Job opportunities for medical assistants are expected to grow by a remarkable 23% in the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s 17% more than other healthcare support positions and 5% greater than total occupation growth nationwide. As the need for medical services expands, so does demand for skilled support professionals. For students interested in a career in healthcare, there’s no better time to become a medical assistant than now.
Why is the Demand for Healthcare Increasing?
The need is growing due to several factors, including an aging population, rising chronic disease rates, and advancements in healthcare.
An Aging Population
Before the 1940s, population growth in the United States was relatively stable. But after World War II, soldiers returned to a thriving economy, and couples took the opportunity to start families. Today, the children born in this era, called the Baby Boomers, are in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. They are now the largest demographic group in the country, 75 million strong, and as they age, they will need more medical care.
Rising Chronic Disease Rates
Chronic disease rates among all age groups are rising exponentially. Care for these illnesses, including diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, is expected to make up more than 50 percent of increases in healthcare spending through 2025 as such medical conditions require more attention, according to the Peterson Center on Healthcare.
Advancements in Healthcare
Medicine is evolving quickly, and advancements will be the new normal from here on out. Illnesses that were once incurable are now treatable, and innovations are improving quality of life for millions, spurring a rising demand for services and qualified personnel to bring them to the public.
Where Do Medical Assistants Fit in?
When patients have access to quality primary care, outcomes are better both medically and financially. As public health officials and insurers seek ways to improve the quality of medicine while lowering costs, the emphasis on preventive, primary care services is growing. With that, however, comes a staffing crisis.
There are currently millions of boomers working in the medical industry, so every retirement means one fewer healthcare worker. Experts estimate that up to a quarter of the medical workforce could be affected by this supply decline in the next ten years.
The rapid growth of healthcare is forcing the development of new staffing models. The nurses who once supported doctors in their clinical and administrative needs are now accepting greater responsibility, leading to a gap in care. Medical assistants are bridging that gap by tackling tasks that require skilled but not specialized attention.
The utilization of medical assistants in private practice has increased by more than 30% in the last two decades. In a hospital or doctor’s office, their duties may include:
- Triaging phone calls
- Managing the schedule
- Greeting patients
- Maintaining flow through reception areas
- Taking vital signs
- Assisting with examinations
- Obtaining medical specimens
- Performing basic lab tests
- Giving injections
- Overseeing referrals
- Ordering supplies and equipment
- Assisting with billing
With their unique blend of clinical and administrative expertise, medical assistants are the ideal liaisons between clients and their healthcare providers, allowing doctors and nurses to focus on what they do best, healing.
As a medical assistant’s role continues to expand, there are opportunities in many settings. However, because most of the growth in the healthcare industry is occurring at the primary care level, the majority of opportunities for medical assistants are in doctors’ offices and hospitals.
The Benefits of Being a Medical Assistant
A job as a medical assistant offers more than just a paycheck, it’s a rewarding career. Benefits include affordable training, opportunity, flexibility, professional respect, room for advancement, excitement and the opportunity to help others.
Not everyone who wants to work in healthcare can afford the time or fiscal requirements of a college degree. The good news is that while some medical assistants have an associate’s degree, vocational school training can be completed in as little as 9 months.
Few careers offer as much potential for job growth as medical assisting. But what’s even more important is that unlike some professions that face eventual elimination due to automation, healthcare is a people-first career that will always need a human touch.
Because medical assistants are in such high demand, employers are incentivized to create flexible part-time and full-time positions that attract higher numbers of job applicants. Working in a hospital may require chipping in an occasional weekend or holiday, but positions in private practices typically have family-friendly, Monday through Friday schedules.
Medical assisting is not a new career, it’s been recognized as an occupation since the mid-1950s, and it has its own professional group, the American Association of Medical Assistants. Providers recognize the importance of the work a medical assistant does and the value of their training.
Room for Advancement
Medical assisting can be a steppingstone to other occupations in the healthcare field, including nursing, but it can also be a forever career. With additional training and experience, medical assistants can move into increasingly more responsible positions or seek specialty certification.
Trained in both clinical and clerical procedures, medical assistants are jacks-of-all-trades. Even on average days, their responsibilities vary enough to keep things exciting. No two days in medicine are ever like, so while the setting stays the same, challenges continually evolve.
The Opportunity to Help Others
At least 30% of life is spent at work, so it’s no surprise that when surveyed, working with purpose and for the benefit of others consistently tops the list of what employees want. When staff feels like working for a paycheck is their only goal, motivation, morale and productivity decrease.
In healthcare, even simple tasks such as answering the telephone take on a greater sense of urgency and purpose. For students who want to make a difference in the lives of others, a career as a medical assistant is the perfect place to start.
Healthcare is growing at an unprecedented pace, and the demand for medical assistants will only increase. A dynamic and rewarding career with flexibility, stability, and room for professional growth could be less than a year away.
Did learning about the high demand for medical assistants interest you? Interested in working with colleagues that want to help their patients stay healthy? Ready for an exciting new career in the medical assisting field? PCI Health Training Center’s Medical Assistant program prepares the graduate to work as an entry-level Medical Assistant. Within this general career category there are several specialty areas, including Medical Administrative Office Assistant, Clinic Assistant, Clinic Tech, Medical Office Manager, Phlebotomist and Physical Therapy Aide in a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital out-patient clinic. Contact PCI Health Training Center for more information on how to become a medical assistant and start a rewarding career today.
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