Medical Assistant Scope of Practice: The Rules You Need to Know

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What Medical Assistants Can and Can’t Do

Medical Assistants are key players on the healthcare team, providing direct patient care and helping doctors, nurses, and specialists do their jobs well. Without their help, physicians wouldn’t be able to focus on their top priority: patient care. As a Medical Assistant, you will handle a wide variety of duties on both the clinical and administrative sides of the office—but there is also a list of duties that you aren’t allowed to perform.

What a Medical Assistant Can Do

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Medical Assistants were often called on to perform responsibilities they hadn’t done before. In many states, their scope of practice expanded to include testing patients for COVID and administering vaccines. While these duties may or may not become a routine part of your responsibilities, you can expect to continue to learn new tasks and procedures as the medical profession evolves. Here are just some of the usual duties that you can expect to perform now as a Medical Assistant:

  • Greet patients Assist patients with paperwork
  • Answer phones and emails Schedule patient appointments
  • Order office and medical supplies from vendors
  • Take patient vital signs
  • Prepare exam rooms
  • Update patient records
  • Handle bookkeeping, billing, and coding of insurance forms
  • Clean and sterilize medical tools and equipment
  • Assist the physician during exams and outpatient surgeries
  • Collect blood and urine specimens for lab tests
  • Care for wounds and change dressings
  • Administer medications under the supervision of a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant
  • Provide patients with diet and medication instructions, per doctor’s orders
  • Answer and direct patient questions Serve as liaison between patient and healthcare team

This list does not cover every responsibility that you’ll have, but it does provide a comprehensive overview of what you could expect to do each day.

What a Medical Assistant Can’t Do

Although your list of responsibilities is long, there are still some duties that you won’t be allowed to carry out. These duties are not within your scope of practice and will need to be performed by medical professionals who have the proper training:

  • Treat or diagnose patients
  • Evaluate patients or their plan of care
  • Interpret test results
  • Advise patients about their medical conditions
  • Administer IV medications or anesthesia
  • Prescribe medication
  • Perform physical therapy
  • Perform invasive techniques such as colonoscopies or spinal taps
  • Operate laser equipment

State-Level Scopes of Practice

Just as job duties can vary from facility to facility, they can also vary state to state. Each state board offers its own scope of practice for the profession, so the duties you can’t perform in one state may be allowed in another. For example, in California, you can perform additional supportive services such as skin tests or blood draws if you’ve received proper training from your employer. And in Montana, a physician may delegate invasive procedures to you as long as they provide onsite supervision. The key is to know and understand the guidelines for Medical Assistants in your state.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical Assistants are among the fastest growing occupations in this decade. One of the reasons for this is an aging population that requires regular care for chronic health conditions. In order for physicians to take on more patients, they’ll need more Medical Assistants to handle other important tasks that keep the practice running smoothly.

The best way to learn more about what Medical Assistants can and can’t do is through formal training. At Charter College, we offer a Certificate in Medical Assistant that will give you the hands-on training you’ll need for an entry-level job in the field. Classes are enrolling now. Call 888-200-9942 or fill out the form to learn more.