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Become An Unit Assistant

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Working As An Unit Assistant

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Repetitive

  • $36,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Unit Assistant Do

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice. 

Duties

Medical assistants typically do the following:

  • Record patient history and personal information
  • Measure vital signs, such as blood pressure
  • Help the physician with patient examinations
  • Give patients injections or medications as directed by the physician and as permitted by state law
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Prepare blood samples for laboratory tests
  • Enter patient information into medical records

Medical assistants take and record patients’ personal information. They must be able to keep that information confidential and discuss it only with other medical personnel who are involved in treating the patient.

Electronic health records (EHRs) are changing some medical assistants’ jobs. More and more physicians are adopting EHRs, moving all their patient information from paper to electronic records. Assistants need to learn the EHR software that their office uses.

Medical assistants should not be confused with physician assistants, who examine, diagnose, and treat patients under a physician’s supervision.

In larger practices or hospitals, medical assistants may specialize in either administrative or clinical work.

Administrative medical assistants often fill out insurance forms or code patients’ medical information. They often answer telephones and schedule patient appointments.

Clinical medical assistants have different duties, depending on the state where they work. They may do basic laboratory tests, dispose of contaminated supplies, and sterilize medical instruments. They may have additional responsibilities, such as instructing patients about medication or special diets, preparing patients for x rays, removing stitches, drawing blood, or changing dressings.

Some medical assistants specialize according to the type of medical office where they work. The following are examples of specialized medical assistants:

Ophthalmic medical assistants and optometric assistants help ophthalmologists and optometrists, respectively, provide eye care. They show patients how to insert, remove, and care for contact lenses. Ophthalmic medical assistants also may help an ophthalmologist in surgery.

Podiatric medical assistants work closely with podiatrists (foot doctors). They may make castings of feet, expose and develop x rays, and help podiatrists in surgery.

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How To Become An Unit Assistant

Most medical assistants have postsecondary education such as a certificate. Others enter the occupation with a high school diploma and learn through on-the-job training.

Education

Medical assistants typically graduate from postsecondary education programs. Although there are no formal educational requirements for becoming a medical assistant in most states, employers may prefer to hire assistants who have completed these programs.

Programs for medical assisting are available from community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and universities and take about 1 year to complete. These programs usually lead to a certificate or diploma. Some community colleges offer 2-year programs that lead to an associate’s degree. All programs have classroom and laboratory portions that include lessons in anatomy and medical terminology.

Some medical assistants have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn their duties on the job. High school students interested in a career as a medical assistant should take courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Medical assistants must be able to understand and follow medical charts and diagnoses. They may be required to code a patient’s medical records for billing purposes.

Detail oriented. Medical assistants need to be precise when taking vital signs or recording patient information. Physicians and insurance companies rely on accurate records.

Interpersonal skills. Medical assistants need to be able to discuss patient information with other medical personnel, such as physicians. They often interact with patients who may be in pain or in distress, so they need to be able to act in a calm and professional manner.

Technical skills. Medical assistants should be able to use basic clinical instruments so they can take a patient’s vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure.

Training

Medical assistants who do not have postsecondary education learn their skills through on-the-job training. Physicians or other medical assistants may teach a new assistant medical terminology, the names of the instruments, how to do daily tasks, how to interact with patients, and other tasks that help keep an office running smoothly. Medical assistants also learn how to code both paper and electronic health records (EHRs) and how to record patient information. It can take several months for an assistant to complete training, depending on the facility.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Medical assistants are not required to be certified in most states. However, employers prefer to hire certified assistants.

Several organizations offer certification. An applicant must pass an exam and have taken one of several routes to be eligible for each certification. These routes include graduation from an accredited program and work experience, among others. In most cases, an applicant must be at least 18 years old before applying for certification.

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies, part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, accredits five certifications for medical assistants:

  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) from the American Association of Medical Assistants
  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) from American Medical Technologists
  • National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) from the National Center for Competency Testing
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) from the National Healthcareer Association
  • Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association

Some states may require assistants to graduate from an accredited program, pass an exam, or both, in order to practice. Contact the state board of medicine for more information.

