What Is a Clinical Medical Assistant?

Debra Riley


The job of a clinical medical assistant, or simply medical assistant in common use, is one of the important jobs in the healthcare industry. Keep in mind that the front-liners of healthcare like medical assistants prepare the way, so to speak, for physicians including surgeons and specialists to perform their own jobs.

Medical assistants with clinical duties are usually employed in the clinics of physicians, chiropractors, and podiatrists, among other healthcare professionals. Their actual duties in the clinical setting will vary depending on the location, specialty and size of the clinics of their employment.


CMA Role and Responsibilities

Nonetheless, most medical assistants with clinical duties assume the following roles and responsibilities regardless of their venue of employment:

  • Ask each patient about his/her personal information (e.g., full name, age and address) and medical history (e.g., initial symptoms, known underlying health conditions). The information gathered will then be recorded on his/her patient chart for the physician’s reference during the medical consultation itself.
  • Measure each patient’s vital signs including heart rate, pulse, and respiration rate as well as weight and height, said information of which will also be used by the physician for reference.
  • Assist the physician with the physical examination of each patient, when asked to do so, with usual tasks including passing on examination tools and helping the patient follow the physician’s instructions.
  • Administer injections to patients as directed by the physician although it must be noted that many states may prohibit a clinical medical assistant from doing so (The job may be given to a nurse, for example)
  • Schedule the appointments of patients including follow-up visits as well as call certain patients for reminders about their upcoming medical visits
  • Prepare a patient’s blood for laboratory tests and prepare said patient for x-rays, as directed by the physician.
  • Remove stitches and change dressings
  • Prepare basic laboratory tests
  • Dispose contaminated supplies like used cotton balls, gauze and needles
  • Sterilize medical instruments
  • Provide instructions to patients regarding their medications, diet and other aspects of their treatment

Such wide breadth of roles and responsibilities requires certain traits from medical assistants. These include the ability to communicate well with both patients and physicians, the skills in using medical tools and in applying medical practices, and the attention to small details, among others.

They can also be required to look after many administrative tasks including record keeping. Keep in mind that medical assistants are part of the healthcare team so his professional competence should always be above par.

certified medical assistant

Medical assistants with clinical duties are required both by legal and ethical rules to keep any and all patient information confidential; breach of privacy can result in sanctions including lawsuits. The patient information, however, can be discussed with the medical personnel like the physician directly involved in the individual’s healthcare program.

It must be emphasized that the actual roles and responsibilities that a clinical medical assistant can perform will vary on the rules and regulations of the state where he is employed.

Many states, for example, will not allow medical assistants to draw blood because this is the job of a phlebotomist or to prepare basic lab tests as it is the responsibility of a lab assistant.

Education and Training

In terms of education, training and licensing requirements, medical assistants in the United States are required to undergo the appropriate process in this regard before being allowed to practice their profession.

Medical assistants typically complete post-secondary education programs from community colleges, technical-vocational schools, and even online colleges, said programs of which range from 1-year diploma schemes to 2-year associate degree curricula.

Many medical assistants also take another route – after graduation from high school, they learn the roles and responsibilities of the profession as part of their on-the-job training in hospitals. They can then choose to add credibility to their training by taking appropriate classes in medical assisting programs.

In the United States, medical assistants can be employed without being certified but it must be noted that employers prefer hiring certified medical assistants. The certification from agencies like the American Association of Medical Assistants, National Healthcareer Association, and the American Medical Technologists is proof that, indeed, the medical assistant has passed minimum standards for competency.