What is a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants are regarded as generalists in the healthcare delivery system. As such, they need to have a broad range of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Medical assisting programs prepare graduates for employment in the allied health profession. Medical assistants are commonly considered healthcare delivery generalists because they perform a range of services in various settings, such as outpatient and ambulatory healthcare settings. Duties vary with the size, specialty, and location of the medical practice. Medical assistants work under the direction and supervision of a physician, office manager, or other healthcare professional.
Medical assistant duties include administrative and clinical functions. Front-office activities include setting appointments, greeting and directing patients, answering phones, updating patient files and records, preparing written correspondence, and completing insurance forms. They may also include scheduling referrals, hospital admissions, and diagnostic tests.
Clinical (back-office) duties include obtaining vital signs and patient histories; assisting with examinations, treatments, and procedures, such as electrocardiograms, injections, and wound care; collecting specimens, such as by phlebotomy; performing simple (waived) laboratory tests; and sterilizing medical instruments. Depending on state laws, a medical assistant may prepare and administer some injections under a physician’s direction. The next section lists additional duties.
Medical assistants typically work a 40-hour week. However, part-time, evening, and weekend hours are possible. They primarily work in clean, well-lit environments that require some physical activity. Medical assistants interact with patients, colleagues, and medical professionals, often handling multiple tasks and responsibilities at the same time.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the medical assistant graduate may be prepared to meet the requirements for various occupational titles, including:
- Medical assistant (MA)
- Certified medical assistant (CMA)
- Registered medical assistant (RMA)
- Certified medical administrative specialist (CMAS)
- Certified clinical medical assistant (CCMA)
- Certified medical administrative assistant (CMAA)
- Clinical medical assistant certification (CMAC)
- Administrative medical assistant
- Clinical medical assistant
- Chiropractor assistant or technician
- Podiatric medical assistant
- Medical records technician
- Medical insurance coding specialist or coder
- Medical secretary or executive assistant
- Medical reception or receptionist
- Physician’s assistant
- Medical office assistant
- Electrocardiography technician