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What does a medical assistant do?

With growth in the healthcare sector comes demand for qualified staff to care for all of the patients. That includes medical assistants, but what does a medical assistant do? This page explains what medical assistants do so that you can determine if it’s the profession for you. In general, medical assistants are caregivers, administrators and experienced professionals who have a lot of knowledge about many areas of the industry. A medical assistant often works with patients when they first arrive at a doctor’s office or clinic. They also work in hospitals and virtually any healthcare establishment. Since they are so multi-faceted and adept at multi-tasking, they can be found everywhere in the healthcare industry.

The role of the medical assistant

Medical assistants are schooled to handle both clinical and administrative tasks.

  • They can take vital signs from patients and also manage patient records, scheduling and billing.
  • They know the insurance codes and can describe how to take medications.

Their diverse array of skills set them apart in the healthcare industry. Where most healthcare careers seek a specialty area at the outset of a career, medical assistant training emphasizes a broader, all-encompassing approach. However, medical assistants can specialize later on, if desired.

There are special professional certifications you can work towards that will provide you with the skills and knowledge to work exclusively in one area of medicine. For instance, you may choose OB/GYN or pediatrics. Other medical assistants prefer oncology. Once you get your feet wet in the industry, you may find that you wish to devote yourself to a specific patient population and practice that you’re interested in. Specializing offers the opportunity to grow your skills, may advance your salary and allow you to work in an area that interests you.

Where do medical assistants work?

Medical assistants work in all areas of the healthcare industry. They are found in hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices, as well as long-term health facilities and nursing homes.


If you work in a hospital, you might have more clinical duties than administrative. Your duties will often mirror those of nurses’ assistants, and your precise role will likely depend on the unit where you work.


Clinics may resemble hospitals, but they are very different. In a clinic, you may find that the full range of your skills is needed more than in a hospital. This is because the clinic is a smaller organization that is often arranged around one or two doctors. Here your clinical skills may be in high demand, and you may also be needed in an administrative role to help with patients and order office supplies.

Clinics can focus on any number of medical specialties. Most provide outpatient, ambulatory care to people who are still able to take care of themselves at home, or who have in-home care. Some of these clinics are focused on dialysis or chemotherapy, where you may be required to administer IVs each day. Others might be surgical clinics that perform relatively minor surgeries that you can assist with. If you want to specialize your career, working in clinics might be one of the best ways to discover a focused passion.

Doctor’s Offices

A small private practice might ask more of your diversity than a larger organization such as a hospital. You may need to take charge of the phones and handle scheduling for part of the day, but then assist the doctor with examinations at other times.

Some days might find you bouncing between the clinical and administrative sides all day long. Medical assistants are highly diversified professionals who often form the backbone of a medical facility. They switch between administrative and clinical duties with speed and competency and make everyone’s job easier, including the patients’. If this sounds intriguing to you, it may very well be the best career for you. If you have the following qualities, it could be a great fit:

  • Detail oriented
  • Empathetic
  • Outstanding personal skills
  • Calm under pressure
  • Patient
  • A great multi-tasker

Why not get started?

Keep in mind that if you find that you aren’t as strong in some of these areas as others, you can often develop these qualities. Less patient people, for instance, are often able to develop their empathy for others and learn to work with situations that aren’t immediately gratifying.

If you desire to enter the healthcare field with a career that can take you in any number of rewarding directions, then a medical assisting program may be perfect for you.