What Does A Medical Assistant Do – (Top 30 Duties and Responsibilities)

Written By: Raymond Aguirre, RN, BSN, PHN, CHPN

Have you thought about becoming a medical assistant? If so, one question you may be asking is, what does a medical assistant do? The simple answer is that they do a lot of things. Medical assistants play many important roles in the healthcare industry. Many healthcare facilities will not be able to fully function without them. With their knowledge and skills, they help to make the healthcare experience more positive for both patients and healthcare providers. In this article, we will go over the top 30 duties and responsibilities of a medical assistant. Hopefully, by the end, you will be able to decide whether being a medical assistant is the right career path for you.

What is a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant is a professional who provides support to physicians and other medical staff. Medical assistants perform a wide range of duties, from scheduling appointments to taking patient medical histories. They may also be responsible for performing basic laboratory tests, administering medications, and assisting with minor surgical procedures. In some cases, medical assistants may also provide education and support to patients regarding their health conditions.

Is It Hard to Work as a Medical Assistant?

Being a medical assistant can be difficult, but it can also be rewarding. On the one hand, medical assistant duties involve a variety of tasks, from taking medical histories and scheduling appointments to handling insurance paperwork and billing. In addition, they must be able to work well under pressure. Despite these challenges, being a medical assistant can be a fulfilling career. Medical assistants often learn new skills on the job, while also making a difference in other people's lives. In addition, medical assistants also have plenty of advancement opportunities, especially if they decide to pursue further education.

Who Determines the Scope of Practice for Medical Assistants?

The duties of a medical assistant are determined primarily by their scope of practice, which is decided by regulatory agencies at the state level. A good resource to look up is the website of the American Association of Medical Assistants, which lists the different scope of practice laws in every state.

Do Scope of Practice Laws for Medical Assistants Vary by State?

Yes. Medical assistants may perform similar duties, but there are nuances to their scope of practice depending on their state. To know what these differences are, those who wish to become medical assistants should ask the governing body in charge of determining the medical assistant’s scope of practice in their state.

Where Do Medical Assistants Mostly Work? – Top 5 Workplaces

Medical assistants work in a variety of settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of them work in the offices of physicians. The top two most common workplaces for medical assistants are general medical and surgical hospitals. Outpatient care centers and offices of other health practitioners (i.e. chiropractors) are the third and most common workplaces for medical assistants, respectively. Lastly, some medical assistants also work for the employment services industry, which can include agencies that provide temporary or seasonal employment.

What is the Typical Work Schedule for a Medical Assistant?

Most medical assistants work full-time, typically during weekdays when physician offices are open for business. However, schedules vary depending on the needs of the medical office or clinic. Some medical assistants have more-flexible schedules than others. Some may work only 4 days a week but have to work every other Saturday. Others may work 3 days one week and 4 the next. Still, some medical assistants may work evenings, holidays, or weekends, if they work for healthcare facilities that are open 24 hours a day. An example of such a setting would be an urgent care facility.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

The healthcare system would not be complete without the invaluable contributions of medical assistants. So, what does a medical assistant do? Check out the list below to find out the top 30 duties and responsibilities of a medical assistant along with the skills required to perform each of these duties.

DUTY #1: Medical assistants provide safekeeping of health records.

About the Duty:

Of the many job duties of a medical assistant, this is perhaps the most important. Healthcare privacy is a major issue nowadays, primary because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA. And because doctors are often too busy to handle their patients’ files, that job falls into the hands of medical assistants. This seemingly minor job is important in shielding physicians’ practices from potential lawsuits.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

Being organized and detail-oriented are the two most important skills you need to perform this duty. Some patients may have many different types of files that need to be tracked and sorted into different folders. As a medical assistant, you need to find a way to curate these files properly so that nothing gets lost and that everything is easily accessible by patients and providers.

DUTY #2: Medical assistants process medical billing and insurance claims.

About the Duty:

Medical assistants, particularly those who work at physicians’ offices, play an important role in ensuring that the clinic is properly reimbursed for the services it provides to its patients. Without proper payment, clinics may lose money or worse, go out of business. Therefore, processing medical billing and insurance claims are one of the top duties of a medical assistant.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

Medical billing and insurance claims can be a complex matter. Therefore, the most important skill that you need as a medical assistant is to have a thorough understanding of billing and insurance terms. You may need to do additional training and get extra certifications to perform this role. In addition, it is also important for you to have good communication skills, because processing claims may require contacting insurance companies regularly.

DUTY #3: Medical assistants need to coordinate patient care.

About the Duty:

Patient care coordination is the process of managing medical care for a patient to ensure that all of their needs are met. This can include coordinating appointments, laboratory tests, medical procedures, and medication schedules. It also involves working with other healthcare providers, such as specialists, to make sure that the patient receives the best possible care. Medical assistants often play a key role in patient care coordination, as they are often the ones who interact with patients daily and help to keep track of their medical needs.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

Most medical assistant duties involve being proficient with clinical skills. However, to become a great patient care coordinator, the most important skills for you to possess as a medical assistant are an ability to multitask and stay organized. These are important skills needed to help patients navigate the complex nature of the healthcare system.

