Nature of the Work
Medical assistants perform administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors and other health practitioners running smoothly. The duties of medical assistants vary from office to office, depending on the location and size of the practice and the practitioner's specialty. In small practices, medical assistants usually do many different kinds of tasks, handling both administrative and clinical duties, and reporting directly to an office manager, physician or other health practitioner. Those in large practices tend to specialize in a particular area, under the supervision of department administrators. Medical assistants should not be confused with physician assistants, who examine, diagnose and treat patients under the direct supervision of a physician.
Administrative Medical Assistant
Administrative medical assistants update and file patients' medical records, fill out insurance forms, and arrange for hospital admissions and laboratory services. They also perform tasks less specific to medical settings, such as answering telephones, greeting patients, handling correspondence, scheduling appointments, and handling billing and bookkeeping.
Clinical Medical Assistant
Clinical medical assistants have various duties, depending on state law. Some common tasks include taking medical histories and recording vital signs, explaining treatment procedures to patients, preparing patients for examinations and assisting physicians during examinations. Medical assistants collect and prepare laboratory specimens and sometimes perform basic laboratory tests, dispose of contaminated supplies and sterilize medical instruments. As directed by a physician, they might instruct patients about medications and special diets, prepare and administer medications, authorize drug refills, telephone prescriptions to a pharmacy, draw blood, prepare patients for X-rays, take electrocardiograms, remove sutures and change dressings. Medical assistants also may arrange examining room instruments and equipment, purchase and maintain supplies and equipment, and keep waiting and examining rooms neat and clean.