Medical Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

You might be wondering, what is a medical assistant and what exactly does a medical assistant do? Medical assistants (MA) job description includes performing a variety of duties. These duties vary from job to job. Their medical director assigns MA duties. A medical director is a physician under whom the medical assistants work. MA help the doctor’s office run efficiently. Typically, they work in both the front and back areas of the doctor’s office.

Medical assistants are unlicensed caregivers who work primarily in doctors’ offices and clinics, although they may also work in hospitals in some states. Each state determines what a medical assistant is allowed to do, so their tasks may vary from one state to another. In all states, however, a medical assistant must work under the supervision of a doctor or licensed nurse such as an RN or LPN/LVN.

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Patient Assessments and Care

Initial patient assessments are a large part of the MA responsibilities.

  • Assessments involve checking a patient’s vital signs, performing a physical exam and obtaining the patient’s medical history. Vital signs include blood pressure, pulse, breathing rate and temperature.
  • The physical exam involves measuring height and weight, as well as looking for deformities or irregularities on the patient’s body.
  • A medical assistant obtains a medical history by asking patients questions about their medical conditions, medications and allergies. The MA records any findings into the patient charts and alerts the physician of the results.
  • Patient care consists of helping patients with mobility, removing clothing covering afflicted parts and activities of daily living that include hygiene and toileting.

Testing Duties

1. A doctor will tell the MA which tests to perform on each patient. A MA follows protocols that explain in detail how each test is to be performed. Protocols are typically written by the doctor.

2. Medical assistants are also responsible for collecting samples for laboratory testing. They draw blood when the doctor orders blood work. Medical assistants process samples. They pack and ship samples to their appropriate destination.

Preparing Patients

Preparing patients is another duty performed by a MA.

  • They get the patient ready for testing, treatment and procedures that the doctor may perform. Medical assistants expose any affected areas by removing bandages or clothing. When needed, they shave any necessary body parts.
  • MA follow their protocols, which will explain in detail how and when to prepare the patient. For example, a MA will prepare a male cardiac patient for his EKG test by shaving areas in which the electrodes are placed to assure they stick properly to the skin. They would dry any moist skin where electrodes will be applied. The MA will apply the EKG electrodes, attach the lead wires and begin the test.
  • Once the test is complete, the MA will print the collected data, remove the leads and electrodes from the patient and help the patient re-dress if assistance is necessary.

Clerical Duties

Front office duties for a MA include clerical duties such as filing and answering phones and scheduling appointments. They also greet patients and obtain their personal information such as address and insurance information. A MA compiles patient charts and files them appropriately. They keep the office organized, allowing it to run more efficiently.

  • Patient charts are constantly changing with new information being added and old information removed. A MA is responsible for assuring patient files are complete and intact before and after each visit.They place pertinent information like test results, patient history and medication list at the front ensuring the physician is aware of the available information.
  • A medical assistant schedules patients for appointments and deletes cancellations from the calendar. Keeping an organized calendar is beneficial because it allows the staff to see how well time is managed.

Medical Assistant Task List

While any organization will develop its own list of tasks and responsibilities that are included in their medical assistants’ job description, common medical assistant jobs are included on the list below:

  • Act as a physician’s secretary
  • Administer oral and inject-able medications
  • Assist patients with insurance forms and claims
  • Assist physicians and other providers with exams and procedures
  • Call or fax prescriptions to pharmacies
  • Change dressings
  • Clean and maintain instruments and medical equipment
  • Collect data about previous health, medical and surgical history from patients
  • Collect specimens for lab tests
  • Document in paper or electronic medical records
  • Enter data from monitoring and tracking systems such and vaccine and medication refrigerators, sterilization devices and other quality or safety data
  • Handle and route office mail
  • Manage medical records
  • Manage specialty referrals
  • Measure patent vital signs (pulse, blood pressure, pulse and temperature), height and weight
  • Order medical and office supplies and medications
  • Perform billing tasks
  • Perform in-office lab tests
  • Perform specialized testing such as EKGs, vision screening and hearing tests
  • Provide patient education as directed by the doctor or other provider
  • Remove staples and stitches
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Schedule surgeries and diagnostic procedures such as CT scans and MRIs
  • Stock exam rooms
  • Supervise other medical assistants

You might also be interested to learn what is a typical MA workday like.

Search Medical Assistant Programs

Get information on Medical Assistant programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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Article Written by Rachel Dennis

Rachel Dennis works as both a professional writer and health care provider. She has been a licensed health care provider since 1998, with work experience as a medical assistant, certified nursing assistant and emergency medical technician. She has been writing since 1994 and has been published both on-line and in print.

12 Responses to “Medical Assistant Duties and Responsibilities”
  1. Allan says:

    If a medical assistant does not want to give a man a physical or be in the same room as a man getting one do I have to as part of my job ?

    • bob says:

      Yes, as an MA it’s your job not to give an exam. The PA or doctor will do it but you need to be in the same room. You have to record and put the findings in the patients chart. You might need to help dress the person if needed.

  2. Lamanda says:

    What are at least three risks associated with not properly opening and closing a medical office and the consequences for not following the procedure?

  3. Heather Hackler smith says:

    NC. When an Office Clerical worker is required to suddenly perform MA duties what are the liabilities to the practice if any? I was hired as an Office Manager and suddenly have found myself required to be a Medical Assistant.

    thank you for a timely response.


  4. OKenya Bennett says:

    Are medical assisrants suppose to be doing shapes stress test

  5. Odessey says:

    Medical Assistant can do almost anything in Philadelphia..
    Draw blood, full set of vitals, EKG’S, injections , PFT’S & anything else the Rn or doctors want us to do..

  6. Sally Black LPN says:

    Are medical assistants allowed to tell their patients that they are nurses because their supervisor tells them to? When clearly they haven’t got the education equal to LPNs or RNs. Do they answer to the medical board for their actions?

  7. Maggie Thomas says:

    How can I find out if VA allows CMAs to work General Surgery? Is there a website to look this up.

  8. Darlynn Pluas says:

    I am a Medical Assistant in NY. Pending Physican orders such as Labs, XRays, CT Scans and Medication was not part of my MA Training at school. Are we allowed to pend orders in a EHR?

  9. Alex says:

    Can an MA take vaccines home and administer them in her kitchen?

  10. Geena says:

    No. MA’s have to work under the direct supervision of a physician. Taking one home and administering it on his/herself is not acting under the supervision of a physician and is illegal.

  11. RN says:

    MAs CANNOT educate patients. MA’s can only administer certain injectables and your list should specify this. MA’s do not work in acute facilities in California, MA’s DO NOT perform assessments. These are nursing tasks. I’m still surprised they are doing SQ and IM injections—-many do not know how to do them properly. I had one girl try to give me a B injection above my hip near my spine. Please learn the legal scope of this profession. This is NOT nursing.

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