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Medical Assistant Schools
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What a Medical Assistant Is Allowed To Do...

... and medical offices can do to protect themselves. Medical assistants in the USA do not have to be
formally trained through an academic or post-secondary adult education institution, nor necessarily be certified
to function in an assisting role in a medical office. Under the doctor's discretion and direct supervision, meaning
the doctor is on the premises, anyone can be trained to perform certain administrative and clinical tasks in the
front and back office as long as the employer allows it, however, there are occupational limitations and certain
skills a medical assistant cannot legally do. A good medical practice and health care facility has researched
legal parameters and limitations and established policies outlining each staff member's responsibilities to
protect themselves. Each medical assistant under their employ should receive a written job description and
adhere to it.

What A Medical Assistant Can Do:

Generally speaking, when performed under the supervising physician, ophthalmologist, podiatrist, surgeon, or other licensed health care practitioner a medical assistant is allowed to do the following tasks:

  1. can do Prepare and file medical records and patient charts
  2. can do Maintain medical records using standard filing systems
  3. can do Perform inventory control and ordering supplies
  4. can do Maintain and adjust medical office equipment
  5. can do Manage a petty cash drawer
  6. can do Post service charges and payments
  7. can do Gather community resources and statistics
  8. can do Prepare and maintain appointment books
  9. can do Sterilize, wrap and label instruments
  10. can do Set up the examination room for the next patient
  11. can do Record body measurements and vital signs
  12. can do Prepare patients for their physical examinations
  13. can do Assist with therapeutic procedures
  14. can do Assist during simple surgical procedures
  15. can do Prepare and administer medications as ordered
  16. can do Draw up liquid medications and administer (most of) them as ordered
  17. can do Collect and preserve bodily fluids, blood, and other specimens
  18. can do Perform simple STAT screening tests on collected specimens
  19. can do Answer phones and relay patient's requests and questions
  20. can do Help health care providers improve their patient safety practices
  21. can do Explain preventive measures that can help maintain health
  22. can do Type business correspondence
  23. can do Transcribe dictated documents
  24. can do Reiterate doctor's instructions and patient health teachings
  25. can do Write the "S" and the "O" part of the SOAP note
  26. can do Read laboratory or other results over the phone, but not interpret them
  27. can do Respond to medical office emergencies, administer CPR and basic first aid
  28. can do apply a topical numbing agent to the skin, such as an EMLA® patch
  29. can do Fill out a laboratory requisition slip - but MUST obtain physician's signature
  30. can do  Assemble and set up intravenous infusion therapy (IV) equipment
  31. can do Place and initiate an IV line except* in those states where it is specifically prohibited
Medical Assistants and IVs
Medical Assistants and X-Rays
What Medical Assistants Cannot Do

Occupational Limitations

The medical assistant's job comes with certain limits. It is good policy to also instruct each employee verbally about specific duties, while also addressing what they are allowed and NOT allowed to do when performing work related duties. A medical assistant's responsibilities and limitations are based on the quality and type of education, training and experience of each employee, as well as taking into consideration established local, state and federal laws and regulations, which includes not (!!!) making any medical assessments, independently triaging patients, not dispensing medications, or medication samples without explicit orders, adding, or altering a medical treatment plan or assessment in the medical record, or independently giving any type of medical advice. The responsible medical office manager will assure and demand that these limitations are respected and strictly adhered to. Medical assistants can only practice skills that lie within their scope of practice and training.
The lack of licensure and uniformly spelled out regulations puts the medical assistant in a precarious position, dependent on chance and shrouded in uncertainty. Their role is strictly assistive toward the physician under whom they work, or another licensed practitioner who hired them. While it is true that most doctors are replacing their LPNs and RNs with highly responsible and reliable medical assistants, the medical assistant discipline as such is not recognized as what is understood as a profession,or professional career. As of this date, medical assisting falls into the class of workers among the health care occupations. That's not how it is in Europe, or some other countries where their training is regulated and mandated by the state with a clearly defined scope of practice.