There are close to 450,000 people working as medical assistants today, and they are scattered through a remarkable number of workplaces, job descriptions and responsibilities. The term ‘medical assistant’ is a catchall for trained personnel that assist in doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, extended care facilities, and private outpatient services.

Medical assistant schools usually graduate their studets with a certificate or an associate’s degree in medical assisting, or in applied science with a concentration in medical assisting. The training program covers anatomy, medical terminology, physiology, and a number of laboratory procedures. It is a very popular program in online universities, for individuals who are working in unsatisfactory jobs and wish to pick up a profession that requires specific abilities and that allows them to work with people.

Doctor’s Assistant

In doctor’s offices that are large practices – as most are today – a medical assistant may fill the role of greeting patients and moving them into an examination room where he or she takes the patient’s vital signs and blood pressure, and takes some brief notes about the purpose of the visit which are attached to the patient’s chart. A medical assistant in an office like this may also help manage the movement of patient records through the examining rooms and office.

Medical Office Assistant

In smaller offices, a medical assistant may handle the preliminaries with patients and also help with administrative duties such as answering phones, making appointments, taking messages for the doctor(s) and taking down insurance information. The medical assistant may also see to it that new patients fill out the appropriate forms, receive the required advisories, etc.

Clinical Medical Assistant

In a clinical setting, medical assistants often perform certain medical duties that are allowed by law, under the supervision of a physician or senior nurse. They may take specimens, draw blood, perform simple lab tests, take down medical histories, prepare medications under a doctor’s direction, and administer the meds along with instructions to the patient. They may also perform electrocardiogram exams, extract sutures and apply clean dressings.

Ophthalmic Medical Assistants

This specialty involves assisting in an ophthalmologist’s office. Tasks may include testing and recording vision, conducting diagnostic tests, and testing for fundamentals such as eye muscle function. They may assist patients in learning how to use contact lenses. They will also sterilize any medical instruments in the office and possibly assist the doctor in performing eye surgery. This specialty generally requires some additional course work or on the job training.

Optometric Medical Assistants

Medical assistants in an optometrist’s office perform services somewhat similar to those required of an ophthalmic assistant, except there is no surgery and little medical treatment involved. They assist with contact lens instruction, conduct some eye examinations and may help in the office administration as well.

Any of these jobs can be rewarding, and with additional education may lead to a more advanced medical role or administrative position,

Author's Bio: 

Bob Hartzell writes on education and careers for several websites