Medical assistants are healthcare workers who work closely with physicians. Medical assistants earn a decent salary while doing meaningful work and making a difference in the lives of their patients.
Medical assistants can work in a variety of healthcare settings and have many responsibilities ranging from scheduling appointments to helping with minor surgical procedures.
This guide will go over different medical assistant duties and responsibilities.
Most Common Medical Assistant Duties & Responsibilities
Medical assistants have many duties, including both clinical and administrative. Here’s a look at the most common duties that most medical assistants are responsible for.
Clinical Medical Assistant Duties
Clinical duties of medical assistants are typically things that have to do with direct care of patients or dealing with medical equipment. Some examples include:
- Measure vital signs. One of the first things that needs to be done during a patient visit is measuring vital signs. Recording an accurate heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, temperature, and respiratory rate gives the physician important information about the health status of a patient.
- Assist with procedures. Medical assistants are often present during bedside procedures and invasive examinations. They can help position the patient, manage medical equipment, and keep a record of a procedure. Medical assistants can also act as a chaperone for pelvic or prostate examinations.
- Clean patient rooms. Patient rooms must be sanitized and reorganized between each patient visit. Medical assistants will change bedding, restock supplies, and sanitize all high-touch areas in between each appointment.
- Sterilize equipment. For some medical equipment, regular cleaning isn’t enough. Any instrument used for invasive procedures like cutting must be sterilized in a special machine, and then be put into a sterile container without being contaminated.
- Draw blood. Medical assistants may responsible for drawing blood to be sent to the laboratory for testing. Blood drawn can be used to check for nutrient deficiencies, infections, or even some cancers.
- Start IVs. Though whether or not medical assistants can start IVs varies by state. Some allow it without restriction, some require special training and certification, and others completely forbit it.
- Collect urine & stool samples. While not the most glamorous part of the job, collecting stool and urine samples is very important. These body fluids are often sent to labs or even tested in the doctors office to give information about patient health concerns.
Administrative Medical Assistant Duties
Administrative medical assistant duties are generally done in the front office and have to do with computers, paperwork, and phone calls. Here are some examples:
- Schedule appointments. Busy medical offices often have to schedule back-to-back appointments for patients all day long. Medical assistants keep the schedule organized and help the other office staff keep things running on time. Medical assistants can also send out appointment reminders and make adjustments when patients or providers are running late.
- Answer phone calls. Medical assistants are responsible for handling all phone calls that come into the office. This includes general questions about the office, specific medical questions for the providers, customer complaints, and phone calls about insurance.
- Deal with billing & insurance. Medical assistants must get insurance and payment information from each patient, and then follow up to make sure that bills are taken care of. This can include collecting co-payments, contacting insurance companies, or calling to give payment reminders to patients who get behind.
- Coordinate referrals. If a patient needs some type of imaging, test, or specialist, a medical assistant can help coordinate those referrals to other facilities. They can help the patient find the correct provider and schedule their appointments, as well as insuring that all necessary documentation is sent to the referral facility.
- Maintain accurate records. Medical assistants make sure that all medical records are accurate and kept up to date. They will organize patient information including vaccination records, prescription medication lists, allergies, procedure records, and lists of diagnoses.
- Order supplies. An office cannot run smoothly without having all of the necessary supplies on hand. Administrative medical assistants will routinely take inventory of all office and medical supplies and reorder them as needed.
Less Common Medical Assist Duties & Responsibilities
Some medical assistants specialize or work in offices where they have to learn more advanced or uncommon medical assisting skills.
- Sterile dressing changes. Some patients who go home with long-term IV lines or unique wounds need sterile dressing changes. Sterility is an advanced healthcare technique and requires more training than simply being clean.
- EKG. Not all medical assistants are trained to perform an electrocardiogram (EKG). EKGs are more commonly taken in cardiac facilities, urgent care centers, and emergency departments.
- Medication administration. Most states require that medical assistants get special training and pass an extra certification exam before being allowed to give medications.
- Giving injections. Medical assistants are allowed to give vaccinations, but only after they have completed special training and skill pass-offs. Some medical assistants are also trained to give intradermal or subcutaneous injections, although this is less common.
- CPR. Most healthcare facilities require all staff to be trained in CPR, but very few medical assistants actually have to use it. Medical assistants in urgent care and emergency departments are more likely to put their CPR skills into practice.
Learn More About a Career in Medical Assisting
- How to Become a Medical Assistant
- Best Medical Assistant Certifications
- Highest-Paying Medical Assistant Specialties
- Medical Assistant Program Cost
- How Long Medical Assistant Programs Last
- How to Become a Medical Assistant With No Experience
- Typical Hours & Work Schedule of Medical Assistants
- Skills Required to Be a Medical Assistant