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A Basic Overview of Legal Oversights in the Medical Assistant Profession

Doctors and Medical Assistants Speak In HallwayWorking in the medical field allows you to help patients heal injuries, avoid discomfort, and achieve better well-being. Whether you work in a hospital, clinic, family office, or medical laboratory, you’ll find there are many regulations to help ensure processes and procedures are done properly. Following these guidelines is particularly important for facilities that rely on medical assistants in their practice. Knowing what can and cannot be performed by medical assistants will help you and your team avoid legal ramifications down the road. Here, Prism Career Institute offers insight to help medical assistants provide effective care within legal boundaries.

Acceptable Tasks for Medical Assistants

Regulations on the tasks medical assistants may perform vary from state to state, and it’s important to look into legal requirements in any state where you seek employment. However, some general standards cover medical assistants across the country and allow them to perform a wide range of tasks. These include:

  • Measuring and recording vital signs
  • Recording patient information
  • Preparing the exam room
  • Changing dressings and removing sutures and staples
  • Reading or explaining instructions to patients
  • Administering a single dose of oral medication at a doctor’s direction
  • Administering topical treatments
  • Draping or shaving patients before surgical procedures
  • Disinfecting wounds and treatment sites
  • Collecting blood and other specimens through noninvasive methods
  • Performing lab and screening tests
  • Calling in prescriptions or refills to the pharmacy when approved by the physician
  • Prefilling electronic prescriptions
  • Telephone screenings (non-triage communication)
  • Venipuncture/phlebotomy
  • Performing electrocardiography

In New Jersey, qualified medical assistants may also perform intradermal, intramuscular, and subcutaneous injections under the supervision of a doctor. Law requires that the medical assistant must meet specific training and experience criteria and that only a doctor may assess the patient’s condition and determine the appropriate treatment. Additionally, medical assistants must prominently display identification that notes their position at all times.

Tasks You May Not Perform

While it seems like medical assistants can perform most tasks in medical facilities, some duties are restricted to doctors and nurses. It’s important that these restrictions are noted and that all medical assistants and healthcare providers adhere to them. Restricted duties include:

  • Independent telephone triage
  • Interpreting data or diagnosing symptoms
  • Starting, flushing, and discontinuing IVs
  • Analyzing or interpreting test results
  • Making assessments
  • Medical decision-making
  • Operating laser equipment

Medical assistants are also prohibited from the direct practice of medicine or nursing and may not present themselves as a doctor or nurse at any time. In general, medical assistants work in a support capacity to help other medical professionals and should be considered unlicensed assistive personnel.

Learn More about a Career as a Medical Assistant

By working within the legal requirements for medical assistants, you can provide the highest quality of care, support your colleagues, and ensure your place of employment remains compliant with all applicable laws. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in healthcare, contact Prism Career Institute today. Our Medical Assistant Program will help prepare you to work alongside doctors, nurses, and other specialists in hospitals, private practices, and more. Apply online now, or contact us to learn more about studying at our Cherry Hill or Egg Harbor, NJ locations.