DUTY #4: Medical assistants are at the front lines of customer service.

About the Duty:

One of the top medical assistant duties is ensuring that patients are receiving the attention and care they deserve. Doctors are busy and may not have the time to address all their patients’ concerns. Therefore, it is up to medical assistants to fill the gap. They need to be able to answer patients’ questions and address complaints.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

It is very important to have good listening skills and patience to perform this duty. Patients may be stressed or confused about certain things. They may not understand what the doctor just told them. Or perhaps they may have issues with their appointment schedule. Therefore, patients may act frustrated or angry. As a medical assistant, you need to be able to pay attention closely to what your patients are saying and exhibit understanding when patients are upset.

DUTY #5: Medical assistants collect data from new patients.

About the Duty:

The duties of a medical assistant include conducting initial intake. When a patient comes into a clinic for the very first time, doctors need to know as much as possible about the patient. Medical assistants may be tasked with collecting patient information when doctors are pressed for time. This duty can include filling out forms and interviewing patients.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

Being detail-oriented and attentive are two of the most important skills you need to perform this duty. The best way for you to provide care to your patients is to have a comprehensive understanding of your patient’s history. Therefore, when you collect data, you need to ask detailed questions. Not only that, you need to listen carefully to what your patients are saying. Missing any crucial information can lead to negative health consequences.

DUTY #6: Medical assistants prepare examination rooms.

About the Duty:

Examination rooms must be clean and ready before a healthcare provider can see a patient. This means that examination rooms must be disinfected and that all supplies are available for the healthcare provider. Medical assistants are the ones who make sure that exam tables are cleansed and that pads are replaced after every patient. This may seem like a minor role, but it is very important because it prevents the spread of infection.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

Performing this duty requires an understanding of proper infection control practices and knowledge of the supplies needed in exam rooms. As a medical assistant, you need to study the use of certain disinfectants and the proper method of using them. You also need to know which supplies are running low and refill them as soon as possible.

DUTY #7: Medical assistants check patients’ vital signs.

About the Duty:

Vital signs include blood pressure, pulse, respiration, temperature, and pain. It is important to check these things when patients come for a check-up so that healthcare providers will have baseline information on a patient’s status. Without a vital signs assessment, healthcare providers may find it difficult to conduct a full assessment of a patient. Because of how important vital signs are, checking them is one of the top medical assistant duties.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

To perform this duty, you, as the medical assistant, need to know how to handle medical equipment and know the normal ranges of vital signs. You also need to demonstrate competency in using blood pressure cuffs and thermometers. In addition, you also need to know when a patient’s vital signs are either abnormally high or abnormally low. That way, you can report their findings immediately to the healthcare provider.

DUTY #8: Medical assistants may have to do blood draws.

About the Duty:

Drawing blood is one of the most common duties of a medical assistant. It also happens to be one of the most important. Blood tests offer a more comprehensive view of a patient’s health status. The results from blood tests provide healthcare providers with crucial data to determine whether something is wrong with a patient. Because drawing blood can be time-consuming for healthcare providers, medical assistants are typically the ones assigned to this task.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The most important skills to perform this duty includes being competent with venipuncture and having the ability to calm nervous patients. Drawing blood requires knowledge of how to find and inject veins and collect blood samples quickly. In addition, because some patients may have a fear of needles, you also need to know how to assure patients. You need to help your patients overcome their fear of needles, at least for the time being, so you can collect the samples you need.

DUTY #9: Medical assistants may perform electrocardiograms on patients.

About the Duty:

An electrocardiogram, or EKG, is a machine that is used to determine a patient’s heart function. EKGs are non-invasive tools that can help doctors and other advanced practice providers to see if a patient may have abnormal heartbeats or other critical cardiac conditions. To perform EKGs, medical assistants attach electrodes to a patient’s body and then connect these electrodes to a machine that shows a patient’s heart rhythm.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The most important skill needed to perform this duty is knowing how to use an EKG machine. There is a specific way of attaching EKG electrodes; therefore, you, being the medical assistant, must know where to put these electrodes to avoid wrong readings. In addition, you must have good infection control skills as EKG machines are used over and over again for many patients.

DUTY #10: Medical assistants take stool and urine samples.

About the Duty:

Stool and urine provide very important data about the status of a patient’s health. Because providers may see many patients on any given day, it would not be an efficient use of their time to collect samples from patients themselves. For this reason, medical assistants may have to perform this task regularly. Not only do medical assistants collect specimens, but they also have to send them to the appropriate laboratory for further testing.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

Taking stool and urine samples is one of those medical assistant duties that require having a strong tolerance for seeing and handling bodily fluids. In addition, to taking stool and urine specimens you also need to have the training and the skills to collect specimens properly. This is a clinical skill that you usually learn during a medical assisting program.

DUTY #11: Medical assistants provide tuberculosis (TB) skin tests.

