatric medical assistant at an urgent children’s care clinic. She has been working here for approximately 8 years.
An urgent children’s care clinic sees kids with a variety of health issues. Similar to an emergency room, patients are seen on a walk-in basis. Being an urgent children’s care clinic they do not see patients over the age of 18. Urgent care clinics also don’t see patients with major health conditions such as uncontrolled bleeding from severe trauma or that have been unconscious.
It’s 6:45 AM and Karen is the first to arrive at the clinic. The doctors and nursing staff will arrive around 7:30 AM. The clinic opens its doors to the public at 7:45 AM.
From 6:45 AM until 7:30 AM, Karen will be checking the clinic’s voicemail and jotting down messages; Turning on office computers; Starting coffee for the reception area; Checking to make sure exam rooms have enough supplies (e.g. latex gloves, gauze, etc.), and printing off lab results and filing them into appropriate patient files.
When patients arrive at the clinic, Karen is the first face they see. She greets them with a smile, asks their reason for bringing their child to urgent care, and collects insurance and billing information. After recording all their information, she will show them into the back office. She will get the child’s height, weight, and temperature before showing them to an open exam room. Karen then notifies the nurse and or physician that the patient is ready to be seen.
Karen continues her day fielding phone calls and transferring them to the appropriate desk, calling parents back with their children’s lab results, checking with pharmacies to make sure prescriptions have been called in, calling to schedule patient follow-up appointments with their pediatrician, and other duties as requested by the clinic nurses or physicians.
Some days are longer and more strenuous than others. Working in an urgent care clinic, no two days are exactly the same. Karen loves the challenging, fast-paced atmosphere that working in an urgent children’s care clinic provides. She loves to be able to calm a scared child and reassure worried parents that their child will be just fine.
Other places that employ pediatric medical assistants include:
- Schools and childcare facilities
- Kids summer camps
- Cruise ships/theme parks
- YMCAs/family fitness centers
Education and Training
A pediatric medical assistant will likely be required to have a certificate or degree as a medical assistant if they perform any clinical duties. For those without certification or some type of accredited training, they will be limited to administrative work.
Community colleges, allied health schools, and even some hospitals provide medical assistant education. The length of training is varied depending on the program. The most common programs are anywhere from 12 to 24 months.
To achieve the designation of CMA (certified medical assistant) you will need to complete training accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). To find an accredited program in your area, search here.
There are different types of training programs: online and on-campus. There are also hybrid classes available in some areas. Hybrid programs offer a combination of classes online and on-campus. If you are planning on doing an online only program, your future work responsibilities will be on the administrative or front desk side of things. If you prefer to perform more hands-on clinical work you will need to attend on-campus classes or an on-site internship.
If you are looking to take a few classes before getting on-site clinical training, there are online universities such as the popular University of Phoenix. There are also thousands of vocational schools and community colleges nationwide that offer accredited medical assistant programs.
It’s very important that you check on the accreditation status of a program before you begin. See the aforementioned link to do a search on the program you are looking to attend. There have been fraudulent online ‘universities’ that have swindled people out of thousands of dollars to end up with a piece of paper that is worthless.
If cost is a concern, community colleges seem to offer the most cost effective medical assistant training programs. And, if after obtaining a certificate or diploma as a medical assistant you want to pursue becoming specialized in pediatrics, some employers will cover your continuing education.
Classes will vary depending on the school and/or program you decide to take, but in a general medical assistant certificate program you will learn a combination of clinical and administrative skills as well as having an on-site practicum. The practicum is an exciting part of the program! It is where you get to put your skills to work in an actual patient setting.
Education and training will include classes in:
- Medical Terminology
- CPR/First Aid
- Phlebotomy/Proper blood drawing procedures
- Anatomy & Physiology
- OSHA & HIPAA regulations
The pediatric medical assistant salary depends on education and experience. Someone with a two-year diploma will earn more than someone without any formal education.
A certified medical assistant or a medical assistant that is specialized (e.g. pediatric medical assistant) in a hospital setting can make anywhere from $15-18/hour. A general medical assistant without any formal education can make between $11-14/hour.
A pediatric medical assistant that works at a kids summer camp or family fitness facility, any location where they are one of the primary healthcare caregivers can make anywhere from $18-20/hour.
The medical assistant field shows no signs of slowing down. This is due to a variety of factors but chiefly its due to the nationwide nursing and physician shortage. In 2002, CBS News reported on the nationwide nursing shortage citing a Penn State University study that declared the nursing shortage had reached “crisis proportions”. 16 years later and the nursing shortage is still at crisis proportions.
Thankfully, states have taken steps to help with the nursing shortage crisis. Taking a good deal of the workload off the shoulders of nurses and distributing job duties amongst other allied health professionals, including medical assistants has alleviated a tremendous amount of stress in the workplace.
Not only does having medical assistants take on greater responsibilities alleviate stress and make the workplace a more enjoyable place to be, it also increases overall patient satisfaction. Patients are seen in a more timely manner.
Specialized medical assistants such as the pediatric medical assistant allow pediatricians to see more patients which in turn increases patient satisfaction. Having a highly-skilled medical assistant allows patients to be seen faster and the organization as a whole to run much more efficiently which cuts down costs for the hospital and patient.
Medical assistants taking on roles that were previously only assigned to nurses has made the medical assistant an indispensable asset to the healthcare industry.
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