Imagine spending your work days being directly responsible for contributing to the well-being of people. Working in a plastic surgery practice as a medical assistant is one way to achieve this experience. If you possess the right combination of personality, skills, education and experience, you can secure a worthwhile position in this field.
Your Personal Tools
If you consider yourself to be friendly, organized and able to prioritize, you have a good start on the type of skills that will assist you in this job. You could be the ideal candidate if you're also clinically minded, well-groomed and comfortable with public interaction. You should have excellent communication skills and the ability to maintain confidentiality, as well as be able to multitask between administrative duties and performing specific hands-on procedures. You should not be squeamish in a surgical setting where you could encounter visible blood from a patient or other unexpected occurrences.
Your Chief Duties
Your duties can vary depending on the practice. In a smaller practice, you might be responsible for handling administrative duties, such as maintaining a manageable patient schedule and answering phones, in addition to working directly with patient intake. In larger practices employing a separate administrative staff, your duties as a medical assistant could include helping patients remain calm and possibly assisting the surgeon with simple in-office procedures, such as removing moles. You'll ensure all equipment is properly sterilized and ready for use. You might support the surgeon during more complex procedures, although state guidelines determine the extent to which you can assist. You’ll examine and prepare patients for surgery and record vital statistics. Under the surgeon’s supervision, you might assist with diagnosing patients.
Other Possible Tasks
If the surgeon is unavailable to do so, you might be required to consult with patients, advise various treatments, and take care of pre- and post-surgical requirements, such as letting patients know not to eat or drink for a specified time before surgery, or detailing a patient's pain medication schedule. You might gather lab specimens or arrange for pre-surgical examinations, such as X-rays or electrocardiograms. Other tasks may include suture removal and changing surgical dressings.
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide information on medical assistants specific to a plastic surgery practice, it does offer data about medical assistants in general. According to the BLS, medical assistants must have, at minimum, a high school diploma. If you will be doing more in-depth work with the surgeon, such as assisting with more complex procedures like reconstructive surgery, your duties might fall under those categorized as physician assistant duties, requiring a bachelor's degree focusing on surgical coursework. The BLS also reports that, in most states, general medical assistants are not required to be licensed, unlike physician assistants, who must apply for licensing through the state’s physician assistant regulatory board.
- The American Association of Medical Assistants: Medical Assisting Career
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Medical Assistants
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physician Assistants
- State of California, Department of Consumer Affairs: Physician Assistant Board: Check Sheet and General Information to the Application for Physician Assistant Licensure
Michelle Reynolds has been writing about business, careers and art since 1993. She was the publisher of a newsletter, “Working Parents Monthly," as well as a graphic design guidebook. Reynolds also served as human-resources director at a resort/spa for eight years. She is an artist and promotes the arts and other artists through ElegantArtisan.com, a website she developed and maintains.