The medical assistant job description is varied and broad. Medical assistants perform many job duties to keep the offices of doctors, medical centers, and clinics running smoothly. Depending on their employer’s needs, they may perform clerical, administrative, or clinical job duties, or all three. The job description of a medical assistant also varies by office type, location, and the size of the practice.
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Medical assistant duties can fall under three basic categories:
- Clinical Medical Assistant Duties
- Administrative Medical Assistant Duties
- Clerical Medical Assistant Duties
In small practices, a medical assistant’s job description usually involves a mixture of administrative medical assisting and clinical medical assisting tasks. In these practices there are generally fewer MAs working, so their job duties are more broad. In large practices, where there may be more medical assistants working, they tend to specialize in a particular area. For example, there may be medical assistants performing only clinical duties, other medical assistants doing administrative duties, and yet others with only clerical responsibilities.
Clinical Medical Assistants
The role of a clinical medical assistant is what most people imagine when they think of what medical assistants do. Clinical medical assistant duties depend upon the laws of their specific states, but their role is more medical than those of clerical and administrative medical assistants.
The responsibilities of a clinical medical assistant may include:
- Preparing Patients for Examinations
- Taking Medical Histories
- Assisting the Physician During Examinations
- Explaining Medical Procedures to Patients
- Calling in Prescriptions to Pharmacies
- Collect Laboratory Specimens
- Sterilize Medical Instruments
In some cases a clinical medical assistant’s job description may include drawing blood (phlebotomy), removing sutures, and taking electrocardiograms. However, these medical assistant job duties are not typical for all states, and are restricted in some.
Administrative Medical Assistants
Administrative medical assistant job duties are focused on administrative tasks that are more medical in nature. Their role is to support the clinical side of a medical office, without being directly involved in medical procedures.
Administrative medical assistant job duties may include:
- Submitting Medical Claim Forms
- Maintaining Patient Medical Records
- Updating Patient Files
- Scheduling Medical Tests
- Arranging for Hospital Admissions
- Patient Billing and Bookkeeping
Administrative medical assistants often assume all of the general clerical duties within the office, unless the office also employs a clerical medical assistant.
Clerical Medical Assistants
Clerical medical assistants perform work that is central to the smooth running of the medical office, but are not related to medical practices. These medical assistants perform job duties in support of the operations of the clinical staff, and the business end of the medical office.
The clerical medical assistant job description can include:
- Answering Phones
- Scheduling Appointments
- Greeting Patients
- Sorting Mail
- Typing Doctor’s Letters and Memos
- Other Duties
Their tasks are similar to the roles of clerical personnel in many other office settings.
Specialized Medical Assistants
Many medical assistants specialize in a particular area of medicine. These MAs may have the basic job description of a medical assistant, but they also have extra duties that reflect their areas of expertise.
For example, optometric medical assistants work closely with optometrists in testing patients’ eyes, instructing patients on the proper use of contact lenses, and providing basic assistance during eye exams. Podiatric medical assistants may make castings of feet and assist the podiatrist during surgery. Medical lab assistants perform lab-related job duties involving testing and documenting specimens.
Medical Assistant Job Opportunities
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job opportunities for medical assistants will be plentiful for many years to come. In 2010, there were 527,600 employed medical assistants. About 62 percent worked in physician’s offices. Only 12 percent worked in hospitals.
Medical assistants may also, with additional training, take on other responsibilities and advance to other health-related occupations.