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Career and Job Search Guide
  

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants perform the administrative and clinical duties for health professionals. Medical assistants should not be confused with physician assistants since physician assistants perform medical procedures under the direct supervision of a doctor.

The size and location of the offices where medical assistants work determine their responsibilities. At smaller offices, medical assistants usually handle administrative and clinical duties while directly reporting to a health care professional or office manager. At larger offices, medical assistants usually have specialized responsibilities, and department administrators supervise them.

Medical assistants with administrative responsibilities perform many tasks. They coordinate for patients to be admitted into hospitals, fill out insurance paperwork, update and organize medical records, and many medical assistants have secretarial responsibilities such as answering phones, scheduling appointments, and conducting bookkeeping.

The duties of clinical medical assistants depend on the state they work in. Clinical medical assistants interview patients to discover medical histories, record vital signs, explain medical procedures to patients and prepare them for tests, and help doctors conducting medical tests. Some medical assistants collect specimens for laboratory tests, perform the tests, sterilize medical tools, and dispose of contaminated materials. They discus medications and special diets with patients, and some, under the supervision of a doctor, prepare medication doses for patients, phone in prescription orders to pharmacists, draw blood, and prepare patients for x-rays. Some medical assistants maintain equipment, order medical supplies, and inspect examination rooms for sanitation and cleanliness.

Ophthalmic medical assistants, optometric assistants, and podiatric medical assistants are specialized assistants with additional responsibilities. Ophthalmic medical assistants help ophthalmologists treat patients with eye problems. They conduct diagnostic tests, test vision and record the results, and coordinate tests to measure eye muscle function. They also instruct patients how to insert, remove, and care for their contact lenses, as well as apply eye dressings. Ophthalmic medical assistants may administer eye medications under the supervision of an ophthalmologist. They also maintain optical tools and assist ophthalmologists during surgery. Optometric assistants help optometrists by instructing patients about proper contact lens use and care, and conducting vision tests. Podiatric medical assistants design feet casting, develop x-rays, and assist podiatrists during surgery.

Work environment. Medical assistants work in well-lit, clean buildings. They socialize with numerous people and have several responsibilities. Most full-time medical assistants work 40 hour weeks. Many medical assistants work part time, nights, or weekends.
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