A medical assistant may perform administrative or clerical functions, depending on the clinic he or she works in. If you’re interested in becoming a medical assistant, knowing the difference between an administrative and clinical medical assistant will help you choose the career path that’s best for you.
Duties of an Administrative Medical Assistant
An administrative medical assistant primarily performs work in a front office, and may have very little contact with patients aside from checking them in and out of the clinic. A few of the things an administrative assistant may do include:
- Filing insurance paperwork
- Scheduling appointments
- Bookkeeping functions
- Performing medical billing and coding functions
- Creating computer-generated reports
- Pulling patient records
- Faxing the results of laboratory tests to insurance companies or specialists
Even while working in a front office, you will likely wear scrubs and tennis shoes. You could also be required to answer questions from patients about their care, and should therefore have some general medical knowledge in order to provide accurate information.
These tasks require good organizational skills and attention to detail. The work of an administrative medical assistant requires sitting for extended periods in front of a computer screen. Eye strain is a common problem among individuals in this line of work.
Clinical Medical Assistant Duties
Clinical medical assistants spend most of their day in direct contact with patients. Some of the things these assistants are typically required to do include:
- Greeting the patient and escorting him or her to the examining room
- Taking vital signs such as height/weight, blood pressure, pulse and temperature
- Making notes concerning a patient’s symptoms and allergies
- Assisting the doctor with the exam
- Performing routine in-office tests
- Discussing the physician’s notes with a patient to ensure they are clear
You could also perform other duties, depending upon the area in which you work. In some states, clinical medical assistants may perform tasks such as drawing blood, starting IVs or administering injections, while other states strictly prohibit them from doing so. The nature of your work could also be much different if you work in a specialty clinic, as you could be required to help patients with certain medical devices or perform specialty tests such as EKGs.
Working as a clinical medical assistant requires you to have a strong stomach, since you could be called on to treat patients with traumatic injuries. You must also be sympathetic toward the patient and willing to lend a listening ear whenever the situation warrants. Much of your day will be spent standing or walking rather than sitting down.
Deciding between the Two
You may be wondering how to know whether a career as an administrative or clinical medical assistant is right for you. Working as an administrative medical assistant might be better if you:
- Do not easily become overwhelmed by paperwork
- Can maintain a calm demeanor when talking with different groups of people
- Would rather not handle bodily fluids
- Have good computer and clerical skills
On the other hand, working as a clinical medical assistant could be best if you:
- Enjoy working directly with people
- Have the ability to be compassionate and understanding
- Are not put off by performing certain medical tests
- Prefer moving around the clinic to sitting in one spot
Preparing for your Career
Clinical and administrative medical assistants alike both begin by taking an approved training course in order to learn the necessary skills. During your training, you will learn both administrative and clinical functions, and then be given the opportunity to specialize in one area or the other. To find a training program that will help you meet your career goals, contact us.