On the Job
Medical assistants help care for patients. They carry out routine treatments, conduct lab tests, and maintain office records.
Do people describe you as a multi-tasker? A person of many talents? Are you able to communicate well, stay organized, and use your hands all equally well? Do you like to work both alone and with others? If so, a career as a medical assistant may be for you.Medical assistants perform a limited number of basic medical duties. These duties vary by state because of differences in state laws. Some states allow medical assistants who have specialized training to draw blood or take x-rays. In most states, assistants take medical histories and record patients' weight, pulse rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs. They explain treatments to patients and prepare them for the exam. Assistants help the doctor during the exam by handing the doctor materials and preparing medications. They also collect and prepare laboratory specimens. Assistants may perform basic lab tests. They also instruct patients about medication and special diets. Additional duties include drawing blood, preparing patients for x-rays, taking EKGs, changing bandages, and removing stitches. After exams, assistants clean the room, dispose of used materials, arrange equipment, and sterilize used instruments. They take classes to keep their knowledge and skills up to date.
Assistants also have clerical duties. They answer telephones, greet patients, escort them to exam rooms, and update medical records. Assistants fill out insurance forms and schedule appointments. They also arrange for hospital admission and lab services. Some assistants handle billing and bookkeeping. The size of the office determines how much time assistants spend on clerical duties. In larger offices, assistants spend only a little time on clerical work. Assistants are supervised by doctors, other health workers, or office managers.
Some medical assistants specialize. For example, ophthalmic assistants have extra duties related to eye care. They do basic eye tests, fit frames, and teach people how to use contact lenses.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Greet patients when they arrive at the office or clinic.
- Interview patients and measure their vital signs, weight, and height.
- Hand instruments and materials to physicians.
- Collect blood and tissue samples for routine laboratory tests.
- Give shots to patients. May also give medication.
- Prepare treatment rooms for examination of patients. Lead patients to the room.
- Clean and sterilize instruments.
- Change dressings and bandages.
- Operate x-ray, electrocardiograph (EKG), and other equipment to administer routine tests.
- Complete insurance forms and maintain medical records.
- Contact other medical centers to schedule patients for tests.
- May explain treatments, medications, and doctor's instructions to patients.
- Schedule appointments and receive payment for services.
- Check inventory and order medical supplies and materials.
- Compute and mail monthly statements to patients and update billing records.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Document and record information.
- Assist and care for others.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Work with the public.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Process information.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
- Use computers.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of social contact. They work closely with patients, doctors, and other office staff.
- Communicate by telephone and in person on a daily basis. They also write e-mail, letters and memos, but less often.
- Are responsible for the health and safety of patients and other staff.
- Often have to deal with patients who are unpleasant or angry due to the effects of their illness.
- May on occasion be placed in conflict situations.
- Nearly always work as part of a team.
- Are somewhat responsible for work outcomes and the results of other workers.
- Always work indoors.
- Are often exposed to disease and infection from their close contact with patients. To protect themselves, they wear masks, glasses, rubber gloves, and other safety attire.
- Work very near others. They are in constant physical contact with patients.
- Often wear uniforms, such as nurses' scrubs.
- Must be exact in their work. Errors in procedures, treatments, or records could result in serious injury to patients, staff, or themselves.
- Make decisions that affect patients on a weekly basis. They make some decisions without talking to a supervisor first, but often talk with a nurse or doctor before deciding a course of action.
- Set most tasks and goals for the day without talking to a supervisor first.
- Abide by strict weekly deadlines.
- Repeat the same physical activities.
- May work part time or full time. Most work full time.
- May work evenings or weekends.
- Generally work a set schedule.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Stand and walk while assisting with exams.
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Repeat the same movements.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Use muscles for extended periods without getting tired.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.