Medical assistants have many duties to help out in a healthcare office. Trained in both clinical and clerical procedures, they support the medical staff and help administrators keep the medical office running smoothly.
Providing good care is a team effort, and everyone plays a role. However, only medical assistants have the necessary skills to bridge the gap between the health and administrative aspects of medicine. At the heart of the healthcare team, they manage a wide range of clerical and clinical responsibilities.
What Are the Clinical and Clerical Duties of a Medical Assistant?
Medical assistants perform both clinical and clerical tasks. A few are purely administrative while some are solely clinical. Others are a blend of each, health-related tasks with a clerical component. Let’s look at the most common.
Triaging Phone Calls
Front office assistants make most of the routine appointments in a doctor’s office, but medical assistants schedule emergency visits. Working closely with doctors, they are trained on what patients need and which symptoms require urgent care.
A clinical responsibility with an administrative component, the goal is to provide timely care without disrupting the schedule or delaying other patients. It requires a keen eye for resource management and awareness of the workflow within the office.
Medical assistants escort patients to exam rooms, preparing them for their visit by wrapping up clinical and recordkeeping tasks before the provider arrives.
A blended task, you’ll obtain their vital signs, review their medication list, and update allergy and demographic information while performing verbal screens for pain, depression, and home safety. The notes you take will be used by the doctor to make treatment decisions and by the back office for billing.
Performing Diagnostic Tests
Performing diagnostic tests is clinical responsibility with a clerical component. Whether it’s taking vital signs or doing EKGs, documenting the results is as important as doing the procedure for both billing and continuity of care.
Managing Health Records
A medical assistant will make entries into patients’ records as they provide care. They also gather pertinent data for referrals, but beyond the clinical aspect is a clerical dimension. Medical assistants are responsible for keeping records updated, organized, and accessible. They also fax, file, and mail records as needed.
Billing and Coding
The paperwork generated for visits is primarily for billing. It follows patients from the moment they check in until the final charges have been determined. Every service is assigned a medical code which is used by the billing department to track inventory and fill out insurance claims.
A clerical responsibility with a clinical focus, medical assistants are typically responsible for coding the supplies used from bandages to staple removal kits.
Medical assistants stock exam rooms, so they’re the first to know when the shelves are running low. A clerical responsibility, they work with administrators to order clinical supplies.
Medical assistants have a clinical role in patient education. As the doctor’s liaison, they help patients better understand their treatment plan, reviewing concerns and offering guidance on timely health topics.
There’s more than one way to become a medical assistant. However, attending a vocational school program, like the Medical Assistant Classes that are available at Hunter Business School, full-time will get you out of training and on the job faster. Unlike a degree program, the curriculum is focused on the practical aspects of medical assistant training.
Comprehensive, it covers the scientific theory you need to take a leading role in a medical office and no elective classes that delay graduation and do little to improve your resume. In as little as 7 ½ months attending full-time, you can have a brand-new career.
What Do You Learn During a Medical Assistant Program?
You’ll learn hands-on skills and their scientific foundation. It’s everything you need to know and more to get a reading, entry-level job with growth potential. Topics include:
Anatomy and Physiology
Medical assistants need to know how the body works to do their jobs. This course covers its basic structure and function. Students learn about the major body systems, associated disorders, and common treatment options. You’ll also explore the medical terminology necessary to read doctor’s notes, lab results, and surgical reports.
Microbiology is the study of living organisms too small for the eye to see. Some are beneficial while others cause disease. As a medical assistant, you’ll play an important part in infection control, keeping the office clean while serving as a resource for patients and coworkers.
Asepsis means the absence of microorganisms during surgery. When skin is cut, the instruments and surgical field must be sterile to prevent infection. Learning about asepsis prepares you to tackle the bacteria, viruses, and parasites you learned about in microbiology through sanitation, disinfection, and sterilization techniques.
Assisting with Minor Surgery
Many doctors perform minor surgery in their offices, but they can’t do it without help. As their assistant, you’ll set up the necessary equipment, pass instruments, and monitor the patient using the principle of asepsis. And you’ll sterilize non-disposable instruments after so that they’re ready for the next patient.
Most health conditions have pharmacological treatments. As a medical assistant, you will learn how to administer therapeutic drugs, send prescriptions to pharmacies and answer patient questions about use. This class explores the major categories of drugs, how they’re used to treat disease, common interactions, and side effects. However, medical assistants do not administer medications in New York State.
Medical assistants may spend at least part of their day in a lab. Some practices offer a full range of services, so patients don’t have to go to the hospital, and doctors don’t have to wait for answers.
However, working in a lab has risks if you’re not well prepared to handle sharps, chemicals, and other hazards. This course covers personal protective equipment, needle-stick protection, spill management, and workplace safety regulations.
A urinalysis is a urine test that can detect medical conditions from diabetes to infections. You’ll learn how to obtain sterile samples and examine them microscopically. Patients will count on you to teach them how to collect clean specimens at home.
Like urinalysis, phlebotomy is another service doctors offer for convenience. This course covers the theory and practical know-how needed to draw blood in an office environment. Using the same supplies you’ll find in the field you’ll learn to draw and process quality samples.
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
No medical assistant should be without CPR training. Part of the program, it saves lives. You’ll practice chest compressions, rescue breathing, first aid techniques, and how to use an automated external defibrillator. It’s an empowering course that helps you build the confidence you need to help manage health emergencies at work or anywhere.
Electrocardiograms are simple diagnostic tests that map electrical activity in the heart. Done as part of annual exams for older adults, doctors can also diagnose cardiac conditions from arrhythmias to heart attacks. Medical assistant students will learn how to prepare the patient, manage the equipment, and take the reading.
Everything a medical assistant does requires good communication. An art and a science, you’ll learn how to connect with vulnerable patients while maintaining professional boundaries.
Effective communication between coworkers is also critical in a medical environment. As a group, students will discuss barriers to communication and how to improve interpersonal relationships in the workplace.
Electronic Medical Records
Electronic medical records, or EMR, are digital versions of the information once kept in paper charts. Regulated for security and patient privacy, they require special handling. Students learn how to access, find, share, and store data for health and billing purposes.
Most of the billing in medical offices is electronic. You’ll complete, submit, and check on claims via computer. This class explores the billing process from A to Z including medical coding and accounting principles.
An externship is an off-campus experience during which you’ll work with a seasoned medical assistant. The culmination of your training, you’ll make observations, practice your skills, and network with future colleagues.
Demand for medical assistants is growing because they have the flexible skill set busy healthcare facilities need. Whether your talents are clinical, administrative or both, you’re needed. And Hunter Business School is with you every step of the way.
Want to Learn More?
The Medical Assistant Program at Hunter Business School prepares competent, entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains required for professional practice. The Medical Assistant program provides hands-on experience in a real medical setting where you can foster professional relationships with actual patients. Medical Assistant students spend 160 hours in an externship in an actual medical environment where they are supervised and taught in order to gain valuable on-the-job training.