Medical assistants have many duties and responsibilities, including both administrative and clinical duties. Most do a little bit of both throughout their workday, but some medical assistants choose to specialize into one or the other, becoming either a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant or a Medical Administrative Assistant.
A Certified Clinical Medical Assistant is (CCMA) a medical assistant that has gotten a certification from the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Clinical medical assistants have a wide range of responsibilities, such as taking vital signs, drawing blood, and assisting with procedures.
This guide goes over what those responsibilities are, where clinical medical assistants work, how to become one, and more.
Clinical Medical Assistant Duties
Clinical medical assisting is a great choice for medical assistants who love the hands-on patient care. Clinical medical assistants do less paperwork and computer tasks, and spend more time in direct contact with the patient.
Clinical medical assistant duties include:
- Taking vital signs. Vital signs include blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and blood oxygen levels. Changes in vital signs or abnormal vital sign measurements are sometimes the first indicator that a patient is unwell. Serious changes in vital signs can be an emergency and require immediate treatment.
- Drawing blood. In addition to vital signs, samples of blood can tell a physician a lot about what is going on with a patient. Clinical medical assistants need to be skilled at phlebotomy, including knowing how to insert the needle into a vein without causing harm or infection, draw the blood without contaminating or destroying the sample, and getting the blood safely to the laboratory for testing. Medical assistants should practice drawing blood as often as they can, since blood draws are often scary and uncomfortable for many patients. Note that some states have restrictions on which medical assistants can draw blood.
- Collecting urine and stool samples. While it may not be the most glamorous responsibility, it is important that a clinical medical assistant knows how to properly collect and store urine and stool samples. These samples can be used to check patients for infection, liver and kidney problems, or internal bleeding.
- Removing stitches. While doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants are the only providers allowed to place stitches, medical assistants are allowed to remove them. Medical assistants should also be aware of signs of problems like infection at the site, and know when it is important to notify the physician about any potential problems.
- Giving injections. Until recently, not all states have allowed medical assistants to give injections, including vaccinations. Because of the high demand for vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, medical assistants almost all over the country are now allowed to give intramuscular injections, as long as they have been trained properly.
- Taking pictures and measurements. Photographs and measurements are important to track changes in conditions over time. If patients come in for things like chronic wounds, suspicious moles, or severe burns, a medical assistant might need to take photographs and measurements of the injury or condition to track whether or not a treatment plan is working,
- Assisting with bedside procedures. Clinical medical assistants can be specially trained to assist doctors with many in-office procedures. This might include things like inserting intrauterine devices, wound debridement, steroid injections, skin biopsies, and removal of orthopedic pins and screws.
- Preparing and cleaning exam rooms. These days, most doctors offices and clinics have consistently full schedules, with very little time in between patients. A clinical medical assistant may be responsible for ensuring that each room is organized and sterilized in between patients. Cleaning rooms well helps protect patients and providers from contagious viruses or bacterial infections.
- Obtaining patient health histories. Before a physician sees a patient, a clinical medical assistant will usually get some information about a patient's reason for visiting, questions, concerns, and prior health history. Many patients feel nervous at the doctor's office and forget to ask some questions or bring up concerns. The medical assistant can help the patient feel more comfortable as well as making sure that all concerns are brought to the attention of the physician.
- Giving medications. Most patients who come into a doctors office or clinic will get a prescription that has to be filled at a pharmacy and taken at home. However, in some cases, medication will be given at the doctors office. Medical assistants can help patients take their prescribed medication, under the supervision of a physician.
- Applying creams and ointments. Medical assistants may have to apply different creams or ointments to patients' skin. Lotions, antibacterial creams, and pain relieving creams are all used in doctors offices and can be applied by a trained medical assistant.
- Applying simple wound dressings. Deep wounds and severe burns should always be taken care of by a doctor or registered nurse. However, some simple bandages or wound coverings can be applied by a medical assistant.
- Starting IVs. Whether or not medical assistants can start IVs varies by state, but most allow it. Starting IVs is important for patients to get the medications and fluids they need.
- Stocking supplies. No medical office can run well without a well stocked and organized supply room. Medical assistants have to make sure that necessary supplies are where they need to be and that they are reordered when running low.
Where Do Clinical Medical Assistants Work?
Clinical medical assistants are in high demand all over the country. Nationally, the medical assistant job outlook is expected to continue growing at a rapid rate.
There are many different types of offices looking for clinical medical assistants. Some of these include:
- Family practice offices. Family practice offices help patients in all stages of life, from childhood through older age. They usually specialize in yearly checkups and preventative care.
