Medical Assistants can be certified or registered health care workers who perform the administrative and clinical tasks that doctors are too busy to do on their own. They should not be confused with physician assistants.
Medical assistants must work under a physician's direct supervision when performing clinical duties delegated by the physician. Some states allow medical assistants to perform more advanced procedures, such as giving injections or taking X-rays, after passing a test or taking a course.
Medical assistants perform many administrative
duties, including answering telephones, greeting patients,
updating and filing patients’ medical records, filling out
insurance forms, handling correspondence, scheduling
appointments, arranging for hospital admission and laboratory
services, and handling billing and bookkeeping. Duties vary
according to state law and include taking medical histories and
recording vital signs, explaining treatment procedures to
patients, preparing patients for examination, and assisting
during diagnostic examinations. Medical assistants collect and
prepare laboratory specimens or perform basic laboratory tests
on the premises, dispose of contaminated supplies, and sterilize
medical instruments. They instruct patients about medications
and special diets, prepare and administer medications as
directed, authorize drug refills as directed, telephone
prescriptions to a pharmacy, draw blood, prepare patients for
x-rays, take electrocardiograms, remove sutures, and change
dressings. Last but not least they serve as direct link and
communicator between patient and other health care professionals
whenever there is a need. According to the United States
Department of Labor job prospects for medical assistants are
excellent since medical assisting is predicted to be one of the
nation's fastest growing occupations through 2018.
Medical assistants have traditionally held jobs almost exclusively in ambulatory care centers, urgent care facilities, and clinics, but this is now changing. Medical assistants now find employment in both private and public hospitals, as well as inpatient and outpatient facilities.