Medical Assistant

A medical assistant is a health care professional who provides administrative or clinical assistance to a doctor. Duties of the administrative medical assistant include general office responsibilities, such as answering the phone and making appointments, as well as more specialized skills, such as keeping medical records and processing insurance reimbursements. The clinical medical assistant may be responsible for obtaining a medical history from the patient, taking vital signs (temperature, blood pressure, and pulse), performing visual exams, obtaining specimens such as blood samples or throat swabs, or other medical procedures that assist in the diagnosis of a patient. All of these are done at the request of the physician, but are usually performed without direct supervision. In smaller clinics or private doctor's offices, the medical assistant may perform both types of duties.

To become a medical assistant, one should take high school courses in science, mathematics, computer skills, and business. Medical assistant training programs are available at junior colleges, community colleges, and private vocational schools. Programs may last from seven months to two years, depending on the breadth of skills involved. Personal and professional skills essential to the medical assistant include attention to detail, desire to work with people, and a professional and friendly manner.

SEE ALSO Doctor, Family Practice ; Nurse ; Nurse Practitioners

Richard Robinson


American Association of Medical Assistants. <> .

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