About the Duty:

To perform a TB skin test, a medical assistant must inject a small amount of medication underneath a patient’s skin until they see a small bubble called a wheal. This test is then interpreted within 48-72 hours by a licensed healthcare provider to determine if a patient has TB or has had exposure to TB. TB testing is typically done by medical assistants when patients come in for routine physical examinations or pre-employment testing.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The most important skill needed to perform this duty is knowing how to administer the TB testing medication under a patient’s skin (intradermal). This is a skill that you normally have to learn in school to become a medical assistant. Part of the requirements for graduation is to show competence in performing this skill. In addition to intradermal medication administration skills, you need to have skills in handling needles. Being stuck with a needle can be a serious matter. Therefore, you need to know how to avoid this kind of accident.

DUTY #12: Medical assistants may give vaccinations.

About the Duty:

With the supervision and authorization of licensed healthcare providers, such as doctors, medical assistants can administer a variety of vaccinations. This includes the annual flu vaccine, and the COVID-19 vaccine, among many other shots that patients take regularly. In addition to giving vaccines, medical assistants may also need to fill out vaccine records that show when patients took their vaccinations.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

As a medical assistant, you must be proficient in giving injectable medications. Although vaccines can also be administered in other ways (i.e. orally), injections are the most common way to vaccinate people. In addition to being clinically competent in giving injections, you need to be good at record-keeping. You need to ensure that patients’ vaccination records are updated immediately after receiving a shot. Patients need vaccination records to be accurate because they may need them for school or work.

DUTY #13: Medical assistants may perform x-rays.

About the Duty:

Many healthcare facilities have an x-ray technician to provide imaging services. However, some smaller clinics with limited staff may let medical assistants do x-rays if they have the proper training. There are schools, like Medical Career College, that provide x-ray training to their medical assistant students. Unlike some of the other medical assistant duties on this list, performing x-rays is a specialized task that requires education beyond the typical curriculum of a medical assistant program.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The most important skill to perform x-rays is knowing how to use imaging equipment. This includes having a thorough understanding of operating x-ray equipment and knowing the safety precautions necessary when performing x-rays. Because x-rays can be dangerous, you must also be skilled at educating patients on the safety hazards of undergoing an x-ray.

DUTY #14: Medical assistants dispose of hazardous wastes.

About the Duty:

Medical assistants may be given the responsibility of removing sharps (needle) containers, bodily fluids, and other potentially dangerous wastes from their clinic or facility. Because hazardous wastes can cause infections or injuries, there are special protocols in place to dispose of them. Medical assistants study and follow these protocols to ensure their safety and the safety of all patients and providers in a facility.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The two most important skills needed to perform this duty are knowledge of hazardous waste disposal and attentiveness. As a medical assistant, it’s one thing for you to know the rules regarding the disposal of hazardous wastes, but it’s even more important to have a presence of mind when doing your job. Unless you are attentive, you are at a high risk of being stuck with a needle or being splashed with potentially infected bodily fluids.

DUTY #15: Medical assistants monitor refrigeration logs.

About the Duty:

Certain medications and specimens need to be stored at certain temperatures to remain intact. Often, they are placed in refrigerators under specific temperatures. It’s easy for temperature settings to be accidentally changed. Therefore, it’s important to monitor refrigerator temperatures and log them. Monitoring refrigeration temperatures typically fall onto medical assistants.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

Medical assistants must be familiar with the required temperatures for certain specimens or medications. There are regulations regarding this, and you may need to study them when you are hired. In addition, you need to be organized as a medical assistant. It’s easy to forget to do this task and being organized ensures that you are checking refrigerator temperatures at the right times. Otherwise, specimens and medications may go to waste, and that can have serious consequences.

DUTY #16: Medical assistants may assist with minor surgeries.

About the Duty:

Many surgeries nowadays are performed on an outpatient basis, meaning in doctors’ offices or ambulatory care centers. Because medical assistants typically work in these settings, they are usually tasked with assisting doctors and other advanced-level healthcare providers perform surgeries. Their duties may include handing surgical equipment to doctors, sterilizing surgical tools, or helping prepare a surgical field. Medical assistants play an important part in making sure that surgeries, however minor, are done safely and effectively.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

It is vital to have a presence of mind when performing this duty, due to the risk of injury to a patient during surgical procedures. In addition, assisting with minor surgeries is one of those medical assistant job duties that require a relatively high degree of clinical knowledge. As a medical assistant, you need to know how to maintain a sterile field, which requires a special way of handling medical equipment. You typically learn this skill in school, but it requires practice.

DUTY #17: Medical assistants help patients with referrals to specialists.

About the Duty:

When patients see a healthcare provider, there may be times when they may be instructed by another healthcare provider in a different specialty. Finding specialists can be stressful for patients, as doctors may be unavailable in a certain geographic area. Or, if doctors are available, they may not take a patient’s insurance policy. Medical assistants help patients avoid being hassled by referring them to the appropriate specialists.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The most important skills to perform this duty are resourcefulness and good communication. To help patients with referrals, you need to conduct research. Doing so requires more than just going on Google to find the nearest doctors. You may need to make phone calls to other clinics as well as insurance companies. For that reason, you also need to be good at talking to others and asking questions on behalf of patients.

