While medical assistants work alongside physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other medical healthcare providers they operate in a field that is distinct from other forms of medical care.
In many cases medical assistance can be found working in clinical setting where they perform standard medical procedures such as recording and storing patient health data in the office medical system, preparing and managing medical equipment, administering (not prescribing) medication, collecting patient bodily fluids such as urine, blood and saliva and taking and recording patient vital signs.
Medical assistants are trained to perform both administrative and clinical duties that allow them to maintain a versatile role within the office setting they work in.
Depending on where the medical assistant works he or she may be able to perform additional medical procedures such as taking X-rays or giving patients injections.
What do medical assistants do?
Medical assistants perform a wide range of clinical and administrative task throughout their typical work day.
They provide physicians and other medical professionals with pertinent information to help make their job easier and provide patients with additional assistance and reassurance to make their stay as comfortable as possible.
Here is a list of some of the tasks a medical assistant may perform in a given day:
- Explain treatment procedures
- Assist the physician during patient examinations
- Measure, monitor and record patient vitals
- Administer medication
- Draw blood
- Collect bodily fluid samples such as urine and saliva
- Remove sutures and change dressings
- Take electrocardiograms
- Prepare and handle medical equipment and tools
- Operate and manage clinical computer programs/applications
- Answer phone calls
- Greet patients
- Schedule medical appointments
- Update and maintain patient medical records
- Manage coding and billing
- Assist patients with medical forms
- Handle and perform bookkeeping
And a number of other tasks that have been trained to perform.
Aside from performing standard clinical and administrative tasks medical assistants must also be professional, courteous and in tune with their patients emotions and state of mind.
From a patient needs perspective medical assistants need to be compassionate, understanding and personable.
They need to maintain a high level of professionalism and ensure patients that their information will remain safe and confidential.
Being a medical assistant is just as much about human to human relationships as it is administrate and clinically focused.
As far as work schedules go medical assistants generally work in a clinical setting so they can expect to work during normal operating hours, which may be between 7am – 6pm depending in the healthcare clinic.
Most medical assistants will work 40 hour work weeks, however some healthcare facilities may offer part-time hours for students and business individuals.
Those who are interested in becoming medical assistants must first obtain a diploma, G.E.D or equivalent and pass a qualified medical assistant program before working as an MA.
Medical assistant programs can be found offered at a number of local community colleges, technical schools and vocational schools.
Depending on the educational institute the MA program (or at least some coursework) may be offered online for individuals that lead busy lives or have hectic schedules.
The length of the actual program will vary depending on the students educational and career goals.
Students that participate in the program my choose to earn a 1 year certificate/diploma, 2 year associates degree or (if available) a 4 year bachelors degree.
With each advancement in education medical assistants my be offered higher wages, more career responsibilities and better opportunities for getting hired.
During the MA program students will learn about anatomy and physiology, health sciences, medical terminology, clinical work and procedures, and the legal aspects of healthcare.
Students will learn about:
- Medical law and ethics
- Proper patient care procedures and protocols
- Effective communication and human relations skills
- Phlebotomy and laboratory procedures and protocols
- How to apply and replace bandages
- Administrative duties and business practices
- Computer billing
- Keyboard skill development
- Proper phone etiquette
And a host of other skills related to medical assisting.
Upon completion of the MA program students may earn a professional certification through an organization such as the AAMA.
While a professional certification may not be necessary to obtain a job as a medical assistant it can help significantly as it proves to employees that the individual they are hiring is a qualified candidate and has received adequate training as an MA student.
The importance of medical assistants
Medical assistants play a major role within the clinical care setting.
They are able to perform many of the administrative tasks that are necessary to run a medical office.
These allied healthcare providers are in charge of scheduling appointments, assisting patients with filing paperwork, recording and maintaining patient medical records, answering phone calls, performing and maintaining computer billing, and addressing basic patient concerns among other administrative duties.
They also help streamline the medical care process and make the physicians job more efficient by handling some basic patient care procedures such as measuring and recording vital signs, preparing patients for examinations and taking bodily fluids for lab testing.
If you’ve ever been in a doctors office chances are you have first hand experience working with medical assistants from helping you file your paperwork and performing standard interviews to collecting urine and blood samples prior to meeting with the physician.
This allows many of the basic tasks to be handled in advance so that the physician can spend more time focusing in higher level patient tasks such as assessing, diagnosing and treating a patients medical condition and less time assisting patients with paperwork, asking introductory questions, gathering test samples and recording vital signs.
Medical assistants also allow more patients to receive medical care in a faster manner as they are able to help patients with basic medical tasks while the physician works with patients that are ready for more advanced care.
In short medical assistants allow a single physician or a small group of physicians to see and care for more patients, and speed up the medical process by eliminating unnecessary medical tasks so that the physician can tend to activities that require his or her expertise and knowledge.
Without properly trained medical assistants it would be much more difficult for physicians and practitioners to effectively run all the aspects of their clinical practice while also providing care to the patients that come to see them.