Medical Assistant: The Duties and Responsibilities of This Healthcare Professional

Seeing a medical assistant in a hospital or clinic office is common. This healthcare professional is efficient and well-rounded. Knowing what they do can help you understand how they help the medical field function. Below are the important details that you should know about what a medical assistant is.

What a Medical Assistant Is

This healthcare professional works in clinics and medical offices alongside doctors. Assisting doctors is a growing profession. The number of outpatient care facilities and doctor’s offices is increasing. As a result, there is a need for more medical assistants. Another reason for getting more assistants is the increasing number of elderly patients.

The Responsibilities and Duties

A medical assistant goes through training to perform clinical and administrative duties. Below are the basic clinical duties of this healthcare professional:

  • Explains the procedures to patients
  • Takes medical histories
  • Collects and prepares specimens for the lab
  • Prepares patients for exams
  • Assists the doctor during exams
  • Instructs patients about special diets and medications
  • Performs lab tests
  • Takes electrocardiograms
  • Prepares and gives medications (including vaccinations)
  • Changes dressings and performs wound care
  • Transmits medication refills

The administrative duties of a medical assistant include the following:

  • Answers phones
  • Uses computer applications
  • Welcomes and seats patients
  • Schedules appointments
  • Files and updates medical records
  • Fills out and codes insurance forms
  • Stocks supplies
  • Handles bookkeeping, correspondence, and billing
  • Arranges for laboratory services and hospital admissions

The duties and responsibilities of a medical assistant depend on the facility. It also depends on the individual’s experience. This medical professional remains under the supervision of nurses and doctors while working with patients. Some assistants may also work for optometrists’ clinics or even specialty facilities.

A female medical assistant holding a patients’ log book

What You Need to Become a Medical Assistant

You do not need to have a degree to become a medical assistant. Credentials or licensing is not a need in most states either. Getting this type of job is possible. You can work while learning through training. Earning a medical assistant certificate is what other people do to secure a job. In fact, you can land a job faster if you get a certificate first.

It usually takes 900 hours or 45 weeks to complete a medical assistant course. In less than a year, you will get a certificate that will make you a good candidate for many facilities. While training can teach you the basics, the certificate program can train you on human anatomy, administrative tasks, and clinical procedures.

You will significantly increase your collection of medical terms. This can help you since you will be working with doctors and patients. Knowing these terms will allow you to understand the instructions of other healthcare professionals. It can also help you handle medical billing and chart patient data.

A good medical assistant must have the skills to get data from an anxious patient. Backgrounds in biology and anatomy are necessary. Following medical charts and understanding diagnoses or codes are also important. Some facilities look for assistants who have associate degrees in the medical field. Excellent customer service skills and professionalism can give you the edge. Strong written and verbal skills can help you become an effective medical assistant as well.

The Working Conditions of a Medical Assistant

A medical assistant notably works for a doctor’s office. But in essence, this healthcare professional can work in many healthcare facilities. Hospitals and eye clinics can also hire medical assistants. The duties can be different every day. Moving about most of the day is common, especially if the facility has many exam rooms.

Interacting with injured, sick, or healthy patients is part of the work description. Doing so will need patience and a calm state of mind. Sick or injured people do not always behave well. You need to prepare yourself in case you handle difficult patients. Being a medical assistant often involves handling overlapping responsibilities. Hence, you will need strong organization and multi-tasking skills.

A medical assistant can have part-time or full-time schedules. Clinics often have daytime work hours during weekdays and occasional weekend work hours. Hospitals usually have evening shifts and weekend hours.

A female medical assistant putting on a face mask to help a patient

The Difference Between a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and a Medical Assistant

CNAs and medical assistants can assist healthcare professionals in providing quality patient care. They only differ in their professional responsibilities and requirements. CNAs must gain a certification after finishing a program. They do not perform administrative tasks. Rather, they provide patients with standard care, such as eating or bathing.

Medical assistants perform clinical and administrative tasks. They need CMA (Certified Medical Assistant) documentation. This will allow them to perform their mentioned duties and responsibilities.

A Medical Assistant’s Direct Superior

In general, a medical assistant reports to the doctor of the facility. Checking with the doctor is necessary while assisting with procedures. The medical assistant may then report to the RN (Registered Nurse) or nurse practitioner in case the doctor is out.

You Will Need the Right Training and Attitude if You Want to Become a Medical Assistant

A medical assistant is important in a busy healthcare facility. You will need training and the right interpersonal skills to deal with different tasks. Certification is also necessary to secure this position. Considering all their mentioned duties and responsibilities, medical assistants are, indeed, indispensable.


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