- OBGYN clinics. OBGYN clinics focus on women's healthcare. This can include birth control, fertility, menopause, hormone therapy, and pregnancy. You can learn more about a career as a OBGYN medical assistant here.
- Chiropractic offices. Chiropractic offices help people with back, neck, and joint pain. Chiropractors often try to avoid medication and use massage, adjustments, and physical therapies to help patients with their ailments. You can learn more about a career as a chiropractic assistant here.
- Pediatric clinics. Pediatric clinics focus on the care of infants, children, and adolescents. They are often offices full of bright colors, kids music, coloring books, and stickers. You can learn more about a career as a pediatric medical assistant here.
- Assisted living facilities. Some medical assistants choose to work in assisted living facilities, where patients who can not live independently receive the help and care that they need. Medical assistants in these facilities often get extra training to become a medication technician.
>> Read More: Where Do Medical Assistants Work?
Overview of the NHA & CCMA Certification
The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) is the largest allied health certification agency in the United States. They offer certifications in medical assisting, pharmacy technician phlebotomy technician, patient care technician, electronic health records specialist, and billing and coding specialist.
The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Certification offered by the NHA is a way for medical assistants to show employers that they are knowledgeable and have the skills required to be a successful medical assistant. Most employers prefer to hire certified medical assistants over non-certified medical assistants.
The CCMA exam consists of 150 scored and 30 unscored questions. If you fail on your first attempt, you must wait 30 days before you can try again. The exam covers anatomy, physiology, infection control, patient care, and healthcare ethics.
How to Become a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
Becoming a certified clinical medical assistant is a great way to jumpstart your healthcare career. Whether you are new to the field or have some experience, getting a certification is a great step towards career growth.
There is more than one way to become a certified clinical medical assistant. Note that you can check your NHA CCMA exam eligibility here.
1. Earn your high school diploma or GED. Before you can begin working or start a certification course, you must complete a high school diploma or GED.
- Option 1: Complete a medical assistant training or education program. If you are new to medical assisting, you will have to take a medical assisting course through an accredited program before you can take your exam. You have 5 years after you complete your course to register for and pass your CCMA exam. Programs like Stepful’s Medical Assistant Training Program prepare you specifically to take the NHA exam to become a CCMA.
- Option 2: Complete 1 year of supervised work in the MA field. If you are already working as a medical assistant and have at least 1 year of experience, you are eligible to take the CCMA exam without completing a medical assisting course. To pursue this option, you must have completed your year of supervised MA work within the last three years.
2: Apply for the CCMA exam. Once you have confirmed your eligibility, you can register for the CCMA exam. To do this, simply go to nhanow.com and select the CCMA exam.
3. Schedule your exam. CCMA exams are closed book exams that must be taken in a testing center. Choose a center near where you live and make sure that you allow enough time to complete the 180-minute exam.
4. Study up! You can find resources online like study guides, practice exams, and test prep materials. Make sure you review your medical assistant terminology, infection control, and basic anatomy and physiology.
5. Take your exam. Your CCMA exam will have 150 scored questions and have 30 unscored questions—though you won’t know which are scored vs unscored while taking it. The exam will cover anatomy and physiology, basic patient care, confidentiality and infection control, healthcare ethics, and customer service questions.
6. Wait for your results. You will have to have some patience after you take your exam, since it will not be scored right away. You will get your exam results about 48 hours after you take your test. If you do not pass, you must wait 30 days before you can try again. See here for more information about examinations.
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Salaries & Job Outlook
The average medical assistant earns about $37,190 per year. This can vary based on location, specialty, experience, and additional certifications.
Since medical assistants are in such high demand, many employers are offering large sign-on bonuses for new medical assistants. Payscale information shows that certified clinical medical assistants earn between $26,000 to $53,000 per year.
Most full-time medical assistants also receive benefits like paid time off, health insurance, and sick leave.
The job outlook for medical assistants is great. Job opportunities for medical assistants are expected to grow 16% through 2031—much higher than the national average.
Clinical Medical Assistant vs Administrative Medical Assistant
Even though they are similar, there are some key differences between clinical medical assistants and medical administrative assistants.
Clinical medical assistants spend more of their time doing direct patient care tasks like helping with procedures and collecting samples. Medical administrative assistants will spend more time doing paperwork, answering phones, and working on the computer.
Clinical medical assistants spend more time on their feet and work more closely with the physician. They may get special training for EKGs or special wound care.
Despite their differences, any medical assistant will get to work a fulfilling job where they improve the lives of their patients.