What Do Medical Assistants Do?
Medical assistants work alongside doctors and nurses in medical settings such as hospitals, physician clinics and nursing homes, performing administrative duties and minor clinical tasks as needed by the clinical staff and patients.
Some medical assistants have a clerical focus, meaning they carry out mainly administrative tasks, including front-office tasks and non-clinical patient care. These medical assistants do not perform clinical functions, though they generally have some medical training to help them function in the work environment. (See: medical assistant training.)
Other medical assistants have mostly clinical responsibilities, aiding doctors and nurses in the medical treatment of patients. These medical assistants perform only minor tasks, such as dressing wounds, taking vital signs and, in some cases, drawing blood (phlebotomy).
It is also common for medical assistants to perform a combination of clinical and administrative duties, especially in smaller facilities. Here we will look at the two types of medical assisting responsibilities.
Administrative Medical Assistants
Administrative (clerical) medical assistants have many of the same job functions as non-medical administrative assistants. They manage the front office, including scheduling, bookkeeping, interacting with patients before and after treatment, and other administrative duties pertaining to health care. These can include:
- Answering phones
- Photocopying documents
- Greeting patients
- Filing paperwork
- Record keeping
- Scheduling appointments
- Billing clients
- Following up after patient treatment
- Ordering medical / office supplies
Some tasks are more specific to the medical field, such as:
- Interpreting and explaining patients’ insurance coverage
- Phoning in medical prescriptions
- Arranging for testing with medical specialists
- Handling medical records
The primary aim of these medical assistants is to ensure the front-office functions of a hospital of physician’s practice flow smoothly for medical staff as well as patients.
Clinical Medical Assistants
These medical assistants mainly work in the clinical areas of a hospital or physician’s practice, helping doctors and nurses with the medical treatment of patients. They carry out small, non-invasive tasks such as:
- Taking patients’ blood or urine samples
- Taking vital signs
- Bandaging wounds
- Operating medical machinery such as electrocardiographs (EKGs)
- Removing stitches and sutures
- Sterilizing medical equipment
- Counseling patients on medicines and other health-related topics
- Aiding the physician during medical exams
- Collecting samples for testing
In general, clinical medical assistants ensure the patient’s treatment runs smoothly, making the process as efficient and painless as possible for both patient and doctor.
Medical assistants prepare for employment through short training programs geared toward providing the necessary job skills. More information is available at medical assistant training.