DUTY #18: Medical assistants are at times in charge of maintaining inventory at their workplace.

About the Duty:

Clinics and facilities are constantly using medical supplies to provide care for patients. Therefore, it is important to keep track of these supplies and to order them when they are running low. This is a job that is typically done by medical assistants. Medical assistants check supply rooms and collaborate with suppliers regularly to ensure that clinics never run out of the things they need to care for patients.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The most important skills to perform this duty include being detail-oriented and consistent. It’s important for you to be detail-oriented because tracking inventory requires knowing which supplies are running low or missing, no matter how small. Second, it’s also important for you to practice consistency because supplies need to be replenished regularly. You, as a medical assistant, need to keep track of things constantly or a clinic may end up appearing unprepared and disorganized.

DUTY #19: Medical assistants receive and process correspondences.

About the Duty:

Just like any business, clinics and healthcare establishments get all kinds of shipments and letters daily. Doctors and other healthcare providers don’t have the time to process everything that gets delivered to their facilities. That is why one of the most common medical assistant job duties is to be the point person when it comes to receiving things from mailing or shipping companies. Medical assistants inspect and sign off on packages to ensure that they are intact and ready to be passed on to whoever needs to get them at the facility.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The skills needed to perform this duty include being organized and having good communication abilities. Staying organized is important because health facilities may receive packages and letters in large volumes. As a medical assistant, you need to make sure that they all get to the right person as soon as possible. It also helps to have good communication abilities because, if a facility doesn’t get what it’s expecting, you may need to call mail carriers right away.

DUTY #20: Medical assistants perform data entry.

About the Duty:

Data entry is simply inputting information into a computer. For medical assistants, this could mean just about anything that’s needed for the smooth operation of their facility. This could include patient information, supply trackers, and more. Healthcare facilities are now becoming less dependent on paper records, which is why it is more important now than ever to input things onto a computer or database. Medical assistants play a major role in this transition from paper to digital records.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

To perform this duty, you must have good typing speed and keen attention to detail. The average typing speed is about 40 words per minute, although certain facilities may have specific requirements. It is also important to be attentive to detail because, without it, you may miss important information that could end up causing service disruptions that affect the quality of patient care.

DUTY #21: Medical assistants transmit prescriptions to the pharmacy.

About the Duty:

This duty is fairly simple. It is simply about sending prescriptions from the point of care (the clinic or other health facility) to a partner pharmacy. Doing this ensures that patients receive the medication or treatment they need, as prescribed by providers. This duty would have been higher on the list except that these days, pharmacy correspondence is now being automated. Many facilities now have technology that lets them transmit prescriptions themselves in the examination room at the click of a button.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

Medical assistants need to have technical proficiency and a sense of urgency to perform this duty. Since prescriptions are transmitted by computer or phone, you must be able to use these types of equipment with ease. In addition, you need to send prescriptions as soon as possible, so it helps to have a sense of urgency to avoid having patients wait unnecessarily for their medications.

DUTY #22: Medical assistants act as patient transporters.

About the Duty:

Some patients may not be able to walk, so they use assistive devices like wheelchairs to get into and out of a facility. Therefore, moving patients on wheelchairs is among the most typical medical assistant job duties today. In some cases, patients may be able to walk but may need supervision due to having an unsteady balance. Medical assistants may also help them to get from one place to another to avoid falls or other injuries.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

Performing this duty requires being knowledgeable on the use of medical assistive equipment such as wheelchairs. Not knowing how to properly use assistive devices can lead to injury, both for you and the patient. In addition, you need to have the skill of knowing safety protocols as a medical assistant just in case a patient falls or gets injured during transport.

DUTY #23: Medical assistants may provide basic wound care.

About the Duty:

Patients who come into health facilities have wounds that need to be treated. Usually, nurses and doctors perform wound care. However, medical assistants may also treat small, superficial wounds with the supervision of licensed providers. They may apply topical medications and bandages to patients and report if they see any possible signs of complications, such as infections.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The most important skill to do wound care is, of course, knowledge of wound care techniques. Although licensed healthcare providers supervise medical assistants who perform wound care, you must know how to apply some bandages, such as rolled gauze, which can be a bit challenging to maneuver for someone with inadequate training. In addition, you must be skilled at infection control practices to avoid causing harm to a patient.

DUTY #24: Medical assistants are mandated to report signs of abuse.

About the Duty:

As healthcare professionals, medical assistants need to report any suspicions that a patient, young or old, is being neglected or abused. It is not the job of medical assistants to investigate or gather evidence of abuse. The law only states that they should relay their concerns to authorities if they do suspect abuse.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The skills needed to perform this duty include being observant and being familiar with abuse reporting procedures. A knack for observation allows medical assistants, to spot signs that a patient is in danger. Some of these signs can be subtle and other people may easily miss them. Because there are protocols to report abuse, you must be familiar with the procedures for properly reporting abuse. These procedures are typically taught when you are onboarded to your job.

DUTY #25: Medical assistants participate in health fairs.

