Pros and Cons of a Pediatric Assistant Career
Pediatric assistants provide clinical and administrative assistance to physicians and other staff in pediatric medical settings. Read on for some pros and cons of being a pediatric assistant to see if it seems like the right career choice for you.
|Pros of a Career as a Pediatric Assistant|
|No higher education required*|
|High projected job growth (employment opportunities expected to increase 29% from 2012 to 2022)*|
|Rewarding work supporting children and positively influencing their healthcare processes**|
|No geographical limitations (can work anywhere there are pediatric medical care facilities)*|
|Cons of a Career as a Pediatric Assistant|
|Relatively low pay (annual median salary in 2014 was around $30,000)*|
|Risk of exposure to communicable illness***|
|Can be stressful (witnessing children in pain or distress, dealing with concerned parents or caregivers)*|
|Advancement in the field often requires further formal education (nursing degree to advance to a nurse position, medical school to advance to physician assistant, etc.)*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Academy of Pediatrics, ***Michigan Jobs & Career Portal.
Job Duties and Description
Pediatrics is the part of the medical field that deals with children's health. Pediatric assistants are medical assistants (different from physician assistants) that work in pediatricians' offices or other pediatric medical care environments. They provide both administrative and medical support, performing duties such as checking patients' vital signs, preparing examination rooms for patient visits and scheduling appointments. They often greet patients and perform initial intakes, which includes discerning what the primary purpose of a visit is. They also handle administrative tasks, such as verifying insurance and filing medical records. Pediatric assistants often work during regular business hours, but in environments like hospitals or urgent care facilities, they might work shifts at night, in the evenings or on weekends.
Salary Information and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical assistants earned a median annual salary of around $30,000 in 2014, with the middle half earning approximately $26,000-$36,000. The expected job growth for the occupation is high, with an employment increase of 29% predicted between 2012 and 2022.
What Are the Requirements?
Education and Training Requirements
Being a pediatric assistant doesn't require any formal education beyond a high school diploma, and medical assistants (including pediatric assistants) are not required to obtain certification. It is likely that you will undergo on-the-job training that might last up to several months. You'll need to have or gain a familiarity with things such as medical terminology, health records and the uses for various medical instruments. Additionally, since many medical offices have transitioned to storing patients' files in electronic form, you'll need to learn how to operate related software used to store and retrieve medical records. There are also a number of personal skills you should display as a pediatric assistant. Some of these include:
- Ability to uphold strict standards of medical ethics and confidentiality in regard to patient information
- Technical skills (required to use medical equipment)
- Attention to accuracy and detail necessary for adequate recordkeeping
- Desire to work with children
- Kindness and patience in dealing with children and caregivers
What Employers Are Seeking
While certification and higher education are not required for pediatric assistants, some employers do prefer candidates that have acquired either or both. The capacity to work in a sometimes busy or fast-paced atmosphere might also be called for, along with current certification in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Following are some job posts from real employers found in May 2012 to give you an idea of what employers are looking for:
- A Houston-based pediatric hospital called for a candidate with a minimum of two years of experience in medical assisting to handle insurance verification, prepare exam rooms and help with patient examinations. Prior experience in a pediatric environment and certification in medical assisting were required.
- A Texas pediatric practice was looking for a candidate with pediatric medical experience to handle responsibilities such as receiving patients, preparing charts and administering vaccines. Certification and some experience were required.
- A pediatric urgent care facility in Florida sought a candidate with at least two years of experience assisting in a pediatric medical environment to work part-time in the evenings and on weekends. Certification in medical assisting was a preferred qualification.
- A pediatric clinic in Tennessee searched for an assistant to work directly with patients discerning the reason for patient visits and acquiring patient history and vital signs. A medical assistant degree and one year of experience in a pediatric environment were required, and medical assisting certification was desired.
How to Get an Edge Over the Competition
Taking classes in high school in subjects such as biology and chemistry can give you foundational information relevant to the field of medical assisting. In addition, prior experience working with children might increase your qualifications for working in a pediatric setting.
Though postsecondary education is not required for medical assistants, having a degree or certificate in medical assisting can significantly increase your appeal to employers. Many community and vocational colleges offer certificate or associate degree programs in medical assisting. These programs combine classroom and laboratory sessions to instruct you in medical terminology, medical records handling, insurance coding and basic clinical procedures, such as taking a patient's vital signs.
Medical and pediatric assistants are not required to be certified, but again, many employers desire this qualification. A number of professional organizations provide medical assistant certification, which usually requires passing an exam. To be eligible for certification by some organizations, a medical assisting degree from an accredited school is required. For others, a high school education and related work experience are sufficient.
Other Careers to Consider
If you would rather not work directly with children or patients, you could consider becoming a medical records and health information technician. Medical records technicians maintain patient health records and systems, both physically and electronically. This job often requires certification as well as a certificate or associate degree. In 2011, the middle half of medical records and health information technicians earned between approximately $26,000 and $44,000 annually, according to the BLS.
If, on the other hand, you are still interested in interacting with children as patients but are put off by the low salary pediatric assistants earn, you might want to look into becoming a pediatric occupational therapy assistant. Occupational therapy assistants support occupational therapists in assisting clients who are recovering from injury or illness or who experience disabilities. Their work involves helping clients develop systems and skills that enable them to live as self-sufficiently as possible. The BLS indicated that the median salary for occupational therapy assistants in 2011 was around $52,000.