According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for medical assistants will grow by 29% by the year 2022, which is much faster than average for all occupations. Before beginning your career as a medical assistant, it’s important to understand what these professionals can and cannot do. Here are some guidelines that will give you a better idea as to the type of work medical assistants are allowed to perform.
No Standard Guidelines
It’s important to note that a Medical Assistant’s scope of practice is not universally defined, and may therefore vary from state to state. What’s more, some states do not define the scope of practice at all. To find out what the requirements for your state are, you may visit your state’s nursing board or contact the American Association of Medical Assistants.
Medical assistants perform a wide range of duties inside a medical clinic or hospital. They may be responsible for administrative duties such as:
- Checking in patients
- Answering the telephone
- Scheduling appointments
- Updating patient medical records
- Filing paperwork
- Medical coding and billing functions
- Preparing correspondence
- Performing accounting functions
They may also be required to directly assist the doctor in providing patient care by:
- Escorting the patient to the examining room
- Taking a patient’s vital signs
- Collecting information about an individual’s symptoms
- Collecting and testing laboratory specimens
- Assisting the doctor with an exam
- Keeping a patient calm during treatment
- Administering injections
- Bandaging wounds
- Providing patient education
- Going over a physician’s instructions with the patient prior to release
Duties vary by Clinic
Medical assistants may perform other duties, depending on the type of clinic they are employed in. For example, those working in optometry clinics may assist patients in choosing glasses, or show individuals how to care for contact lenses. Employees working in chiropractic clinics may prepare the equipment needed for treatment, or assist the doctor in lifting or moving patients.
Even though the scope of practice is not specifically spelled out in many states, there are nonetheless a few things that medical assistants are prohibited from doing. A few of the things medical assistants may not do include:
- Ordering laboratory tests or x-rays
- Recommending alternative treatments
- Examining patients
- Providing a written or oral diagnosis
- Prescribing medication
- Performing surgery
Administering Medications and IVS
States also have different laws when it comes to administering medications and starting IVs. Some states allow medical assistants to perform these tasks, while others strictly prohibit them. Other states allow medical assistants to perform these tasks, provided they have received the appropriate training or otherwise demonstrated their proficiency at them.
Even in states where medical assistants are permitted to administer medication, they must do so under the direct supervision of a licensed physician. At no time may a medical assistant determine the type or amount of medication a patient requires.
Medical assistants must perform their duties in a manner that is consistent with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, otherwise known as HIPAA, As such, it’s especially important to maintain patient confidentiality when discussing treatment with third parties. They must also exercise extreme caution when dealing with Electronic Health Records (EHR) to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of information.
Physicians are generally held accountable for the actions of the medical assistants working underneath them should a HIPAA violation occur. In some states, the medical assistant may also face sanctions as well.
As you can see, medical assistants have a wide scope of practice, yet are also limited in the type of care they may provide. If you enjoy having flexible job duties, a career as a medical assistant could be right for you.