Clinical Skills for Medical Assistants: Six Cool Things a Medical Assistant Can Do
November 19, 2014
•Medical Assistant, General
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Though some people may think of medical assistants as the people who carry clipboards and show patients to the exam room, clinical skills make up a large part of their duties. Clinical skills for medical assistants are practical, real-life responsibilities that deliver care to patients in some way. Here are six awesome skills that medical assistants get to practice in the course of their job:
1. Vital Measurements
Vital signs are the basic bits of data that are essential to understanding what is going on with the patient at a given time. A medical assistant needs to be able to take blood pressure, count heart rate and respirations, take a temperature and obtain an oxygen saturation level. New technology makes taking vitals very easy and quick, but a good medical assistant doesn't lose the ability to take a manual blood pressure — after all, machines break down, they can give false readings and sometimes the patient's arm won't fit in the cuff properly.
Drawing blood requires the ability to locate a superficial vein on a patient, access it with a needle and draw the blood into a Vacutainer. Locating an adequate vein can be difficult, especially if the patient is obese, dehydrated or nervous about their impending blood draw. An elderly patient's veins can shift positions, making them hard to access. Drawing blood is a skill that takes clinical knowledge, a steady hand and a calming demeanor. Successfully drawing blood on a difficult patient feels like scoring the winning basket in the championship game.
Electrocardiograms, EKGs and ECGs are all the same thing: They measure electrical activity in the heart. This electrical activity tells the doctor how the heart muscle is functioning, so an accurate picture is really important for an accurate diagnosis. The medical assistant needs to be able to attach the leads to the patient with proper placement, or the reading will be completely wrong. It's simple to learn but easy to make a mistake.
Some doctors do simple procedures for their patients, such as ear wax removal, mole removal, cyst drainage and Pap smears. A medical assistant is there to assemble the necessary materials, assist the doctor in completing the procedure, support the patient through the procedure and tidy up afterwards. Sometimes this means holding a basin near the patient's ear to catch the irrigation fluid; sometimes it means swabbing the exudate from a large cyst. No matter the procedure, the human body is amazing, and being a part of these procedures is fascinating.
5. Basic Wound Care
Other clinical skills for medical assistants include basic wound care, such as removing sutures and applying simple dressings. This can be a tricky business; sutures are sometimes embedded deeply in the skin from healing, or they are tied closely to the skin and require deft maneuvering. Applying a dressing to a wound requires knowledge of clean techniques to prevent infection from taking hold.
Being on the giving side of an injection is much less painful than being on the receiving end, so it's a good place to be. A medical assistant must master intramuscular, intradermal and subcutaneous injections. They are pretty simple to perform, but showing that you're confident in your skills will go a long way toward putting the patient at ease.
Many people underestimate medical assistants, but the fact of the matter is that they have important clinical skills and play an essential role in caring for patients in a physician's office.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons