What Is a Typical MA Workday Like?

A day in the life of a medical assistant can be varied and challenging. No matter if you work in the front office, provide clinical care or a combination of both, you’re likely to have a fast-paced workday. If you’re looking for a career that keeps you stimulated and on your toes, medical assisting may be right for you.

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The Day Begins

Medical offices often open at eight a.m.; earlier if early hour appointments are available. You may choose to arrive at work a half-hour before patients are scheduled to arrive in order to prepare for the day. Typically, a clinical medical assistant begins her day by:

  • Reviewing the daily patient schedule with the physician
  • Listening to any phone messages that came in during the night
  • Organizing charts
  • Filling out paperwork needed for the day, such as surgical permission forms, health check forms and insurance paperwork
  • Preparing patient rooms as needed, such as for minor surgery or procedures

Some clinics have a unit coordinator available in each clinical section. The unit coordinator may help the medical assistants prepare for the day by performing some of the duties listed above. Telephone calls and messages may be handled by a call center, erasing the need for MAs to worry about taking and returning phone calls during scheduled patient care times. Some clinics, however, rely on medical assistants to handle all the responsibilities associated with a daily patient care schedule. For these medical assistants, the day can become very busy, very quickly.

An administrative medical assistant may also be busy the moment her day begins. She may start the day by scheduling appointments, preparing charts to be sent to the clinical MAs, filing or completing patient insurance forms, handling company email and more.

The hours that you’ll work as a medical assistant depend on the facility and whether they offer early and late care appointments. Some clinics are open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Others with extended hours may be open from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. How early you choose to start your day depends on when you’re scheduled to work and how long your shift is.

Patients Arrive

Once patients begin to arrive for scheduled appointments, the medical assistant must work efficiently to keep things flowing smoothly. The administrative medical assistant checks patients in for their appointment, verifies patient information and health insurance and helps the patient fill out any appropriate forms. The clinical medical assistant then greets the patient and takes her to an exam room. Then, vital signs are taken, a patient interview is done and the patient is prepared for any procedures, if applicable.

In between rooming patients, medical assistants assist the physician with procedures; give injections or medications to patients, answer phone calls, update patient charts, draw blood, perform laboratory tests and handle any emergencies that arise.

A popular physician or specialist may have a jam-packed patient schedule, giving the medical assistant little time for other duties in between rooming patients. Patients don’t always arrive on time for their appointments, which can disrupt a nicely planned daily schedule. Other patients may walk-in for urgent treatment without an appointment and need to be seen. Additionally, a physician may take longer with a patient or be called out for an emergency; these things can impact how well the daily schedule flows. A medical assistant can quickly find herself running behind.

Taking Breaks

Clinics are required to offer employees breaks and a lunch time. These times of quick rest are often welcome breaks in an otherwise busy day. You’ll usually receive a break in the morning, a longer break around noon and another short break in the afternoon. Medical assistants working with extremely busy physicians may skip smaller breaks just to get work done, depending on how the day is going.

Completing the Day

A medical assistant’s day isn’t done when the daily patient schedule is over. Many times, you’ll need to complete tasks left unfinished from the day. Returning phone calls, completing patient charts, scheduling appointments and handling prescription refills are common tasks left at the day’s end.

It is not uncommon for patient appointments to last well past their scheduled time. You may find that you have patients still being cared for even though the daily schedule is complete. As the doctor’s assistant, you’ll need to help complete the patient’s care and take care of any necessary tasks.

The end of the day can also bring time to finish work in peace and quiet without pressures from the demands of the day. Medical assistants may choose to stay a little late and complete tasks while taking time to unwind from the day. Preparing what you can for the next day is helpful so there will be less to do the next morning. Good organization skills, patience, stamina and a love for the job are all beneficial for handling the fast-pace of medical assisting.

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

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Article Written by Elizabeth Otto

Elizabeth Otto is a freelance writer specializing in medical and health articles. Otto has worked as a certified medical assistant in specialty practice since 1994 and is also a nationally registered emergency medical technician.

4 Responses to “What Is a Typical MA Workday Like?”
  1. danielle says:

    wonder if the position described above (MA) is that of an hourly employee or salary? do you have a set time to work and if you are 3 minutes late no big deal? or do you punch a time clock? skipping breaks and working late/coming in early on top of a regular 40 hour week? would OT compensation be included? I am asking because 1. I am curious and honestly do not know, and 2. most people going into a position like this are either high school students who have taken courses and might not have any previous job experience, or they might be someone making a career change and are used to being required to punch a time clock.

    • Brittany S. says:

      Hi, I’m a Certified Medical Assistant in the state of FL. I work for Coastal Ear, Nose, and Throat. I’m the personal medical assistant to one of our 5 Doctors. This is my very first MA job right out of school, so I’ve only been an MA for about 9 months. I have learned that if you are on time… you are LATE! And if you are early, you are on time. You can’t start late because the Doctor needs to get going at a certain time in the afternoon so time in the morning must be prompt. If there are any set backs, such as patient’s being late, or the Doctor taking more time with some patients, I will hustle to try to make up for that lost time. I spend my day running back and forth because my Doctor moves very fast.
      And I get paid hourly. Florida has some of the worst MA wages from what I hear. I’m making $11 an hour right now. Over time is compensated along with holiday pay as well.
      And yes you normally are required to be a certified medical assistant (CMA) or a registered medical assistant (RMA). They both require 2 different tests. If you are looking to become and MA i would def. suggest to do you research.
      I may be extremely busy at work, and barely have time to finish what i need to get done, the job is VERY challenging!! And the pay is not great (at least where i work), but I love working with my Doctor, and i love my coworkers. And I love going home at the end of the day knowing that I helped make a difference. It’s very rewarding. So if you can hack it in an extremely fast paced environment where you are expected to do 50 things at ones in different parts of the office, then i think you should go for it!

      Have a great day!

  2. Kelsey says:

    Hey Danielle, most places now require certification. I would say to plan ahead of the first day you start to always be there on time, or the area you work at will have a behind-schedule start. MA’s are usually paid by year but if not then I would say OT and all that is included.

  3. Marcus Marko says:

    I was just wondering what a medical office assistant would class a priority call as. My mom works in a doctors office and she never knows how to answer this question.

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