A Short Guide to Medical Assisting Classes
What Will You Actually Learn?

Find out exactly what you'll learn in your medical assisting classes. Get ahead of the curve with our guidance!

When you sign up for a medical assisting program, you're probably curious about what classes you'll have to take to pass it.

You'll have to take a mixture of classes that focus on medical and clerical aspects of your job.

Many of the classes vary from one program to another. In addition, if you decide to take a diploma program, you won't have to take classes (such as college English or a humanities elective) that those who take an associate's degree would have to complete.

You can get a good idea of the medical assisting classes that you have to take by researching your college program and asking at your educational facility. They can give you the best idea of what to expect.

Patient care and communication

You'll learn patient care in your medical assisting classes

This type of medical assisting class focuses on how to care for a patient's chart and how to maintain the books for the front end of the office.

You'll learn how to set up appointments with medical appointment scheduling software, and how to do bookkeeping with simple accounts.

Anatomy and physiology make up a part of this class, as well as learning how to speak to patients both in-person and on the phone.

You'll learn how to communicate with body language and how your voice makes a difference in communication. You'll also learn business letter writing and medical transcription.

Clinical assisting and pharmacology

Medical assisting classes in pharmacology help you understand prescription medications and give you a background for explaining them to patients. You'll study microbiology and how bacteria and infection can affect the human body.

You'll also have a look at drug dosage calculations, to determine how many pills of a specific medication from a doctor's order a patient should get. You'll also learn about the muscular system to help you administer injections.

Digestive system and nutrition

You'll learn about the digestive system in your medical assisting classes

A class about the digestive system is necessary because medical assistants are often called upon to explain a patient's diet orders to them, and help the patient to understand them.

Whether it's by phone or in-person, a good medical assistant has to understand the diet the doctor has ordered and help the patient to effectively implement this diet at home.

Medical insurance and billing

The insurance course is probably one of the most important classes for a medical assistant to take. You need to understand the ICD-9, CPT-4 and HCPCS code manuals, and how to implement them in your practice.

Medical assistants also should learn:

  • how to bill to the insurance company,
  • what is and isn't covered by the insurance company,
  • and how to collect from the patient (see our advice for collecting patient balances).

Just knowing how to process the specific forms that insurance companies require can take up a whole class - the forms are very complex and require a great deal of understanding. This class can also include information on patient confidentiality and how to protect information in the computer age.

Cardiopulmonary and electrocardiography

You'll learn about the heart and lungs in your medical assisting classes

The heart and lung systems of the body are another important area for medical assistants, and this is another class that requires close attention in medical assisting school.

One of the first things you'll learn is CPR in case a patient has a heart attack in the middle of the doctor's office. You'll also learn the anatomy and physiology of the heart and lungs to fully understand how they work and how they can become diseased.

Vital signs are included in this course because they are closely related to the cardiopulmonary system. It will be important for you to be able to distinguish between normal values and abnormal values for children and adults.

Finally, most medical assistants learn how to conduct EKG tests, which measure the electrical conductivity of the heart.

Laboratory procedures

In these types of medical assisting classes students learn how to collect specimens from patients, particularly blood specimens.

You'll likely learn how to do venipuncture, or drawing blood, if this is allowed in your state. You'll be taught the different tests that are run on blood, urine, and sputum, and how to care for the equipment in a lab.

You'll also learn about the components of blood and urine and what the different results mean.

In this class you may also be introduced to various diagnostic procedures, such as radiology and nuclear medicine procedures, to give you a well-rounded education of what the doctor can prescribe for your patients. You'll need to have a working knowledge of these procedures if the patient has a question.

Sometimes patients feel more comfortable asking you a question rather than the doctor. Your knowledge of CT scans, x-rays, and ultrasounds is vital here - you're in a prime position to offer helpful teaching.

Medical law and ethics

Medical law

This medical assisting class will teach you:

  • how to run an office,
  • how to be a manager,
  • how to appropriately deal with patients
  • how to behave in a professional manner
  • and how to keep the medical office safe.

You'll learn the clerical side of the medical assisting world, and how to deal with the doctor's office as an office.

Computers and ergonomics will be an important teaching point in this class, as well as a quick introduction to keeping stock and inventory of frequently-used office items.

As well as ergonomics, you can also learn the physical mechanics of helping a patient to ambulate, transfer, and move with various assistive devices. You'll also have to learn the basics of medical ethics and the law surrounding who a doctor can care for and charity cases. This is the class that teaches what the law says about how a doctor functions in his community.

Ready to move on? Learn about your options for medical assisting programs, or see the 5 traits that make studying medical assisting online easier.

You'll also learn medical assisting terminology - click the link to see a brief guide.

You should also have a look at what's in the final medical assisting exam.

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