Historically, medical assistants in the United States were trained-on-the-job medical support staff without a specific group identity. With encouragement and support from the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) was founded in 1956.
Medical assistants have traditionally held jobs almost exclusively in ambulatory care centers, urgent care facilities, and physicians’ clinics, but this is now changing. Medical assistants now find employment in both private and public hospitals, as well as inpatient and outpatient facilities. They assist a wide variety of medical doctors, including specialists such as podiatrists, and are no longer bound as generalists.
Medical assistant duties vary from office to office, depending on the location and size of the practice, and the practitioner’s specialty. In small practices, medical assistants are usually generalists handling both administrative and clinical duties, and reporting directly to an office manager, physician, or other health practitioner. Those in large practices tend to specialize in a particular area, under the supervision of department administrators.
Certification is usually achieved by taking a test, issued by the National Board of Medical Examiners and AAMA.
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