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5 Essential Skills of a Medical Assistant

a medical assistant doing data entry
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a medical assistant doing data entry

What does a medical assistant do?

Medical assistants work in a variety of healthcare settings, including physician’s offices, hospitals, urgent care clinics, and more. They play a vital role in any medical office or hospital by assisting physicians with administrative tasks and taking patient vital signs, and they also communicate with patients regularly regarding their symptoms, diagnosis, prescriptions, appointments, and other important details. Some of the day-to-day duties and skills of a medical assistant include:

1. Taking vital signs

Consider the last time you received medical care. Between hearing your name called in the waiting room and seeing a physician, you likely encountered one or more individuals who attempted to learn as much as possible about your situation in order to help the physician treating you. 

Patients visiting their physician for a regular checkup, visitors of an emergency room, and those seeking medical assistance from an urgent care facility will all have encountered a medical assistant or nurse who takes their vital signs before they speak with a physician. This may include:

  • Taking blood pressure
  • Measuring heart rate
  • Checking blood glucose levels
  • Performing an EKG if necessary

In many healthcare environments, medical assistants are taking patient vital signs in order to help physicians understand, diagnose, and treat any underlying health concerns. 

READ MORE: Why You Should Consider Medical Assistant Training

2. Updating patient records

Once a medical assistant has taken your vital signs, he or she is often the individual responsible for updating your patient records as well to ensure that your vital signs are recorded for your physician’s reference as well as your own. Your patient record also plays a vital role in determining what treatment your receive, since your vital signs and medical history can all indicate underlying health concerns or play a role in your physician’s decisions to recommend one treatment over another. 

Without complete, accurate, up-to-date patient records, physicians, nurses, and other staff cannot provide the same quality care, which is why the role and skills of a medical assistant is so important. Just a few of the things that a medical assistant may record in your patient record include:

  • Medical history
  • Surgical history
  • Symptoms
  • Vital signs
  • Medications
  • Medical allergies
  • Physician’s assessment
  • Diagnosis of disease or illness
  • Treatment plan
  • Test results
  • Progress notes

Even if you change physicians or move across the country, your patient record and the detailed notes taken by a medical assistant can help your current and future healthcare providers provide the best level of care and potentially prevent serious health conditions.

3. Scheduling appointments

In addition to assisting patients and physicians before and during an appointment, medical assistants may also schedule follow-up appointments, coordinate lab work, and more. Without the role of a medical assistant, the process of scheduling an appointment with your physician or understanding next steps would be much more confusing and complicated. 

READ MORE: Why Be a Medical Assistant

4. Communicating with patients

If your doctor requested tests or lab work that must be sent to a lab for processing, a medical assistant may call you regarding your test results and to schedule or confirm any followup appointments. Medical assistants may also work with you and your physician to ensure medication refills are sent to the appropriate pharmacy. While your physician may not be available at various times throughout the day, a medical assistant often serves as a liaison to ensure that patients and providers have what they need. 

5. Billing and other administrative tasks

Medical assistants are also responsible for coordinating billing and other administrative tasks that ensure clinics and healthcare facilities continue running smoothly. Most medical assistants who coordinate billing work with software programs that make this process easier.

How much do medical assistants in Texas make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for medical assistants was $33,610 in May 2018, with those at outpatient care centers and hospitals expected to make the highest averages.

Type of Healthcare Facility

Median Salary

Outpatient care centers




Physician’s offices


Chiropractor’s offices


Medical Assistant Training Programs in Texas

The role of medical assistants is one of the fastest growing careers in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. In 2018 alone, there were an estimated 686,000 medical assistant jobs in the U.S. While you won’t need a 4-year degree to land a job as a medical assistant, medical assistant training programs in Texas like the one offered by Southern Careers Institute will help prepare you for a career as a medical assistant.

In medical assistant training school, you’ll have the opportunity to learn the core components and skills of a medical assistant role, including taking vital signs, updating medical records, and more. At SCI’s medical assistant training program, you can be prepared to sit for your medical assistant certification in just 3 months. If you’re ready to start a fulfilling career with plenty of job growth and opportunities available, sign up for SCI’s medical assistant training program today.



This article was published on: 11/9/19 4:07 PM

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