About the Duty:

There are times when medical assistants have to work outside of the clinic setting. Some health organizations participate in health fairs that provide medical services to patients in temporary booths or tents. Medical assistants may be asked to work during these health fairs, helping out with anything that needs to be done, including processing patients’ documents, administering shots, and more.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

To perform this duty, medical assistants must be able to multitask and stay organized. You may not have much help while working during a health fair, so you may have to perform multiple assignments during a shift. In addition, you need to stay organized. You must be able to account for all the equipment and supplies that your clinic brings to a health fair and make sure that they are not damaged or lost.

DUTY #26: Medical assistants provide basic education to patients.

About the Duty:

Doctors and nurses typically must educate patients. However, patients may miss some information. Medical assistants can help fill the gap by re-educating patients. It’s important to consider, however, that medical assistants are not expected to provide education on medications or other complex treatment issues. When patients have questions regarding these things, medical assistants must refer them back to licensed providers. However, if patients only have basic questions, such as their next appointment, medical assistants are allowed to provide education.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The skills medical assistants need to perform this duty include being concise in answering questions and knowing their scope of practice. Answering questions concisely puts patients at ease. It helps patients make sense of the information they receive from providers, which can be overwhelming at times. However, you need to know your limits. There are many types of information that you are not allowed to educate patients on as a medical assistant. You need to know when you must direct patients to consult with providers.

DUTY #27: Medical assistants train other medical assistants on the job.

About the Duty:

Medical assistants with more experience need to serve as preceptors of newer medical assistants. As a preceptor, medical assistants show their colleagues the ins and outs of their job. The goal is to help other medical assistants learn the rules and be able to perform their work independently.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

To be an effective trainer or preceptor, you need to be good at teaching others and to be familiar with the inner workings of the clinic or facility where you work. Good teaching involves being supportive yet firm towards others. Effective medical assistant preceptors are the ones who know how to set expectations without making others feel inadequate. Of course, to become a trainer for medical assistants, it is also important for you to be familiar with your job. You can’t teach something that you don’t know yourself.

DUTY #28: Medical assistants provide emotional support to patients.

About the Duty:

Patients who come into a clinic or healthcare facility may be anxious and overwhelmed about their health situation. Medical assistants need to provide comfort to these patients by offering them support and encouragement. While providing emotional support isn’t typically in a medical assistant’s job description, it is a way for medical assistants to go above and beyond their call of duty and make a difference in other people’s lives. While providing emotional support is one of the less technical medical assistant job duties, its importance cannot be overstated.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

The skills required to perform this duty are active listening and empathy. By actively listening, you can get to the heart of a patient’s problem. Active listening gives you the ability to help patients feel less alone in their problems. Empathy is also important because it helps you identify with a patient, instead of just feeling sorry for them.

DUTY #29: Medical assistants may teach patients how to use their prescribed eyewear, such as contact lenses.

About the Duty:

Some, but not all, medical assistants work for optometrists. Since this is a specialty area, not all medical assistants do this job. Those who do, however, play an important role in helping patients use their eyewear appropriately. Eyewear can be very delicate and misusing them is not only costly but can also cause injury to a patient. Therefore, ophthalmic medical assistants need to help patients out with their eyeglasses or contact lenses

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

Performing this duty requires knowing ophthalmic equipment and the ability to explain them in layman’s terms to patients. As a medical assistant, you must study how glasses and contact lenses are used, cleansed, or repaired. Your knowledge must be detailed and comprehensive so that you can teach patients well. However, it’s not enough to be knowledgeable. Patients are not always familiar with ophthalmic equipment. Therefore, you must also be good at teaching complex information to patients in an understandable way.

DUTY #30: Medical assistants may help with a clinic or facility’s marketing efforts on social media.

About the Duty:

Healthcare facilities and clinics are businesses, and they may have a presence on social media platforms. Not all health institutions have the budget to pay for a social media manager, so medical assistants may be the ones to handle online promotions. This is not a big part of their job, but it’s helpful to know that this may be something medical assistants may be asked to do.

Skills Required to Perform this Duty:

To perform this duty, you need to be savvy with social media and be flexible. Posting on social media can make or break an organization’s reputation. Therefore, you need to be familiar with the ethics of being on social media. Being flexible is also important, because, as mentioned earlier, social media marketing is not always part of a medical assistant’s routine. Therefore, you need to be flexible in taking on new, uncommon tasks to perform this duty.


What are the Most Common Mistakes Medical Assistants Make At Work and How to Fix Them?

Here are seven common mistakes medical assistants make at work and how they can be fixed.

MISTAKE #1: Medical assistants may overstep their bounds.

About the Mistake:

Medical assistants are often unclear about what they are legally allowed to do, which can lead to them making mistakes. It is important to know the scope of your practice and what you are legally allowed to do in your state.

How to Fix it:

The best way for you to fix this mistake as a medical assistant is to study your scope of practice. The American Association of Medical Assistants has compiled a list of practice laws for medical assistants on its website. Another way to avoid this mistake is through a good orientation program. Healthcare facilities should devote time to educating medical assistants on what they are and aren’t allowed to do.

