Oncology Medical Assistant: Career, Schooling, Job Duties

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What is an Oncology Medical Assistant?

An oncology medical assistant is a specialized medical assistant who is responsible for treating patients with cancer. Their specialized responsibilities are clinical as well as administrative in nature. Their duties include but are not limited to filing and maintaining electronic medical records of patients and insurance forms, taking their vital signs, recording their medical histories, collecting their specimens, preparing examination and surgery rooms besides informing them of treatment protocols.

They work under the direct supervision of a medical director or licensed physician. They provide routine services to cancer patients in ambulatory settings and are responsible for ensuring improved patient care in the medical facility. An oncology medical assistant aids with the day to day activities of a clinical facility besides facilitating patient procedures and visits.

Job Duties: What Does an Oncology Medical Assistant Do?

An oncology medical assistant helps health professionals and clinical staff with patient care who are surviving cancer and are diagnosed with other blood disorders. As they are specialized medical assistants, they are required to perform a set of oncology medical assistant duties which involve running the medical site on a day to day basis, besides filling and updating electronic medical records of patients. They are also expected to perform many clinical duties like taking vital signs, delivering immunizations, helping licensed physicians with procedures and surgeries. A detailed overview of the Oncology Medical Assistant job description is provided below:

Clinical Duties

As medical assistants do not require national certification or licensure as a mandatory requirement by states, they can perform only a set of duties that have been delegated to them by supervised physicians and the laws of the land.

  • Assisting health professionals and physicians during physical examinations
  • Ensuring that all exam rooms and supplies are cleaned adequately
  • Sterilizing all instruments
  • Performing ECGs
  • Performing lab procedures as delegated by physicians
  • Ensuring proper maintenance of inventory supplies of the clinic
  • Administering injections or shots as delegated by physicians
  • Supporting chemotherapy teams
  • Ordering, reviewing, and approving lab tests
  • Documenting treatment
  • Assisting patients and nurses with patient procedures and examinations
  • Operating and maintaining ABX machinery
  • Cleaning and stocking exam rooms and other treatment rooms

Administrative Duties

Oncology Medical Assistants perform a handful of front office duties as well as back-office responsibilities to keep the medical facility working daily. Their routine administrative services include:

  • Returning patient calls on the same day
  • Setting up appointments
  • Creating and maintaining a pro-active system in the office
  • Ensuring delivery of lab reports
  • Preparing and maintaining medical charts
  • Keeping proper records of EMR and charts
  • Evaluating, documenting, and distributing clinical correspondence
  • Managing patient referrals to other hospitals and ambulatory facilities
  • Helping patients navigate through the system, ensuring quick and sensitive customer service
  • Addressing issues of concern with management staff and supervisor

Special Duties

They have to step in and take care of emergencies as and when they arise. Some expected special duties involve:

  • Providing emotional and psycho-social support to patients and their families
  • Maintaining a safe environment for patients and other teammates
  • Maintaining formal and informal correspondence
  • Documenting treatments and transcribing them

Education Requirements for Oncology Medical Assistants

Oncology MAs are required to have a high school diploma or an equivalent GED. A bachelor’s degree is also preferred in some cases. Though Oncology MAs are not mandated by law to have formal training, they have a better chance at employment if they possess formal training. There are numerous course options available for medical assistants, from both public and private schools. They can either complete a certificate course in medical assisting, or a diploma.

For medical assistants interested in pursuing further studies, they can complete an Associate in Applied Sciences (AAS) degree in medical assisting. All courses require medical assistants to complete a minimum of 160 hours of clinical externship to get practical on-the-job training under supervised professionals and physicians in a medical facility or ambulatory setting.

  • How Long is Schooling?

    The average course duration of a medical assistant course depends upon the nature of the course. For a medical assistant certificate, the term is around 9 to 12 months. For a diploma, the total course duration is approximately 12 months, usually split into 2 or 3 semesters of study. For an AAS degree, the entire course duration is around 2 years, with the course curriculum divided into 4 or 5 semesters of study.

  • Course Work

    An MA degree teaches you how to schedule patient appointments, bill customers, file for insurance forms, and apply injections and basic first aid besides knowing how to run an office. The curriculum usually covered in MA degrees involves rudimentary knowledge of basic anatomy, physiology, psychology, and medical terminology.

