What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

 Female administrator putting away documentsThe medical field is a lucrative place to pursue a career because the demand for good health is top priority. As technology continues to advance, physicians and surgeons are relying more on medical assistants to help them manage their practice.

While doctors are certainly trained and capable to do it all, this could slow down how many patients they are able to see. As the number of patients increases, this could be a disadvantage not only to the hospital or practice, but also to the patient’s health.

In order to avoid neglecting or delaying urgent and preventative care, medical assistants are able to free up the preliminary responsibilities normally assigned to nurses or doctors. With the help of a medical assistant, physicians and surgeons are able to focus specifically on their specialty, whether he or she is a pediatrician, podiatrist, ophthalmologist, or general practice.

Medical Assistant Responsibilities

The responsibilities of a medical assistant typically depends on what field they are working in. However, the occupation is generally separated into two fields: clinical and administrative. In some cases, depending on whether one is working in a hospital or private practice, medical assistant duties may combine the two fields. However, with larger institutions, the responsibilities are usually focused on just one.


The clinical side of medical assisting requires a hands-on care with the patients. Responsibilities include but are not limited to taking vital signs and giving patients injections under a physician’s approval. Additionally, medical assistants may be required to conduct laboratory tests, sterilize medical instruments, dispose of contaminated instruments, draw blood, remove stitches, change dressings and possibly even assist in surgery.

Medical assistants may also work as consultants, instructing patients on their medication and proper dieting.

It is important not to confuse a clinical medical assistant with a physician assistant. Physician assistants are certified in examining, diagnosing, and treating patients under a physician’s supervision.


The administrative side to medical assisting pertains to managing medical records. This task is equally as important as treating the patient. Keeping accurate records of a patient’s medical history is a critical responsibility that has zero room for error as it is literary a matter of life and death.

Medical administrative assistants generally are responsible for data entry and coding patient’s personal information. They also process insurance forms, schedule appointments and follow-ups, answer telephones, and buy and store medical supplies and equipment. Like clinical medical assistants, administrative medical assistants work closely with hospital administrators and laboratory services.

Other Fields in Medical Assisting

Although there are two main fields of medical assisting: clinical and administrative, there are others that can stand on their own.

Eye Care Industry

An optometrist and ophthalmologist also require medical assistance. While an ophthalmologist is trained to extensively examine, diagnose and treat the health of the eyes, an optometrist specializes in corrective vision. Here again, these doctors are competent enough to manage paperwork, but this distracts them from the main responsibilities of treating the eye. Medical assistants, or opticians are not only able to properly maintain patient records, they can also assist with preliminary testing, teaching patients how to insert and care for their contact lenses as well as taking accurate measurements to ensure that they are receiving the right size glasses.

Podiatrist and Hand Surgeons

The hands and feet are just a few complicated parts of the body. This is why they require their own field. Medical assistants are needed here as well. Responsibilities here may require taking x-rays, assisting with casting and even surgeries.

Chiropractor & Neurologist

All bones are connected. Yet these two professions are paired together because they are significantly related to one another. However, they each have their own field. The Laser Spine Institute reports that a human vertebral column has 33 bones. The brain is also a complicated work of art made up of neurons and 100,000 miles of blood vessels. Delicate subjects like this require intensive work. A chiropractor and neurologist would do well to dedicate the bulk of their time toward this specialty rather than preliminary paperwork that again is as just as important.

Salary and Occupational Titles

The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated in their May 2014 report that medical assistants earn an average salary of $36,260 at $15.01 an hour, going as high as $42,760 at $20.56 an hour, and as low as $21,540 at $10.36 an hour. Offices of Physicians ranked as having the industry to employ the most people. General medical and surgical hospitals came in second, whereas other healthcare practitioners and outpatient centers followed.

The following table lists some medical assisting jobs and the median salary according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Dental Assistants $36,260

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies – $26,260

Pharmacy Technicians – $31,090

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides – $35,160

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides – $54,330

Opticians – $36,260


FNU Medical Assistant Program

The purpose of Florida National University’s (FNU) program is to prepare students to be eligible for a job as a multi-skilled medical assistant. Our curriculum is designed with the knowledge and skills that are necessary to work in the clinical and administrative field, in a private practice, outpatient clinics, or specialty health services.

Learning the skills required to be the best medical assistant requires the best education. So, it’s time to make the best decision for your future! If you are ready to get started toward your career in the medical field, apply to FNU now!