Nature of the Work
Medical assistants perform administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians and other health practitioners. The duties of medical assistants vary from office to office. In small practices, medical assistants usually do many different kinds of tasks by handling both administrative and clinical duties. Those in large practices tend to specialize in a particular area. Medical assistants should not be confused with physician assistants who examine, diagnose, and treat patients under the direct supervision of a physician.
Administrative medical assistants update and file patients' medical records, fill out insurance forms, and arrange for hospital admissions and laboratory services. They also perform administrative tasks such as answering telephones, greeting patients, handling correspondence, scheduling appointments, maintaining electronic medical records, and handling billing and bookkeeping. 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.