Certification Requirements

Though Oncology Medical Assistants don’t have to possess a certification, it is recommended that they do. Having certification testifies that you have skills that are approved under nationally accepted standards. If you have completed a medical assistant degree from an accredited school, you’ll be eligible to sit for Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) examination by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) and Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) offered by American Medical Technologists (AMT).

Other national certifications medical assistants can opt for include the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) credential provided by NCCT, Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) by National Healthcare Association (NHA), and Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA) provided by the National Association of Health Professionals (NAHP).

Oncology Medical Assistants can acquire a specialized certification called Specialty Certified Medical Assistant (SCMA). The International Medical Assistant (IMA) is a certification that validates medical assistants for having clinical and administrative knowledge. The SCMA certification training is usually provided in 13 therapeutic specialties, and Oncology (SCMA-ON™) is one of them.

Recertification and Continuing Education

All professional certifications are generally valid for between 1 and 5 years, depending upon the certificate. For an RMA credential, one must comply with AMT regulations and apply for the renewal of certification every 3 years. For the Specialty Certified Medical Assistant recertification, an Oncology MA needs to apply for recertification every year. Recertification usually requires candidates to pay a nominal fee and submitting evidence of continuing education units (CEUs).

Numerous organizations provide continuing education unit documentation and certificates when you complete conferences, seminars, and online classes. Candidates can also take an examination to earn a continuing education unit (CEU) certification. All medical assistants are required to maintain CPR certification and renew them as and when the need arises.

You can also consider earning a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare field like healthcare administration or nursing. Having a bachelor’s degree can help you achieve better salaries while transitioning into advanced careers.

Qualities/Skills Required for an Oncology Medical Assistant

To be a specialized Oncology Medical Assistant, one has to wear many hats from time to time. They also have to spearhead improvement in the medical facilities after proper consultation with management. The qualities/skills required for an Oncology Medical Assistant include but are not limited to:

Personal Skills

  • Should be empathetic and caring as they have to take care of terminally ill patients
  • Should be patient with needs of cancer patients and old individuals
  • Should be of strong moral character
  • Should have a helpful attitude dedicated to serving the society
  • Should have proper communication and coordination skills to perform in a team
  • Should be detailed-oriented and careful

Professional Skills

  • Should have adequate skills in recording lab tests
  • Should be able to understand medical charts
  • Should be able to diagnose
  • Should be comfortable creating and reading electronic medical records
  • Should be skilled with hypodermic needles
  • Should be acquainted with the know-how of blood pressure equipment and other procedure-related equipment
  • Should have basic computer skills
  • Should have relevant skills to operate medical software
  • Should have basic office maintenance skills
  • Should know basic mathematics to do accounting

Oncology Medical Assistant Salary and Job Outlook

Source Salary Date of Update
Payscale.com $14.55 (hourly) October 28, 2020
Salary.com $17 (hourly) September 25, 2020
Indeed.com $23,055 (yearly) October 28, 2020

As per the table, the average hourly salary of medical assistants ranges between $14 and $17, which is higher than most other average professions.

As per data from salary.com, the average hourly salary of an Oncology Medical Assistant in the US ranges between $15 and $18. The median hourly salary is $17, as per the latest records of September 25, 2020. The actual wage can depend upon many factors like additional skills, the number of years of relevant experience and education, and certification details. Other benefits a medical assistant is entitled to include social security, disability care, healthcare, pension, and time off besides base salary and bonus.

Resourceful Links for Oncology MAs

  1. Indeed.com

    For a comprehensive insight on the employment outlook and job growth of medical assistants, indeed.com is a valuable resource. Find the best Oncology Medical Assistant job opportunities here.

  2. Oncology Nursing Society

    They aim to make a difference to cancer patients worldwide with improved patient care. They allow career development opportunities, help you prepare for certification, and browse through relevant resources.

  3. International Society of Nurses Cancer Care

    They are dedicated to improving the health of patients who have cancer and are developing proper nursing leadership in the delivery of cancer care. Established in 1984, they hold international conferences and are a great networking hub for oncology specialists.

  4. AMA Ed Hub

    They cater to the professional development of medical assistants by enhancing their skills and the roles of allied health professionals. They provide practice assessment tools, quizzes and outlines, and adequate PDF and PPT resources. They also offer survey checklists so that medical assistants can identify training opportunities.