Interested in becoming a medical assistant but want to work in a hospital? Most medical assistants work in doctor’s offices, but they’re increasingly essential in hospitals. It’s an exciting setting and with diverse roles and potential for specialization. Here’s a closer look at what a medical assistant does in a hospital and how to prepare for those responsibilities.
What Does a Medical Assistant Do in a Hospital?
Trained in both clinical and administrative tasks, a medical assistant working in a hospital can do the same things they do in private practices. But because patients are more acute, the staff members best able to fulfill a role usually do the job. Unless they’re also a certified nursing assistant, it’s unlikely a medical assistant will assist people with personal care on most floors. And because regulations limit who can administer medications to the sickest patients, that will be left up to nurses.
But there are many clinical tasks medical assistants can perform. Most will reflect the unit they’re assigned to. In doctor’s offices, a medical assistant sees a wide range of patients. On a hospital floor, most admissions have the same type of problem or need. For example, the labor and delivery floor serve birthing families while a day surgery unit performs minor surgeries on ambulatory patients.
What a medical assistant can do in a hospital is defined by each state, but in most, a medical assistant can support professionals clinically in all units by:
- Collecting biological samples
- Transporting patients to other departments for select diagnostic tests
- Taking screening vital signs
- Preparing patients for procedures
- Disinfecting equipment
- Administering routine vaccinations to well patients
Medical assistants employed in hospitals are more often found in administrative roles, but tasks can overlap with clinical functions. Every department needs strong clerical support. Administration responsibilities in each may include:
- Welcoming patients
- Applying identification bands
- Reviewing facility amenities
- Assisting room-in family members
- Reviewing health history
- Answering phone calls
- Completing birth documentation
- Scheduling follow-up visits for the mother and child
- Collecting menus
- Ordering supplies
- Filing and organizational tasks
- Assisting physicians and nurses with recordkeeping
- Assisting patients and families with treatment paperwork
- Retrieving documentation
- Managing the switchboard
- Collecting insurance payment information
- Calling insurance companies for admission preauthorization
- Ordering and stocking supplies
- Preparing exam rooms
- Processing soiled laundry and instruments
- Preparing discharge instructions
- Arranging transportation to other facilities
- Communicating with collaborating physicians
- Filing and electronic health records
- Supporting families with hospitality services
Outpatients are stable and have needs similar to those a medical assistant will encounter in a private practice. In many cases, medical assistants can take a more active role in their care under the direct supervision of a doctor or nurse. Tasks may include:
- Checking patients in for procedures
- Printing ID bands
- Reviewing medical history
- Making family comfortable
- Answering phone inquires
- Taking pre-procedure vital signs
- Suite preparation
- Instrument set-up
- Refilling supplies
- Assisting with personal care
- Reviewing discharge instructions
There are also many all-clerical roles for a medical assistant in administrative and other outpatient departments. Duties in each medical assistant role may include:
- Answering phone calls
- Reviewing privacy policies with patients and obtaining signed consent forms for releasing records
- Retrieving data for physicians during inpatient stays
- Archiving paper records
- Answering billing questions
- Setting up payment plans
- Collecting patient copayments and balances
- Coding and filing insurance claims
- Managing the schedule
- Directing patient flow
- Answering the phone
- Retrieving test results
- Maintaining a safe and comfortable waiting area
- Sanitizing changing areas
- Assisting patients with storing their belongings
- Supporting radiologist with documentation
Who Does a Medical Assistant Work With in a Hospital?
Medical assistants working in a hospital will connect with many more people than they would in a doctor’s office. A medical assistant’s roles are refined and everyone has a specific job to do. On a clinical unit, medical assistants work closely with:
- Patients and their families
- Nursing assistants
- Central supply staff
- Pharmacy technicians
- Lab techs and phlebotomists
- Nutritionists and dietary aides
- Maintenance and environmental services employees
- Social services
In an administrative role, colleagues will include:
- Billing and coding specialists
- Accountant and auditors
- Insurance company representatives
- Supply vendors
- Records technicians
- Unit clerks
Who Will Enjoy Working in a Hospital as a Medical Assistant?
Working in a hospital is very different than being employed by a private practice, there are pros and cons. Acute care facilities never close, so unlike a doctor’s office, some positions require working nights, weekends and holidays. Others, including most outpatient departments and financial services offer regular Monday through Friday schedules.
But if you thrive on excitement and like to stay busy, the hospital environment is fast paced. You’ll meet people from all walks of life and learn more about medicine than you imagined possible. No two days are ever alike, there’s so much to learn. And if you get bored quickly, the work rarely gets stale.
You can move from one department to another as positions open, mastering tasks while making yourself a more knowledgeable and valuable employee. It’s the perfect way to gain experience, adding to your skillset while padding your resume and positioning yourself for a brighter future.
As roles for medical assistants expand, employment opportunities are increasing. While some jobs are on the chopping block, replaced by automation, demand for medical assistants has never been greater. Regardless of where you want to work, you’ll be a valued member of the healthcare team and enjoy a stable, rewarding career.
Ready to start working toward your medical assistant technician diploma? The Medical Assistant Technician Diploma Program is designed to prepare you to obtain entry-level employment as a medical assistant technician. This program offers you the opportunity to learn the necessary knowledge and skills both in the classroom and in a supervised clinical practice. You will learn how to prepare patients for various technical examinations such as EKGs and phlebotomy, as well as how to perform several such procedures.
Ready to move from the classroom to a career? Florida Technical College is here to help. Contact us to learn more about completing the medical assistant technician diploma program at Florida Technical College.