MISTAKE #2: Medical assistants may not follow infection control practices.

About the Mistake:

Although medical assistants have been trained in infection control procedures, such as hand hygiene and proper waste disposal, there are times when they might miss doing the right thing. This can happen especially during busy times. Medical assistants may end up going from one patient to another without washing their hands or performing other measures that prevent the spread of infection.

How to Fix it:

As a medical assistant, the best way for you to fix this problem is by making infection control practices a part of your daily routine. If you are intentional about washing your hands or sanitizing your workspace every day, those things become habits. And once you’ve developed good habits, you’ll find yourself doing things automatically without being told or reminded.

MISTAKE #3: Medical assistants may make errors in charting.

About the Mistake:

Just like most healthcare professionals, medical assistant job duties include completing various types of charting throughout the day. Because of the sheer number of charts that medical assistants may have to complete, they can make mistakes with their charting or forget to fill out certain documents.

How to Fix it:

Practicing being detail-oriented is a great way for you to avoid this mistake. By being detail-oriented, you are ensuring that all necessary documents are filled accurately and thoroughly. This is very important because poor documentation is one reason why healthcare facilities often get penalized by government auditors.

MISTAKE #4: Medical assistants may not know their patients well.

About the Mistake:

Being a medical assistant is about making genuine human connections with others. When medical assistants aren’t familiar with patients, especially those that they have been seeing regularly, patients may feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. Because customer service is a big part of what medical assistants do, it is a mistake not to know their patients.

How to Fix it:

You don’t need to know every detail about your patients as a medical assistant. However, you must at least know basic facts, such as a patient’s name and why they came to their clinic. A good way to do this is by practicing note-taking. Notes can help you remember important information about your patients, even when you are busy.

MISTAKE #5: Medical assistants may not communicate well with providers.

About the Mistake:

Many of the duties of a medical assistant require coordination with doctors and other providers. This may include relaying critical lab results or important questions from patients. When medical assistants don’t communicate, healthcare quality suffers, and that is why it must be addressed.

How to Fix it:

The best way for you to learn how to communicate is through practice. Being able to communicate well is a skill that comes over time. As a medical assistant, you should be intentional about getting better at reaching out to providers and other people you work with. Doing this not only enhances your skills, but also the quality of healthcare services.

MISTAKE #6: Medical assistants may lag in updating their skills.

About the Mistake:

Being a medical assistant requires constant learning. The healthcare system changes quite a lot, and it is a mistake for medical assistants not to know the latest best practices.

How to Fix it:

Taking short continuing education classes every few months or so ensures that you remain aware of the latest information in the medical assisting profession. These continuing education or CE classes are highly accessible and inexpensive. Many online CE providers sell classes for low prices.

MISTAKE #7: Medical assistants may accidentally share health-protected information.

About the Mistake:

The healthcare system has very strict laws about health information privacy. Medical assistants can divulge private health data without intentionally doing so. This can happen, for example, if they share a patient’s medical information with someone over the phone without verifying if that patient is authorized to receive the information.

How to Fix it:

To avoid compromising patients’ privacy, it is always important for you as a medical assistant to practice due diligence. You must make it a habit to practice verifying every person’s identity to make sure that health information is only being shared with those who have the right.

What is an Example of a Typical Day in the Life of a Medical Assistant?

This is a typical day in the life of a medical assistant, based on an account by a fictional medical assistant named Joseph who works in a general practitioner’s clinic. While Joseph may not be a real person, his account of how his day goes embodies what many medical assistants can expect throughout their shifts.

0900 to 1000:

I review the appointment calendar for the day and check for any voicemails that may have been left for the doctor during after-hours. Then, I open the front desk to the first patients.

1000 to 1100:

Patients begin to fill up the rooms. After patients see the providers, I replace the disposable mats and check the cabinets and shelves to make sure that everything is well-stocked.

1100 to 1200:

Calls have been coming in since this morning, but it’s the first time I get to sit down. I listen to voice messages and return a few calls from insurance companies that I called yesterday to verify patients’ insurance eligibility.

1200 to 1230:

Lunch time!

1230 to 1330:

An old woman comes into the clinic in a wheelchair. She was dropped off by a private ambulance from the nearest nursing home. Since the driver can’t bring her into the clinic, I was the one who pushed the patient inside. Just as I was about to shut the door behind me, someone from the postal service rushes to hand me a stack of envelopes. I make a mental note to sort the mail out later in the day.

1330 to 1430:

The doctor comes to me saying that he needs lab works to be done on the old woman. He tells me to draw blood, perform an EKG, and call the pharmacy to relay his new medication orders. Since the woman was also having diarrhea, the doctor asked me to collect a stool specimen.

1430 to 1530:

A small group of people comes into the clinic, each with a piece of paper. One of them approaches me and says that they’re here for a pre-employment exam. After a few minutes, I manage to assign them to exam rooms. But before I do, I check all their vital signs, get urine samples, and administer TB skin tests.

