A Special Week to Recognize Medical Assistants in Urgent Care

Each year, the third full week of October is reserved to celebrate an extremely valuable group of individuals in the urgent care world: medical assistants (MAs). In 2019, Medical Assistants Recognition Week takes place from October 21–25 with Medical Assistants Recognition Day falling on Wednesday, October 23.

While the general public may not necessarily recognize the difference between MAs and other clinical support functions like nurses and technicians, MA’s play a crucial role in assuring fast, efficient, and effective delivery of care in the urgent care setting. As such, Medical Assistants Recognition Week is the perfect opportunity to celebrate these important team members. 

What Does a Medical Assistant Do in an Urgent Care Clinic?
According to the Urgent Care Association’s (UCA) Benchmarking Data from 2018, 99 percent of urgent care centers employ medical assistants! That number is up from just 57 percent in 2015.

Medical assistants are trained to perform a variety of roles in the urgent care setting. While their specific scope of practice is determined individually by each state, MAs can often perform both clinical support tasks and administrative duties.

In most states, medical assistants collect a patient’s chief complaint as well as their relevant medical and pharmacologic history before a physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner comes in to examine the patient. However, some states allow MAs to do more. For instance, MA’s commonly give vaccines, start IVs, and assess vital signs depending on existing physician orders and each individual’s skill level and training. It’s worth noting that MAs, unlike nurses, don’t fall into the category of “licensed clinicians” and cannot be introduced to patients as such. Rather, they work under the supervision of a licensed physician who is responsible for their actions.

Positive Outlook for Medical Assistants
Considering the positive growth of the urgent care industry as a whole, the use of medical assistants is also expected to increase. According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 686,000 MAs in the United States. The job market for MAs is projected to increase by 23 percent between 2018 and 2028—a much faster pace than average. In that same timeframe, an anticipated 155,000 medical assistant positions will be added in the U.S. alone.

Notably, there is no nationwide law regulating the scope of practice for MAs and there is no standard licensing exam. Instead, hopeful medical assistants typically pursue either a two-year degree program or vocational school training. There are also several certificate programs, such as the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and National HealthCareer Association (NHA) courses that verify a MA candidate’s skill and knowledge levels.

Even so, most training happens on the job with physicians and other medical assistants. Thanks to the nature of the field, however, it’s easy to for someone with little-to-no experience to quickly learn the tools they need to succeed. 

How to Recognize Medical Assistants This Week
Regardless of how you want to celebrate MA Recognition Week, be sure to take a moment and appreciate these team members. They are a key piece in making sure that urgent care clinics can run smoothly, cost-effectively, and provide patients with the best experience.

However, celebrating Medical Assistant Recognition Week doesn’t stop there. Everyone can do their part by simply thanking a MA for all that they do. Meanwhile, the American Association of Medical Assistants is prompting people to use the social hashtags #MARWeek and #MARDay to spread awareness about the field.