Medical assistant duties vary widely based on the type of medical assistant, the state a medical assistant is employed in, the employer’s industry, the number of other medical assistants working, and other factors. All of these factors combine to produce a specific medical assistant job description.
The biggest influence on a medical assistant’s duties is the type of medical assisting being performed. Medical assistants work in a variety of settings and have a variety of responsibilities. Some work in the offices of physicians, some work in hospitals, and some work in outpatient medical centers or specialty clinics.
Types of Medical Assisting
There are four basic categories of medical assistant duties—clerical, administrative, clinical, and specialist. Depending on the employer, the same medical assistant can do one or all four of them. Some medical assistants have all of these responsibilities, others only focus on one category, and others do various combinations.
Clinical Medical Assistant Duties
Clinical medical assistants are the most common type of medical assistant. Their job responsibilities involve working with patients in a clinical context, assisting physicians during procedures, and performing light medical procedures. Because of the responsibilities that come with medical practice, clinical medical assistant roles are regulated differently from state to state.
The basic duties of clinical medical assistants include:
- Taking Patient Vital Signs
- Taking Medical Histories
- Preparing Patients for Medical Tests and Examinations
- Assisting Physicians During Examinations
- Explaining Medical Procedures to Patients
- Sterilizing Medical Instruments
- Removing Sutures
- Calling Prescriptions in to Pharmacies
- Preparing Patients for X-Rays
- Administering Topical, Oral, or Intramuscular Medications
Depending on the state, medical assistants may also draw blood (phlebotomy). However, there are several physician duties which clinical medical assistants are not allowed to perform. Some of these include administering intravenous medications, interpreting test results, making independent diagnoses or patient assessments, treating patients independent of a physician, or working with anesthesia.
Administrative Medical Assistant Duties
Administrative medical assistants are less directly involved with patients, and more involved with the general running of the medical practice. Administrative medical assistants still work with patients in the context of scheduling appointments and handling billing functions, as well as other duties, but these medical assistants do not perform hands-on clinical procedures.
Some administrative medical assistant responsibilities might include:
- Filling Out Insurance Forms
- Filing Patient Medical Records
- Maintaining the Confidentiality of Patient Information
- Managing inventory and ordering supplies
- Scheduling Patient Medical Procedures
- Following Up On Patient Visits
- Updating Patient Charts
- Ordering Lab Tests
- Billing Patients
- Working with Insurance Companies
- Managing Petty Cash
Clerical Medical Assistant Duties
Clerical medical assistants perform many of the same job functions as administrative medical assistants, but with less emphasis on medical records and patient information. The clerical medical assistant role focuses more on the business aspects of running a medical practice. They are similar to administrative assistants in typical office settings, managing the day-to-day office activities that keep an office running smoothly.
Some clerical medical assistant job duties might include:
- Answering Phones
- Greeting Patients
- Sorting Mail
- Handling Correspondence
- Typing Documents
- Performing Computer Data Entry
- Handling Billing and Bookkeeping Tasks
Specialist Medical Assistant Duties
The job functions of a specialist medical assistant are somewhat separate from those of other medical assistants. These medical assistants work in a specialist clinic, such as a podiatrist’s office, optometrist’s office, or a medical testing laboratory (see: medical lab assistant). This means a specialist medical assistant has in-depth knowledge of a particular medical field, so they may have job responsibilities that reflect their specialization.
Since these specialist clinics also tend to be smaller practices, these medical assistants may be more likely to have a combination of clinical, administrative, and clerical medical assistant responsibilities. For example, an optometric medical assistant may perform eye exams on patients or order optometric supplies. A medical lab assistant may inspect and test specimens, and record test results.
Performing as a Medical Assistant
Because medical assistants’ job roles are so varied, a very flexible skill set is needed to perform them well. Some of these skills and personality traits may help you to succeed in the field of medical assisting:
- Multi-tasking abilities
- People skills to handle different personalities and personal situations
- A medical mindset to understand the theories, reasons, and technical aspects of medicine
- A formal education from an accredited medical assistant school
Learning to master these responsibilities may result in faster job advancement, a better salary, and a more rewarding career in medical assisting.