1530 to 1630:

A new medical assistant comes to me and looks concerned. She said that a patient is irate that she couldn’t get an appointment soon enough. I tell the new medical assistant to calm down and breathe, before walking with her to her desk. Then, I tell her to sit next to me to see how to deal calmly with an upset patient. After listening to the patient, I book her for the closest appointment and apologize that she couldn’t be seen sooner. I educated the patient to go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care if she feels she needs to be seen immediately. The patient agrees.

1630 to 1730:

The clinic is starting to calm down. Now, I have time to distribute the mail throughout the office and do some filing. I make sure that all patient records are placed in their proper folders. After that, I sanitize the front desk counter and the exam room tables. I’m done for the day! It was stressful but fulfilling.

Useful Resources to Learn More About the Duties and Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant


Medical Assistant Career Guide Blog-

This is a website that addresses many of the questions that medical assistants may ask. Written in a concise and easy-to-understand format, the articles on this website are a great place for medical assistant students to learn more about the profession they are about to enter.

Montes Healthcare College Blog-

Montes Healthcare College is a vocational institution that offers a medical assisting program. What’s good about their blog is that they also touch on phlebotomy and medical coding/billing. Phlebotomy and medical coding/billing are two related job titles that medical assistants can get with extra certifications. Learning about these occupations provides medical assistants with more career options.

YouTube Videos

What Does a Medical Assistant Do? [2019]:

In this short video, Rasmussen University breaks down the basics of what medical assistants do. This video is a great resource for those who are considering going into medical assisting and want a quick summary of what the profession is all about.

Day In the Life of a Medical Assistant [2022]:

YouTube creator and medical assistant Kara Marie walks her audience in this video and gives them a quick rundown of the various medical assistant duties she performs on a day-to-day basis while she does them in her clinic.


All Things Medical Assistant-

This podcast is hosted by Santino Telles. Some of the things listeners can expect from All Things Medical Assistant include interviews and commentary about the medical assisting profession. With a 4.8 star rating on Apple Podcasts, Telles’ podcast is an authoritative resource for those looking for one in the medical assisting profession.

The Everyday MA-

As the title implies, The Everyday MA has a bit more casual approach to discussing the medical profession. In his episodes, podcast host Cortez Murrary shares tips as well as his personal experience while working as a medical assistant.

Bonus! What are the Most Common Challenges Medical Assistants Face At Work and How to Overcome Them?

Being a medical assistant comes with its set of challenges. Here are seven common challenges medical assistants face and how to overcome each one of them.

CHALLENGE #1: Managing time effectively

About the Challenge:

One of the biggest challenges for medical assistants is managing their time effectively. There are always a million things to do and never enough hours in the day. Medical assistants have to be experts at time management to get everything done.

How to Overcome it:

As a medical assistant, you can do several things to manage your time more effectively. First, you need to make a list of tasks to be done each day and prioritize them. Next, you need to break large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. You also need to set time limits for each task. Lastly, you should take a break when you start to get overwhelmed.

CHALLENGE #2: Communicating with patients

About the Challenge:

Another big challenge for medical assistants is communicating with patients. Communicating respectfully and professionally can be challenging at times because communication is more than just talking. It’s about making a genuine connection with others.

How to Overcome it:

There are many ways to become better at communicating with patients as a medical assistant. One way is for you to listen more than you talk. Patients will appreciate it if they run into someone who cares about what they have to say. It is also helpful to ask open-ended questions instead of questions that only require a yes or no response. Next, having a neutral tone of voice also helps with your communication. Lastly, it is also important for you to speak slowly and clearly.

CHALLENGE #3: Handling difficult situations

About the Challenge:

Medical assistants often have to deal with difficult situations, and this is one of the more difficult duties of a medical assistant. There are challenging moments throughout a medical assistant’s day, such as when a patient gets angry or upset, or when a family member starts grieving. These situations can be emotionally challenging, but it’s important to remain professional and compassionate at all times.

How to Overcome it:

The most important way to deal with difficult situations is to stay calm and collected. Being calm allows you to diffuse a situation without potentially causing harm to yourself and others. There may be times when you may not be able to handle difficult situations on your own. Therefore, it is important to seek help from your supervisor or someone higher in the chain of command.

CHALLENGE #4: Dealing with the physical demands of being a medical assistant

About the Challenge:

One of the less glamorous aspects of medical assisting is that it can be a physically demanding job. Medical assistants may stand for extended periods, and they may have to lift patients or equipment. This can be physically demanding, but there are ways to make it easier.

How to Overcome it:

While being a medical assistant can be physically demanding, it does not have to be unbearable. One way for you to overcome this problem is to wear comfortable shoes. In addition, it is important to take breaks when possible. Next, having a regular exercise routine also can help you stay in shape and deal with the physical demands of your job. Lastly, you should perform stretches that prime your body for the day.

CHALLENGE #5: Staying up to date on medical knowledge

About the Challenge:

Another big challenge for medical assistants is staying up to date on medical knowledge. This can be difficult because there is always new information to learn. Medical assistants have to be lifelong learners to keep up with the latest changes in their field.

