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Medical Assistant Programs in Washington

What is medical assisting? It’s a job for competent, caring people who can handle both clinical and clerical duties. Most medical assistants work in physicians’ offices, though some are employed in other healthcare settings. A medical assistant typically has less medical training than a nurse, but more than a nursing assistant. Whereas a nursing assistant spends much of his or her time helping patients with basic care needs, a medical assistant may handle various medical procedures under the supervision of a medical professional. The most common clinical duty, according to a study by the American Association of Medical Assistants, is obtaining vital signs and health histories. Many other duties are possible, though.

For some, medical assisting is a solid, life long career. Others see the profession as an entry point into the healthcare field. How do you know if it’s the right start for you? There are opportunities for advancement in medical office management and in specialized technician roles (e.g. nuclear stress technician). Some medical assistants go into medical coding. Employers sometimes even pay for additional trainings/ certifications for employees that really prove themselves. If you have your heart set on becoming a registered nurse someday, you may want to start as an LPN instead -- unless you are very young and/ or have opportunities for free training. It’s not that you can’t gain valuable experience and build your credibility in the healthcare community; it’s that fewer of your credits transfer. If, though, you want to experience a wide range of administrative and clinical duties, you may well want to check out the range of medical assisting programs. Nowadays a formal education in medical assisting is practically the norm and preferred by most employers in Washington.

Medical Assistant Certification in Washington

Do Washington MA’s need formal education? According to the Washington State Society, formal education is not a state mandate for all medical assistants, but you must be able to provide proof of training if your employment requires registration with the Health Care Assistant program. This program is, AAMA's Legal Counsel notes, managed by the Washington State Department of Public Health. The HCA places medical assistants into different categories, according to what injections and blood withdrawal procedures they are allowed to perform, and it outlines the expected training for each. Some categories require fully two years of postsecondary education. Chapter 246-826 of the Washington code describes, in depth, the duties and responsibilities of medical assistants.

Medical assistant programs are available in traditional Washington institutions and also online. If you do coursework online, expect to go out into the community for field work as you near program completion. Externships are a requirement of accredited programs. If you are investing a substantial amount of money, you will want to look for an accredited program that will allow you to sit for board exams. Nationwide, AAMA and AMT are both highly respected.

Medical Assistant Salary and Job Outlook in Washington

Medical assisting is a very hot career in parts of Washington. Seattle Vocational Institute classifies the profession as HWHD (high wage, high demand). This designation is given for jobs that are in demand locally and pay $16.00 or more dollars per hour. According to the BLS, the mean salary for Washington State MAs in 2009 was $15.96. In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area, though, the figure rose to $16.79. Olympia and Yakima also reported averages above $16.00 per hour; even those Washington regions that reported the lowest wages (the Northwestern and Central metropolitan regions) had figures between $13.50 and $14.00 an hour.

Some Washington residents qualify for special programs to help fund their training. Those who have lost income prospects for any of several reasons, including having status as a displaced homemaker or a Boeing dislocated worker, should look into the Worker Retraining Program. High school students may also qualify for special programs. Bright Future, which is funded by Running Start and serves eleventh and twelfth graders in the greater Seattle area, has graduated 38 aspiring medical assistants. This is a great opportunity for young people who might otherwise lack opportunities. In the program as a whole, more than half of the students had been classified at-risk; 10% were teen parents. The director reports that the program won an award for a grant “Health Careers for Youth�.

Medical Assistant Programs Offered in Your State

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