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Medical Assistant Schools
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Medical Assistants Doing a Little Bit More?

Medical assistants are expected to stay within their occupational limits and do only what the law allows, which includes verifying the name of patients and preparing them for medical appointments and upcoming examinations. Their role is to help making a procedure or exam go over as smoothly as possible and focus on preventing errors; however, doing a little bit more, such as giving well intended medical advice, or handing out a medication sample "as a favor" without the knowledge of the doctor is a serious breach of law. United States laws restrict who can give medical and health advice, or dispense apply medical treatments and modalities to patients, making the unauthorized practice of medicine a serious crime. Physicians, nurses and non-physician practitioners are responsible for the care of their patients and must keep a watchful eye over those to whom they delegate any medical tasks.

Following Standards of Care

standard of care is the degree of prudence and caution required of an individual who is under a duty of care. Safety and staying within the medical assisting scope of practice is the highest focus and concern in a medical facility, especially when administering medications and providing hands on care. A medical assistant was fired in 2011 in Fort Collins, Colorado after inadvertently putting young children in harms way. She only administered half the amount of a pre-measured children's influenza vaccine vial to each child. Medical assistants must always check with the ordering doctor when in doubt about the correct dosage of a medication. When dispensing, they must carefully check to make sure that everything on the medication order matches exactly the label on the package or container and medications that are not clearly labeled should never be used, otherwise, you find yourself entering dangerous territory.

As Little As A Simple Oversight

In your role as a medical assistant, never be tempted to do a little bit more than you should just because your intentions are good. Don't provide information that lies outside your knowledge, or scope of practice, just because you want to be helpful, and never make your own medical assessments, sharing your own opinion about a patient's health, or progress of a patient, or independently triaging patients that call with medical concerns or issues with the good intension of make it easier for the nursing staff, or doctor. Here is how the law sees it...

Preventing Patient Identification Errors

It is highly recommend that medical assistants utilize two unique patient identifiers before performing any
procedure, drawing blood, or administering medications, or vaccines. The most reasonable method is to
identify patients by their first and last name and their birth date. Furthermore, medication errors can be
prevented in a number of ways:

If a practice has more than one patient with the same or similar name, then the medical assistant can mark the
chart, visibly highlight the birth date and annotate the name with an allowed nick name, etc. to avert potential
confusion. Also, by making the patient him- or herself an active partner in setting their own health and treatment
goals further errors can be prevented. If the doctor discusses treatment options with the patient and it is agreed
that only oral medications will be prescribed then the patient might realize something isn't right when an
injection is drawn up and question an injection before he/she receives it.

Another area of concern for patient safety is the tracking of laboratory test results from outside reference labs,
pathology specimens and imaging. A paper-based system should include a test tracking log in the medical
chart of each patient, with the name of the test ordered, when the results were received, and when notification
was given. Each time a test result comes in it is the medical assistants responsibility to pull the matching
patient chart, attach the results on top of it and present it to the doctor for review and further recommendations.
This approach will inform the doctor and decrease the risk that a critical result will be missed or delayed.

Medical assistants can only do those tasks that have been specifically taught and were ordered by the attending physician. Specific authorization means a specific written order prepared by the supervising physician or podiatrist under whom the medical assistant works, which shall be placed in the patient's medical record, or a standing order prepared by the supervising physician authorizing the procedures to be performed, the duration of which shall be consistent with accepted medical practice. A notation of the standing order shall be placed in the patient's medical record.

Medical assistants must NEVER be tempted to do more than they are allowed and NEVER attempt procedures that they weren't adequately trained and properly supervised in, otherwise these little oversights, simple miscommunications, unintended slips of the tongue, well intended suggestions and little favors can quickly lead to serious consequences and repercussions for everyone, including the patient, medical assistant and the doctor.