Medical Assistant Careers On The Rise

From 2014-2020 the profession is expected to grow 23 percent

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – They don’t prescribe medicine or stitch you up.

They’re not doctors or nurses, but they’re in one of the fastest growing medical fields, and they’re in high demand.

“I do a lot scheduling for patients and answering those phone calls,” says Sandi Hoogendoorn. “But we’re crossed trained in the office, so I also do rooming for some of the other doctors in the office.”

We’ve all seen them at the hospital or in the clinic.

But many aren’t aware of what job they’re actually doing.

“When I tell everyone that I’m a medical assistant they’re like what is that,” says Nicole Hein.

Most assume medical assistants are nurses.

But the job requires a variety of skills both on the administrative side and the clinical side, setting them apart from RNs.

“They do everything from calling the insurance companies, trying to get procedures set up, doing some of the billing and coding, getting the vitals and assisting the physician,” says National American University medical assisting program director Jo Penning. “It’s been helpful to hire that one person rather than two.”

While the career may not be well known to us patients, those looking to get into the medical field are gravitating to this path.

“Right now it’s one of the hottest careers there is,” says Penning. “It’s considered to have a 23 percent growth between the years of 2014 and 2020.”

NAU is the only school to offer the program in Sioux Falls.

Penning says she gets at least two phone calls and emails a week from people asking about medical assisting.

“As the need and growth for career has come about, we’re seeing more enrollments,” says Penning.

“It’s really become such an integral part to the patient experience because of the versatility of what a medical assistant can do,” adds Lynne Hagen, the Human Resources Officer for Avera McKennan.

Hagen says Avera employs 80 medical assistants in their various clinics, 40 of which were hired within the last year.

And they still have 15 openings.

“When I applied I had 4 interviews within two weeks so it’s demanding everywhere,” says Hoogendoorn who is as medical assistant at Avera.

This is one reason why students are going into the field- there’s a high chance of landing the job quickly.

“I actually have already been offered a position even prior, before graduation, which is huge for me,” adds Hein, a student at NAU.

But it’s not the only reason.

The medical assistants are typically the first ones to see a patient making sure everything is okay physically and mentally before the doctor comes in, which many find rewarding.

“They just sometimes need someone to talk to,” says Hoogendorn. “They get overwhelmed when they get the news or not knowing what’s coming up. So it’s just nice to have someone to talk to and we do the best we can to help them out.”

Many say it’s that willingness to help that will continue to advance this versatile, behind the scenes career in the medical industry.

“I do believe that the physicians see a great value in that and will continue to see that type of need in the future,” says Hagen.

To become a medical assistant, you can either go to school for one year to get a certificate or diploma or two years for an associate degree.

Starting salary for those that go the associate degree route is $30,000 to $35,000 per year.

Presentation College in Aberdeen, Lake Area Technical School in Watertown and Mitchell Technical Institute also offer medical assisting programs.

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