What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

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A medical assistant is a healthcare professional who works under the direction of a physician. They perform both clinical and administrative tasks, including scheduling appointments, drawing blood, maintaining patients’ records, or taking vital signs. Their exact responsibilities may vary depending on their place of employment, including location, specialty, or size of practice. In large healthcare facilities, medical assistants may specialize in either clinical or administrative duties. However, the majority of medical assistants work in physicians’ offices. It is important to note that medical assistants are not the same as physician assistants, who examine, diagnose, and treat patients under a physician’s supervision.

Medical Assistant Job Description & Duties

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a medical assistant, you are probably wondering, what is a medical assistant? You might also be wondering what the job description of a medical assistant is. The following is a detailed overview of common job duties of a medical assistant:

Administrative Duties

  • Recording patients’ information, such as medical history, vital statistics, or test results
  • Scheduling appointments for patients
  • Greeting and logging in patients coming into the office
  • Performing bookkeeping duties
  • Performing office duties like answering calls or taking dictations
  • Coding and completing insurance forms
  • Arranging for patients’ admission to medical facilities or departments
  • Using computer applications

Clinical Duties

  • Preparing patients for treatment, including setting up the exam room and interviewing patients
  • Preparing and administering medications as directed by a physician
  • Collecting blood and other laboratory specimens
  • Explaining treatment procedures, medications, and physicians’ instructions
  • Cleaning and sterilizing medical tools
  • Performing routine laboratory tests
  • Authorizing drug refills and relaying prescription information to pharmacies
  • Handing the physician instruments or materials
  • Changing dressings on wounds

Where Do Medical Assistants Work

If you are considering completing a medical assistant training program, you likely want to know where you may be working after you graduate. Most medical assistants work full time and have a regular work schedule. However, those who work in 24-hour medical facilities may also work evenings, weekends, or holidays. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that more than half of medical assistants work at physicians’ offices. A small number also works in other industries. Below is a list of employers of medical assistants:

  • Offices of Physicians
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners
  • Outpatient Care Centers
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools
  • Personal Care Services

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A Day in the Life of a Medical Assistant

The day of a medical assistant may start with performing some administrative tasks. This could include looking over the scheduled appointments for the day and discussing them with the physician in charge. The medical assistant might also review patients’ information, such as medical history, vital numbers, financial records, or insurance information. He or she may prepare examination rooms, clean equipment, sterilize instruments, and set up medical laboratory tools.

Once patients arrive, the medical assistant greets them and logs them in. He or she might show patients the examination room and interview them to gain further medical information. The medical assistant will probably also measure vital signs, weights, and height. Furthermore, he or she may draw blood or collect other tissue. While the physician is examining the patient, the medical assistant may hand him or her tools or other materials. He or she might also operate equipment like x-rays or electrocardiograms.

After the physician has completed the exam, the medical assistant may explain treatment procedures, medications, diets, or the physician’s instructions to the patient. He or she may also authorize drug refills and contact pharmacies to provide prescription information. If the patient needs to be referred or transferred to another facility or department, it may be the medical assistant’s task to arrange for that. Other administrative tasks that a medical assistant may encounter throughout the day are checking the inventory, ordering supplies, or undertaking bookkeeping duties.

Medical assistants are an essential part of a medical team. They often act as a liaison for patients and help them feel at ease. Medical assistants make sure that a physician’s office, for example, runs smoothly and that all patients are served effectively.

Learn more about how to become a medical assistant.