A medical assistant is a health professional who assists with a variety of administrative and basic clinical tasks in a medical setting. Depending on the office and regional requirements, a medical assistant may be licensed or unlicensed, although in both cases, some education is required for the job. Employment prospects in this field tend to be excellent, as many doctors in private practice rely heavily on the work of their medical assistants, considering them to be extremely valuable and important employees.
Clerical and administrative tasks performed by medical assistants can include things like managing patient charts, making appointments, phoning prescriptions into pharmacies, instructing patients on administration of medications, greeting patients when they enter the office, handling billing, and managing payroll for the staff. Often, a medical assistant will head the office, using clinical knowledge and administrative skills to keep the clinic running smoothly so that the medical staff can focus on patient care.
A medical assistant may also participate in patient care, typically under the supervision of a doctor. The things medical assistants are allowed to do vary greatly, depending on qualifications and regional laws. They may perform blood draws, manage specimens for the lab, handle x-rays, and perform basic tests like blood pressure. Many help to process patients as they enter a clinic for care, carrying out interviews about the patient's current condition and history. They may also change dressings, remove sutures, and offer other basic post-surgical aftercare.
A medical assistant may also perform medically-related cleaning tasks, which include things like sterilizing equipment, doing laundry, managing the autoclave, and keeping the patient rooms sterile, clean, and pleasant. Medical assistants may also be in charge of stocking, ensuring that supplies are kept current and addressing specific requests from staff members.
As a general rule, a medical assistant has at least two years of college education in administration and basic medical skills. He or she may choose to pursue certification as an x-ray technician, phlebotomist, or lab technician, in the interesting of building a marketable resume. Many are also certified in first aid and CPR, so that they can assist with emergency situations.