Pros and Cons of Being a Podiatrist's Assistant
Podiatrist's assistants help doctors who specialize in treating foot, lower leg and ankle problems. Before you decide if this career is right for you, take a look at the pros and cons of being a podiatrist's assistant.
|Pros of being a Podiatrist's Assistant|
|Employment is projected to increase 29% between 2012 and 2022 for all medical assistants*|
|On-the-job training is often provided*|
|Certification is not required for all jobs*|
|Work in a doctor's office requires no night or weekend work*|
|Opportunities to engage in both clinical and administrative tasks**|
|Cons of being a Podiatrist's Assistant|
|Low salary when compared to other fields ($30k median salary as of May 2014)|
|Job duties like taking x-rays could require completion of a training program or an exam*|
|Radiation exposure is possible (when exposing and developing patient's x-rays)*|
|Some jobs require prior experience***|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Iseek Solutions, ***CareerBuilder job postings
Job Description and Duties
As a podiatrist's assistant, you will work in doctor's offices or health care facilities under the direction of a podiatrist. You'll help doctors examine patients who complain of various concerns, including ankle sprains, ingrown toenails or skin conditions. You could also assist podiatrists with patients suffering from complications related to diabetes or obesity. To assist doctors with their diagnoses, you might develop and expose x-rays, take patients' vital signs and record their medical history. You may assist a podiatrist during surgery and provide patients with the directions they are to follow once they get home.
You may also be required to make impressions, or castings, of a patient's feet. Scheduling patients' appointments and assisting with diagnostic medical coding in patients' charts may also be a part of your job.
Career Prospects and Salary
The employment forecast for all medical assistants, including podiatrist's assistants, is promising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment could increase 29% between 2012 and 2022. A growth in demand for medical services, like podiatry, could result in more assistants being hired, so that physicians can see more patients. The BLS reported that medical assistants earned a median salary of about $30,000 annually as of May 2014.
What Are the Requirements?
Education and Certification
The BLS reports that medical assistants generally need a high school diploma, but can learn many of their skills on the job. However, according to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), some employers require job candidates to hold Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) credentials.
To get certified, you'll need to complete an accredited medical assistant training program through a community or technical college. Accreditation for these programs is offered by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Depending on the program, you can earn a certificate, diploma or associate's degree. All programs offer both classroom and laboratory training. You'll also be required to complete a supervised internship in a health care setting.
One important skill for a podiatrist's assistant to have is good verbal communication skills. You will be working closely with patients every day and having the ability to give them information concisely and accurately is essential. Because the use of electronic medical records (EMR) in health care is becoming more common, having experience with EMR software will also be useful. Time management, multi-tasking and technical skills are also valuable. Being able to remain composed and compassionate in stressful situations could be an asset.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Some of the most common job requirements that employers look for include completion of a medical assistant program and at least one year of experience. Having pre-authorization and insurance experience might be preferred. Employers also look for applicants with EMR and computer skills. Check out these job postings from April 2012 to get an idea of what employers are searching for:
- A full -time floating medical assistant is needed in a podiatry/orthopedic clinic in Nevada. They require a high school diploma or GED, completion of a medical assistant program and one year experience in a health care setting. They prefer applicants with experience in wound care and suture removal and the ability to assist with minor clinical procedures.
- A private podiatry practice in Ohio is looking for a full-time medical assistant. They need someone with experience to work in a busy office. The ideal candidate will be a team player and eager to learn. Having a general x-ray license is preferred.
- A physician assistant/medical assistant is being recruited by a company in Florida that specializes in providing podiatry care in long-term care facilities. Duties include travel to and from nursing home facilities to assist with medical procedures and wound care. Experience in the medical field is desired, but not required.
How To Stand Out
Acquire Additional Certifications
The BLS reports that many employers prefer to hire certified workers. To stand out in this field, you might consider earning certification in addition to the CMA credential. You can choose from the Registered Medical Assistant credential, offered by American Medical Technologists, or the National Certified Medical Assistant available through the National Center for Competency Testing. You might also consider the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, which is offered by the National Healthcareer Association.
Join a Professional Organization
Joining a professional organization could provide you with several advantages. As a member of the AAMA, you are entitled to a reduced fee when taking the CMA certification exam. They also offer continuing education programs and networking opportunities. If you become a member of the American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants, you'll be eligible to earn a Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified credential.
Other Career Paths
Not sure if the podiatry field is right for you? Another option, if you want to work with patients, is to become a nursing aide. You can work in hospitals or nursing homes, helping patients with various activities like bathing, dressing and eating. You'll need to graduate from an accredited program and take a state licensing exam, such as the Certified Nursing Assistant examination. According to the BLS, the average annual salary for nursing aides, orderlies and attendants was about $25,000 in May 2011. Job growth was expected to increase 20% between 2010 and 2020.
Physical Therapist Assistant
If you want to increase your salary potential, without having to get a bachelor's degree, you may want to consider becoming a physical therapist assistant. An associate's degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education is required in most states. Physical therapist assistants work with patients who are trying to regain movement. They use exercise and therapeutic methods under the supervision of a physical therapist. This is a growing field; according to the BLS, a projected 45% increase in jobs is expected between 2010 and 2020. The average salary for these assistants was around $51,000 a year as of May 2011.