Knowing the Equipment and Tools Used by Medical Assistants
Being a medical assistant requires various skills and knowledge. Your tasks range from clerical work to medical procedures, so you will learn to be flexible and learn a lot of new skills in the process. In order for you to work efficiently, you need to know what equipment, tools, and supplies you will be dealing with. After completing a certificate program, it is usually expected that you are equipped to perform both clinical and administrative duties. On the other hand, if you have completed an associate degree, it is expected that you are trained to handle x-ray machines, laboratory testing tools, cardiovascular technology, and specialized medical equipment.
Basic Equipment, Tools, and Supplies Usually Used by Medical Assistants
· Sphygmomanometer (Blood pressure meter) – A cuff and air pressure pump that increases a patient’s blood pressure in order to measure
· Scales – Used to measure a patient’s weight and height usually manually
· Electrocardiogram (EKG) machines – A machine that reports on the electrical activity of the heart. It has electrodes that are applied to parts of the patient’s body
· Hemoglobin machines – A machine used to test a small sampling of blood for the amount of hemoglobin (protein in red blood cells) in a patient’s blood
· Autoclave – A small pressure chamber used to sterilize medical office equipment and tools after use
· Tongue depressors
· Ear scopes
· Surgical instruments (scalpels, forceps, hemostats and needle holder)
· Examination tables
· Exam lights
· Biohazard Sharps Containers – For bio-hazardous waste removal
· Exam gowns
· Cotton balls and swabs
· Suturing materials
· Masks and gloves
· Sterilizing solution
· Computer – Used to enter and maintain Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
· Other office equipment – telephones, fax machines, photocopying machines, etc.
· Healthcare Provider Software
Uses of Medical Assistant Tools and Equipment
Medical assistants work in a variety of institutions, like hospitals, clinics, retirement homes, assisted living facilities, and other inpatient and outpatient facilities. Also, your tasks can involve administrative responsibilities, record keeping, assisting during surgery, administering drugs, and collecting samples for laboratory tests. So the kinds of tools and equipment you use will primarily depend on where you work and the tasks involved in your job.
But there are some equipment and tools that all medical assistants will handle no matter what medical position and facility they are assigned to. For example, you will all learn how to take vital signs of patients, so you will learn how to use scales, blood pressure cuffs, and thermometers. If blood needs to be taken, you will have to use sterilized materials and bandage and take blood from the patient.
Depending on which state you work in, you might even be asked to handle more complicated medical procedures requiring the use of X-ray machines, needles, and syringes. There are even jurisdictions that allow medical assistants to serve as surgical assistants. In these cases, the state usually requires further education before a medical assistant can take on such additional responsibilities. For this task, you are usually going to be asked to handle equipment for making incisions, administering local anesthesia, and resurfacing the skin with lasers. Even if you will be doing that under the supervision of a surgeon you still need to make sure you learn the proper methods of performing such procedures and handling the needed equipment expertly.
Medical assistants are also usually the first people to greet patients when they arrive at a medical facility. You take the patient's name and verify the appointment with the doctor's schedule. You will then need to ask for personal information and the patient's history, take vital signs, input all the data into the patient's medical records, and give the file to the doctor. After their check up, you may have to call the pharmacy to order the patient's prescriptions.
Before the doctor will see the next patients, you may have to prepare the examination room for them. You will have to sterilize tools in an autoclave, prepare any necessary supplies and equipment needed by the doctor specifically for the next patient, and dispose properly of any bio-hazardous waste (like syringes, needles, gauze used in dressings, and cotton swabs).
As for your administrative roles, you will use a different set of equipment. You will handle incoming and outbound calls on phones, schedule appointments, file insurance claims, and update electronic medical records. Sometimes you might even have to use bookkeeping software created for healthcare providers and other operating systems used by the hospital, clinic, or medical facility you work for.
If you work in a specialized medical field, you will also have to learn how to use instruments and equipment utilized in that specific specialization. For instance, if you work with ophthalmologists you must know how to use ophthalmic retinoscopes, otoscopes, lensometers, and ophthalmoscopes to do special vision tests. You also need to know how to do proper eye dressing, professional application of eye drops or medication, and correct application of contact lenses. If you are employed in a facility that provides Podiatric care, you need to operate special x-ray machines, assist the podiatrist during minor surgical procedures, and obtain castings of a patient's feet.
Because the range of responsibilities of a medical assistant is quite wide, you need to make sure your training adequately equips you to manage all tasks and equipment involved in your line of work. However, medical institutions know that each facility functions differently and requires unique needs, so they will usually provide you with training that is specific to your place of employment once you're hired. It will also be helpful if you can determine early on if there is a specific medical field you want to specialize in so you can plan ahead of time what sorts of additional trainings or further education options you can proceed to in order to be better equipped for your chosen specialization as a medical assistant.