perform administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices of physicians, podiatrists, 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
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 dressings.
Medical assistants 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