Medical Assistant Definition – Digging Deeper Into The Profession


Medical assistant, as the name suggests, involves providing assistance to medical professionals, such as doctors and nurses, in overseeing point-of-care testing of a patient. It is a multifaceted profession that covers a variety of roles, and requires training for both clinical and administrative work. The multidimensional skill set that a medical assistant acquires makes them unique from other healthcare professions. This is why hospitals and ambulatory care facilities heavily rely on the knowledge and abilities of medical assistants.


What Medical Assistance Entails

The job responsibilities is a cross between medical and clinical tasks. But what a medical assistant can do depends on educational attainment, certification and the level of skills and training acquired. But two of the most common duties include:


  • Establishing and building relationships with patients

The American Association of Medical Assistants call it “patient liaison”, and consider medical assistants as instrumental in ensuring a patient feels at ease during a doctor's visit, and in providing clear and concise details of a physician's instructions. They basically bridge the gap between doctor and patient, ensuring the lines of communication are closely linked and clear of any confusion. They also need to become an ear that listens to a patient's struggle, the mouth that gives the right advice, the hand that offers consolation, and the heart that understands.


  • Updating patients medical records correctly

This is probably the most important tasks of a medical assistant. Unlike other types of record keeping, taking notes of a patient's weight, height, blood pressure, and other details pertinent to a medical exam is critical to the health and safety of a patient. A wrong entry can spell the difference between life and death.


Medical assistants also have a responsibility to themselves. Considering that they could be in close contact with infectious patients, they must do everything possible to minimize the risk of contracting infection of any kind. This includes wearing gloves at all times, a mask, and personal protective gear, depending on the work involved. This is especially true when drawing blood, a role that some medical assistants might be required to perform.


Working Conditions

A healthcare assistant usually works in outpatient, ambulatory care, and correctional facilities, and continuing care home. Full-time positions usually fall within a 9 to 5 role, but others may work irregular and long hours. Expect workloads to be high most of the time, considering that the duties combine practical hands-on and administrative tasks.


Training and Course Requirements

Although the medical assistance profession does not require formal training, WHO and the International Standard Classification of Occupations, classifies it as paramedical practitioners – “occupations for which competent performance normally requires formal training in health services provision”. The term is also used to refer to clinical care providers that pursued advanced training and skills.

However, when choosing a program to enroll in, students are advised to take the CAAHEP and ABHES Accredited Programs that cover a variety of areas that a medical assistant would need the right knowledge and skills set for.


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