A medical assistant is trained to provide support in a medical office or clinic setting. Training may be obtained on the job or in a formal educational program. Regulations governing the scope of practice for medical assistants vary by state. The scope of practice is the set of guidelines which outlines the specific duties that may be performed by a medical assistant and under which circumstances these duties may be carried out.
Regulations governing medical assistants may be dictated by state medical, nursing or allied health (para-professional) boards. Some states require a medical assistant to obtain state-issued licensure, registration or certification in order to work legally in that state. Most states have no such requirement. While not required, a medical assistant can obtain national certification by exam. Certification is voluntary and may be completed to meet the requisites of a particular position.
A medical assistant is not to provide any care without the presence of a licensed medical professional (doctor or nurse). She is working under the license of the medical professional who is to oversee all care rendered. This regulation is true in any state in the US. Some state regulations say that the licensed professional must be in the same building, while others state that the professional must be no more than five minutes away.
What Is Allowed
In general, all state regulations allow a medical assistant to obtain vital signs (blood pressure, temperature and pulse) and draw blood (phlebotomy). She may administer intradermal, subcutaneous, or intramuscular injections of approved drugs, which vary per state. In most states, a medical assistant may administer medication that is prepared as a unit dose (individually prepared, single dose). She may also assist in minor in-office surgical procedures and apply simple wound dressings. A medical assistant may also collect and run simple laboratory tests, such as urinalysis, complete blood count, and throat and nasal swabs. All tasks preformed must be associated with an order written by an acceptable licensed medical practitioner (physician, surgeon, nurse practitioner, physician assistant).
What is Prohibited
A medical assistant is not allowed to make assessments or judgments regarding medical care, meaning she cannot initiate treatment based on her findings. She is not allowed to interpret test results; she is only to report her observations to the supervising licensed practitioner. She cannot give medication intravenously or directly into the vein. A medical assistant is generally prohibited from performing invasive procedures, including urinary catheter insertion and cosmetic laser treatments. Most states do not allow the administration of chemotherapeutic or narcotic drugs by a medical assistant.
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