Medical assistants typically do the following:
- Record patient history and personal information
- Measure vital signs, such as blood pressure
- Help the physician with patient examinations
- Give patients injections or medications as directed by the physician and as permitted by state law
- Schedule patient appointments
- Prepare blood samples for laboratory tests
- Enter patient information into medical records
Medical assistants take and record patients' personal information. They must be able to keep that information confidential and discuss it only with other medical personnel who are involved in treating the patient.
Electronic health records (EHRs) are changing some medical assistants' jobs. More and more physicians are adopting EHRs, moving all their patient information from paper to electronic records. Assistants need to learn the EHR software that their office uses.
Medical assistants should not be confused with physician assistants, who examine, diagnose, and treat patients under a physician's supervision.
In larger practices or hospitals, medical assistants may specialize in either administrative or clinical work.
Administrative medical assistants often fill out insurance forms or code patients' medical information. They often answer telephones and schedule patient appointments.
Clinical medical assistants have different duties, depending on the state where they work. They may do basic laboratory tests, dispose of contaminated supplies, and sterilize medical instruments. They may have additional responsibilities, such as instructing patients about medication or special diets, preparing patients for x rays, removing stitches, drawing blood, or changing dressings.
Some medical assistants specialize according to the type of medical office where they work. The following are examples of specialized medical assistants:
Ophthalmic medical assistants and optometric assistants help ophthalmologists and optometrists, respectively, provide eye care. They show patients how to insert, remove, and care for contact lenses. Ophthalmic medical assistants also may help an ophthalmologist in surgery.
Podiatric medical assistants work closely with podiatrists (foot doctors). They may make castings of feet, expose and develop x rays, and help podiatrists in surgery.