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Physician and medical assisting is a key element of the evolving health care system. Physician and medical assistants lighten the load of the managing physician, act as the physician’s eyes and ears for at least the initial visit and help keep costs down for not only patients but insurance companies. With the aging population and the sheer increase in patient numbers, the demand for physician and medical assistants will continue to grow. The difference between working in physician and medical assisting is that the medical assistant is responsible for clerical and clinical duties. The physician assistant, on the other hand, not only manages medical assistants but can write prescriptions, make diagnoses, record medical histories, read x-rays and examine patients.

Studying Physician and Medical Assisting

To earn a degree and work in physician and medical assisting, two years of schooling is generally required plus hands-on experience in a health care environment. Accredited programs are generally associated with medical schools. Most physician and medical assisting students have a bachelor’s degree and some programs require it. Prerequisites such as math, biology, psychology, English and chemistry should be taken before applying to any physician and medical assisting program. A typical physician and medical assisting program consists of courses in pharmacology, medical ethics, human anatomy, geriatrics and disease prevention. There is also a clinical element in which the student works under supervision in areas such as emergency medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology.

Working in Physician and Medical Assisting

It is not possible to work as a physician assistant or medical assistant unless you pass the Physician Assistants National Certifying Examination and graduate from an accredited program. Just as doctors can specialize in a preferred area of medicine, so can physician and medical assistants. Some specialty areas include internal medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine and surgery. Physician and medical assistants often work in hospitals, offices, medical facilities and public clinics.

Online Continuing Education in Physician and Medical Assisting

While there aren’t accredited programs online for physician and medical assistants, there are online programs for degree completion and continuing education once certification has been achieved. Many working in physician and medical assisting will complete master’s degrees online and further specialize in such areas as public health or administration. Many universities offer online and distance learning programs for these purposes.

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