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Unit Assistant Career Paths

Unit Assistant
Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Nursing Director
9 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Staff Nurse Team Leader
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Staff Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Nurse Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Licensed Practical Nurse Staff Nurse Team Leader
General Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Licensed Practical Nurse Utilization Review Nurse Case Manager
Clinical Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Technician Team Leader
Account Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Technician Consultant
Business Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Technician Shift Leader
Assistant General Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Surgical Technician Clinical Coordinator Case Manager
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Surgical Technician Clinical Coordinator Office Manager
Center Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Surgical Technician Clinical Coordinator Clinical Manager
Practice Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Executive Assistant Office Manager Owner
Co-Owner
6 Yearsyrs
Executive Assistant Office Manager Property Manager
Communications Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Executive Assistant Manager Vice President
Chief Executive Officer
8 Yearsyrs
Instructor Consultant Operations Manager
Site Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Instructor Consultant Account Manager
Client Services Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Instructor Lead Teacher Supervisor
Unit Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Patient Service Representative Billing Specialist Administrator
Business Office Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Patient Service Representative Accounts Receivable Specialist Administrator
Administrative Manager
6 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Ward Secretary 4.2 years
Unit Secretary 3.9 years
Unit Coordinator 3.7 years
Health Unit Clerk 3.7 years
Monitor Technician 3.5 years
General Duty Nurse 3.3 years
Unit Assistant 3.0 years
Nurse Technician 2.4 years
Hospital Volunteer 1.3 years
Top Careers Before Unit Assistant
Cashier 9.2%
Internship 5.7%
Volunteer 3.9%
Assistant 3.0%
Server 2.7%
Supervisor 2.3%
Manager 2.3%
Waitress 2.1%
Top Careers After Unit Assistant
Cashier 5.4%
Assistant 4.2%
Internship 3.9%
Volunteer 3.0%
Technician 2.3%

Do you work as an Unit Assistant?

Unit Assistant Demographics

Gender

Female

61.8%

Male

26.5%

Unknown

11.7%
Ethnicity

White

62.0%

Hispanic or Latino

16.3%

Black or African American

10.9%

Asian

7.1%

Unknown

3.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

55.7%

French

7.8%

Hindi

4.3%

Mandarin

3.5%

Russian

3.5%

Chinese

3.5%

German

3.5%

Urdu

3.5%

Cantonese

2.6%

Japanese

1.7%

Polish

1.7%

Arabic

1.7%

Swedish

0.9%

Vietnamese

0.9%

Hmong

0.9%

Korean

0.9%

Ukrainian

0.9%

Navajo

0.9%

Dakota

0.9%

Greek

0.9%
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Unit Assistant Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

23.1%

Monroe Community College

5.9%

Oklahoma State University

5.5%

Community College of Rhode Island

5.5%

Lansing Community College

5.1%

Ashford University

4.4%

Front Range Community College

4.4%

Carl Albert State College

4.0%

Liberty University

4.0%

Kaplan University

4.0%

Grand Canyon University

4.0%

New York University

3.7%

State University of New York Broome Community College

3.7%

The Academy

3.7%

Monroe College

3.7%

Santa Rosa Junior College

3.3%

Strayer University

3.3%

University of Cincinnati

2.9%

Rhode Island College

2.9%

Temple University

2.9%
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Majors

Nursing

25.3%

Business

13.9%

Medical Assisting Services

8.1%

Health Care Administration

7.4%

Psychology

6.0%

Criminal Justice

4.7%

Nursing Assistants

4.4%

Medical Technician

3.9%

General Studies

3.1%

Biology

3.1%

Management

2.7%

Accounting

2.3%

Health/Medical Preparatory Programs

2.2%

Liberal Arts

2.0%

Communication

2.0%

Human Services

2.0%

Education

1.9%

Social Work

1.7%

English

1.6%

Health Sciences And Services

1.5%
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Degrees

Other

32.0%

Bachelors

29.6%

Associate

15.3%

Masters

9.7%

Certificate

7.4%

Diploma

3.4%

Doctorate

1.5%

License

1.2%
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Top Skills for An Unit Assistant

  1. Patient Care
  2. Medical Records
  3. Vital Signs
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Supported non-clinical services required by patients in surgical area by providing a clean, well-organized and adequately stocked patient care area.
  • Preformed complex clerical duties requiring independent judgment relating to storage, retrieval and maintenance of medical records.
  • Monitored vital signs, measured intake/output, collected specimens and performed glucose testing on patients.
  • Provide compassionate patient focus and superior customer service -keeping the fast-paced environment running smoothly.
  • Monitor and appropriately routes internal and external telephone calls.

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Top Unit Assistant Employers

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