According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assisting is one of the country’s fastest growing careers, but exactly what is a medical assistant and what do they do?

We are describing a trained professional that performs routine clinical and administrative tasks in a medical setting such as a physician’s clinic, a hospital, or a chiropractor’s or optometrist’s office. They keep these medical facilities running smoothly, so that doctors and health care specialists can concentrate on treating patients.

The Daily Tasks of a Medical Assistant

The tasks they are expected to perform will depend very much on the type and size of the practice they work in. In smaller clinics, they will be cross trained to perform both clinical and administrative tasks, but in a larger institution such as a hospital they may be more specialised. It is possible to specialise in certain areas of health care such as podiatry or optometry.

Clinical Medical Assistant Duties

Here are some examples of the types of tasks they may be expected to perform:

  • Noting down patients’ medical histories
  • Explaining to patients what will happen during treatment
  • Getting patients ready to be examined
  • Assisting a physician or specialist during an examination
  • Taking and preparing laboratory specimens
  • Undertaking basic laboratory tests on site
  • Informing patients about any medication or treatments they must take
  • Discussing diet and nutrition with patients
  • Preparing and giving out medications under the supervision of a physician
  • Authorizing repeat prescriptions as directed
  • Taking blood for testing
  • Taking electrocardiograms
  • Changing dressings on wounds and removing stitches

These duties vary by practice and by State, for example only some States allow practitioners to draw blood by law. Some tasks can only be performed with current certification.

Administrative Medical Assistant Duties

Administrative tasks they may need to do on a daily basis include using computer applications, answering the telephone, talking to patients, completing and filing drug rehab california medical records, coding and filing insurance forms, arranging appointments, liaising with hospitals and laboratories, and general correspondence and bookkeeping.

The most overlooked aspect of their role is the human element; making patients feel comfortable, looked after, welcomed and reassured. Healthcare works best when patients feel at ease, so they need to have great interpersonal skills, a caring attitude, and great communication skills.

They may also need to translate medical jargon from a physician into simple words that a patient can understand. They need to be able to explain clearly what will happen during an examination or procedure, and to give patients information about aftercare and medication.

There are many answers to the question, ‘What is a medical assistant?’ as their role is so varied. However the simplest answer is that they are the people that keep medical practices running smoothly, both in a clinical and administrative capacity, whilst also making patients feel comfortable and at ease.

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