From greeting patients at a Veterans Administration hospital to recording medical data after a patient's blood tests, medical support assistants engage in a variety of tasks that support doctors and help medical facilities run smoothly. Individuals who excel at administrative work and want to work with patients in government health care facilities might want to consider a career as a medical support assistant.
Medical support assistants (MSA) fulfill a number of roles in doctors' offices and hospitals, primarily with the federal government where they serve as receptionists, enter patient data on a computer, or serve as a link between doctors and medical administrative services. Overall, their job is to support the work of medical professionals, including physicians, nurse practitioners and nursing assistants.
An MSA job description might include the following duties: answering phone calls, monitoring emails and relaying messages to the appropriate medical staff member. Medical support assistants also greet and direct patients and visitors to the appropriate department and answer basic questions. They keep patients' medical records up to date and record a variety of medical data.
Medical support assistants also help determine if a patient is eligible for treatment. Additionally, they record doctors' orders for patients and set appointments. Medical support staff may also be responsible for office duties such as ordering supplies, keeping track of what is needed, and maintaining time sheets and attendance records for employees.
While some medical support assistants learn the role on the job after graduating from high school, many obtain job training in a one-year program at a community college, technical or vocational school.
Some go on to be certified, which can offer a leg up in being hired. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies accredits five programs. These include 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, and Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) from the National Healthcareer Association.
Most workers with the title of medical support assistant are employed by the federal government. The government job classification is GS-0679-06. Those who work with the Veterans Administration can find information about job classifications in the VA Handbook 5005/53.
More than 25,000 medical support assistants work for the federal government. Nearly all of them work for the Veterans Administration, while about 1,000 are employed by the Indian Health Service. A few medical support assistants are employed by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Bureau of Prisons.
Years of Experience
Government employees are paid using the general schedule (GS) pay scale, which sets pay by levels determined by the type of job and years of experience. The starting pay grade for the job is GS-1, Step 1, and the highest pay grade a medical support assistant can climb to is GS-9, Step 10.
The average salary of a medical support assistant is $41,217, according to FederalPay.org. The lowest pay for entry-level employees is $24,249, and the highest-paid medical support assistant in the federal government earns $86,603 per year.
Job Growth Trend
While the population of older veterans needing medical care is growing, overall the number of veterans is declining. That means that the employment of medical support assistants by their largest employer, the Veterans Administration, may hold steady or decline. The number of veterans using VA health services grew from 2.51 million in 1995 to 5.9 million in 2014 according to a study in the Rand Health Quarterly. The report projects that number to decrease by 19 percent during the period from 2014 to 2024.