As of 2016, there were more than 634,000 medical assistants working in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is projected that by 2026, there will be more than 818,000 medical assistants employed in the U.S.
The medical assistant is an important part of the medical team that works at a hospital. They are responsible for greeting the patient, escorting them to the hospital room and preparing the patient for exam and diagnosis. The medical assistant will record the patient’s health history, take vital signs and make the patient comfortable while they wait for the physician. While the physician talks with the patient, the medical assistant may take transcription. The medical assistant will manage the patient’s medical records, assist the physician with diagnostics, perform additional diagnostics ordered by the physician, collect and prepare the patient’s specimen, and explain treatment procedures to the patient.
The medical assistant can also act as a patient advocate. They will sterilize and disinfect medical instruments and surgical areas and assist the physician with minor surgery. Lastly, the medical assistant will help discharge the patient from the hospital. The medical assistant is the one constant that the patient has when they visit a hospital, and it is the medical assistant’s responsibility to make sure the patient is comfortable and safe while they are diagnosed and treated at the hospital.
Greet Patients and Escort Them to the
After the patient checks in at the front desk, it is typically the medical assistant’s responsibility to greet the patient in the hospital lobby and escort them to an emergency room or hospital bed. From there, the medical assistant will start recording health history, take vital signs and make sure the patient is comfortable while waiting for the physician to meet with the patient.
Record Health History
While recording a patient’s health history, the medical assistant will identify personal data including name, age, birth date and other personally identifiable information. They will then identify the chief complaint and the reason why the patient came to visit the hospital. The chief complaint could include a handful of symptoms the patient is suffering from such as dizziness, pain, fever, headache, etc. Then, the medical assistant will take a history of the present illness. For instance, when the symptoms started, if the patient has experienced this type of illness in the past, how painful this issue is on a scale of 1 to 10 and what treatments have been used so far.
Next, the medical assistant will compile past medical history including prior illnesses, current diseases and disorders, surgeries undergone, medications taken, and the allergies that the patient is aware of. Lastly, the medical assistant will compile family history and social habits. It is important to understand if a family member has already suffered from a disease or disorder. It is also important to know if the patient’s social habits are contributing to the chief complaint. They may include drinking, smoking and sexual behavior or any use of chemical substances that may put the patient at risk.
Take Vital Signs
During admittance to the hospital and throughout the patient’s stay at the hospital the medical assistant will monitor vital signs. Any abnormalities are noted, and the physician is consulted on medication or fluids that may need to be administered. Initially the medical assistant will note the patient’s weight, as it can be used for medication dosage. The medical assistant will also measure body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure. They will note any symptoms and signs of illness present in the vital signs.
Make the Patient Comfortable
The patient may feel anxiety about visiting a hospital and the medical assistant will want to make the patient feel safe and comfortable. The medical assistant will be responsible for arranging bedding and helping the patient find a comfortable position in bed. The medical assistant will help the patient with activities of daily living including bathing, grooming and toileting needs. They will assist with all the patient’s needs while they are in the hospital.
Take Transcription for Physician During Visits
In an emergency room setting, a medical assistant may follow the physician as they visit each patient and be responsible for taking notes while the physician talks with the patient. The physician can be too busy to keep track of medical records and they rely on the medical assistant to keep track of conversations, diagnostics, treatments, medications and other medical charting.
Manage Medical Records
Whether paper records or electronic medical records, the medical assistant is responsible for managing the patient’s medical records. They will keep track of the details of the visit, vital signs, symptoms, treatments and medication that the patient receives while at the hospital. This is important for the successful treatment of the patient but also for legal purposes. If the medical assistant doesn’t keep detailed records about a patient, the medical facility has no recourse in the case of an injury to the patient.
Medical records are also used for insurance claims and patient billing. Proper medical coding is needed for the insurance claim to be processed, for the medical facility to be reimbursed and to calculate the patient’s co-pay or deductible.
Assist Physician with Diagnostics
The medical assistant will use a wheelchair or hospital bed to transport patients that need diagnostic testing or are prepared for minor surgery. The medical assistant will also carry out any diagnostic orders to identify symptoms of an illness or disorder including Phlebotomy, EKG and X-ray.
Perform Additional Diagnostics Ordered by the Physician (Phlebotomy and EKG)
After initial diagnostics are performed by the physician, the physician may order additional testing to identify an illness or symptom of a disorder. The medical assistant will perform blood draws and EKG testing on the patient to help the physician diagnosis the patient.
Collecting and Preparing Laboratory Specimen
After performing phlebotomy and acquiring specimens, the medical assistant may be responsible for performing simple laboratory testing or to send out any specimens to an outside laboratory. The medical assistant will be responsible for collecting any lab results and entering them in the patient’s medical records.
Explain Treatment Procedures to Patients
Part of the job of a medical assistant is to keep the patient informed. The medical assistant will ease the patient’s anxiety by fully explaining the procedure, the level of pain they may feel during and after the procedure and answering any questions the patient may be concerned with prior to the procedure. The medical assistant will also educate the patient on post-operative care they may need to perform at home to properly heal after a procedure and make sure there are no complications.
Act as a Patient Advocate
The medical assistant may be asked to speak or act on behalf of the patient or their family. It may be the medical assistant’s responsibility to alert staff to a concern for the patient’s safety, helping a patient that can’t afford an expensive medication, giving extra attention to a patient with an extra need, and to be an advocate for the patient to explain to the physician the patient’s feelings about a procedure or treatment. The medical assistant will not want to give the patient specific medical advice or medical recommendation. They should also not do anything that puts their job in jeopardy or interferes with their job responsibilities.
Sterilize and Disinfect Medical Instruments and Surgical Areas
The medical assistant will be responsible for keeping medical instruments sterilized between patients. They will also be responsible for disinfecting exam and surgical areas, so the patient is not exposed to microorganisms or pathogens. All OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standards must be upheld while working in the hospital when handling potentially infectious waste generated during medical or surgical procedures. The medical assistant will also want to wear protective clothing while working with patients including gloves, protective eye wear, mask and laboratory coat or gown.
Assist Physician with Minor Surgery
The major responsibilities of a medical assistant when supporting a physician with minor surgery is to prepare the patient for the procedure and educate them on the possible outcomes. The medical assistant will obtain a signed informed consent and complete insurance forms. The medical assistant will also educate the patient on proper pre-surgery preparations.
During the minor surgery, the medical assistant may hand medical instruments to the physician and sterilize the medical instruments during each patient’s surgery. The medical assistant will also help ensure the patient’s safety and comfort level during minor surgery. After the minor surgery, the medical assistant will help dress the wound and perform other postoperative patient care. Finally, the medical assistant will educate the patient on proper wound care and safe transport procedures.
Assist Patients During Discharge
The medical assistant will help prepare the patient to be discharged, make sure they have all their belongings and escort them by wheelchair to the patient’s care taker. During discharge, the medical assistant will confirm any prescriptions that need to be filled in the patient’s local pharmacy and supply the patient with any instructions or exercises the patient will need to perform once at home.
Interested in learning more about what a medical assistant does in a hospital? Ready to start a Medical Assistant Program? Mildred Elley offers a Medical Assistant Program that prepares students for entry-level positions in physician’s offices, clinics, hospitals and other medical facilities as a medical assistant. The Medical Assistant Program helps develop the skills necessary to excel in the healthcare industry.
Contact us today to learn more about becoming a medical assistant.