assistants perform administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices
chiropractors, and other health practitioners running smoothly. They
should not be confused with
Physician assistants, who examine, diagnose, and treat patients
under the direct supervision of a physician.
The duties of medical
assistants vary from office to office, depending on the location and
size of the practice and the practitioner's specialty. In small
practices, medical assistants usually do many different kinds of tasks,
handling both administrative and clinical duties and reporting directly
to an office manager, physician, or other health practitioner. Those in
large practices tend to specialize in a particular area, under the
supervision of department administrators.
assistants who perform administrative tasks have many duties. They
update and file patients' medical records, fill out insurance forms, and
arrange for hospital admissions and laboratory services. They also
perform tasks less specific to medical settings, such as answering
telephones, greeting patients, handling correspondence, scheduling
appointments, and handling billing and bookkeeping.
For clinical medical
assistants, duties vary according to what is allowed by 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 on the premises, dispose of contaminated
supplies, and sterilize medical instruments.
They might instruct
patients about medications and special diets, prepare and administer
medications as directed by a physician, authorize drug refills as
directed, telephone prescriptions to a pharmacy, draw blood, prepare
patients for x-rays, take electrocardiograms, remove sutures, and change
also may arrange examining room instruments and equipment, purchase and
maintain supplies and equipment, and keep waiting and examining rooms
neat and clean.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.