Medical Assistants perform a variety of jobs in a doctor's office or medical clinic that are both administrative or clinical duties. The Medical Assistant is a key player in the efficient and smooth operation of a medical practice, working with both patients and medical professionals. Often, the Medical Assistant is the first person a patient encounters in a practice or clinic.
Administrative Medical Assistant
Administrative Medical Assistants are frequently required to handle various office tasks in a physician practice. Some of those duties may include front office tasks such as greeting patients, recording patient arrival times, scheduling referrals to other physician offices (such as specialists), hospital admission, arrange schedules for testing (x-rays, CAT, MRI, PET or other scans) or surgeries.
Other duties could include patient scheduling, making appointment reminder calls, creation and maintenance of medical charts and updating patient records, collecting co-payments of insurance coverage when required, completion of insurance forms of accurate information for reimbursement (which may require knowledge of ICD-Coding or International Classification of Diseases), transcription of medical information, understanding of Electronic Health Records (EHR) and handle patient billing and record payments. Administrative Medical Assistants may also be required to assure the medical practice has adequate medical and office supplies.
Clinical Medical Assistant
Clinical Medical Assistants may be called on to perform some similar administrative duties as the Administrative Medical Assistant; but, in general, the typical duties are much different. Providing direct patient care, those specializing in clinical assisting will be required to interact with patients on a different level. Clinical Medical Assistants will conduct patient interviews (to determine symptoms or reason for the doctor visit), take and record vital signs (blood pressure, height, weight, etc.) and update patient's list of prescriptions currently taken. Often, these employees will also transmit patient prescriptions to drug stores and explain proper use and dosage of medications to the patient.
Additionally, these assistants may perform certain laboratory tests, draw blood specimens, prepare patients for x-rays, conduct heart tests (such as an EKG), aid physicians in particular medical procedures and/or administer injections under supervision of a physician. They may also remove stitches, change dressings, provide educational information on patient preparation for additional testing. Clinical Medical Assistants who work in a specialty area, such as in an OB/GYN practice, could be required to conduct breast exams, assist with minor obstetric or gynecological procedures and educate patients on medications, routine breast exams, etc.
Although some employers will accept those with a high school education and offer on the job training, more employers are looking for assistants who have completed a postsecondary education in medical assisting. There are several educational opportunities in this field provided by community colleges, technical schools, certification programs and universities. Best Medical Degrees has published two reports you may find helpful in determining your educational track. You may find those reports through these links: 20 Most Affordable Online Medical Assistant Certificate and Diploma Programs and 15 Best Online Medical Assistant Associate Degree Programs.