How to Overcome it:

There are plenty of ways to overcome the problem of having updated knowledge as a medical assistant. One way you can address this problem is to take continuing education courses geared toward medical assistants. You can also attend conferences and seminars when given opportunities at work. In addition, you can talk to other health professionals, including nurses and physicians, to learn about anything new in healthcare.

My Final Thoughts

Perhaps you’ve reached this article because you’re interested in the medical assisting profession and are wondering, “What does a medical assistant do?” We hope you’ve realized that medical assistants have plenty of responsibilities. Throughout this article, you have read the top 30 duties and responsibilities of a medical assistant among other things. Despite sometimes being a difficult job, however, medical assisting is rewarding. It is something that you should definitely consider as you consider how to get into the healthcare field. By being a medical assistant, you’re not only helping advance your career, but you’re also improving other people’s lives.

Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Our Expert

1. Are Medical Assistant Duties Stressful?

Medical assistant duties can be stressful. However, with the right mindset and attitude, medical assistants can navigate through these difficulties and succeed in their profession.

2. What Are The 3 Most Common Daily Duties Of A Medical Assistant?

Every clinic or facility has different routines. However, some of the most typical duties medical assistants perform include:

• Providing customer service to patients
• Performing basic medical tasks, such as giving shots or checking vital signs
• Maintaining health records

3. What Are The 3 Least Common Medical Assistant Duties?

The least common duties of a medical assistant include:

• Assisting with a clinic or facility’s social media marketing efforts
• Assisting patients with their eyewear
• Participating in health fairs

4. What Are The 3 Most Stressful Medical Assistant Duties?

It’s hard to say what the most stressful duties of a medical assistant are because the answer will vary from one person to the next. However, it may be reasonable to assume that the following duties can be quite stressful:

• Coordinating patient care with multiple facilities and organizations
• Dealing with difficult patients and families
• Clinical tasks that require plenty of hands-on work

5. What Are The 3 Least Stressful Medical Assistant Duties?

The least stressful medical assistant duties will also vary depending on the medical assistant you ask. Some duties, however, are quite routine and are less likely to be stressful. These duties include:

• Receiving and handling correspondences
• Maintaining inventory
• Transmitting prescriptions to pharmacies

6. What Are The 3 Most Fun Duties Of A Medical Assistant?

What’s fun for one medical assistant may not be so much for another. There are, however, a few medical assistant tasks that many medical assistants may find exciting. Three of these duties include:

• Attending health fairs
• Assisting with minor surgeries
• Collecting data from new patients

7. What Are The 3 Most Mundane Duties Of A Medical Assistant?

Three of the most mundane tasks medical assistants do may include:

• Performing data entry
• Monitoring refrigeration logs
• Maintaining inventory at their workplace

8. What Are The 3 Most Gross Duties Of A Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants do have to perform duties that may make some people’s stomachs churn. Three of these may include:

• Taking urine and stool samples
• Wound care
• Handling and disposing of hazardous wastes

9. What Are The 3 Easiest Medical Assistant Job Duties?

Some of the easiest duties of a medical assistant may include:

• Preparing examination rooms
• Checking vital signs
• Monitoring refrigeration logs

10. What Are The 3 Most Challenging Medical Assistant Job Duties?

The three most challenging duties of a medical assistant either require heavy hands-on involvement or plenty of communication with external agencies. Therefore, one could say that the three most challenging duties medical assistants perform include:

• Coordinating patient care
• Performing blood draws
• Performing x-rays

11. What Are The 3 Most Time-Consuming Medical Assistant Job Duties?

The three most time-consuming medical assistant duties are similar to the list of the most challenging list of medical assistant job duties, with perhaps a few variations. These duties are:

• Patient care coordination
• Performing x-rays
• Process medical billing and insurance claims

12. What Are The Top 3 Medical Assistant Duties In A Clinic?

The top duties performed by medical assistants in a clinic may vary, but they are usually as follows:

• Preparing examination rooms
• Checking vital signs
• Customer service for incoming patients

13. What Are The Top 3 Medical Assistant Duties In A Hospital?

Every hospital has its protocol, but medical assistants in hospitals typically do the three following routine medical tasks:

• Checking vital signs
• Taking stool and urine samples
• Performing TB skin tests

14. What Are The Top 3 Medical Assistant Duties In Urgent Care?

Urgent care facilities are similar to clinics, except the pace may be faster due to patients coming in for acute, non-emergency conditions. Three top duties that medical assistants can expect to perform in these settings include:

• Checking vital signs
• Giving vaccinations
• Basic wound care with the supervision of licensed healthcare providers

15. Are Medical Assistants Happy With What They Do?

Medical assistants differ in how they feel about their job. It’s reasonable to expect that some medical assistants are happy with their jobs, but it’s also likely that some aren’t satisfied.

Raymond Aguirre RN, BSN, PHN, CHPN
Raymond M.E. Aguirre is a registered nurse with years of experience in the medical field. He currently works as a public health nurse and has years of experience in home health, hospice, and skilled nursing facility settings.