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Medical Assistant

Career Highlights

  • Assist doctors with procedures
  • Ensure medical office is running smoothly
  • Assist patients with needs

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Career Summary

Medical assisting is a general health care occupation that involves a lot of interaction and communication, both with the patients and with other members of the medical staff. Medical assistants have the opportunity to offer patients moral support, as well as ensure doctors' offices and clinics are running smoothly.

Medical Assistant Job Duties

The job of a medical assistant is broad and varied. Overall, there are two types of medical assistant -- clinical and administrative -- though there are many gray areas where medical assistants perform both tasks to various degrees.

Administrative Medical Assistants

These medical assistants usually work behind the front desk in a doctor's office, nursing home or specialty clinic. They're responsible for the day-to-day tasks that keep an office running smoothly, such as answering phones, scheduling appointments, handling medical histories and billing responsibilities, and dealing with patients who are not in the clinical areas of the doctor's office.

Some general responsibilities include:

  • Greeting patients
  • Answering phones
  • Sending and receiving office mail
  • Interacting with insurance companies
  • Keeping the office organized
  • Filing medical records
  • Billing
  • Bookkeeping
  • Taking medical histories

Clinical Medical Assistants

These medical assistants provide support for the physician or practitioner in the clinical areas of the practice. They are trained in medical procedures, and assist the doctors by carrying out minor clinical tasks and working with patients in clinical settings.

Some clinical responsibilities include:

  • Taking vitals
  • Dressing wounds
  • Taking samples for testing
  • Carrying out simple tests
  • Operating medical machinery
  • Sterilizing medical equipment
  • Assisting the physician during medical procedures

In some states, clinical medical assistants are permitted to draw blood, provided they have a certain level of experience and training. Some medical assistants are also specially trained in areas such as radiology, if they work in a specialized clinical setting.

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Formal trainings are required and medical assisting certification is available in vocational-technical schools and postsecondary vocational schools.

Career Skills

Duties vary greatly from office to office but can a combination of the following:

  • Answer telephones
  • Greet patients
  • Update and file medical records
  • Fill out insurance forms
  • Handle correspondence
  • Schedule appointments, hospital admissions and laboratory services
  • Billing and bookkeeping
  • Taking medical histories and recording vital signs
  • Preparing patients for examination
  • Collecting and preparing laboratory specimens or performing basic laboratory tests on the premises
  • Disposing of contaminated supplies
  • Sterilizing medical instruments
  • Explaining treatment procedures, medication and special diets to patients

Additional Information

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*Salary ranges based on location, experience, and demand. This number represents a rough nation-wide average.