Medical Assistant Duties: A Day in the Life of a Medical Assistant

illustration of a medical assistant with arms outstretched on a clock and different icons at different times representing a day in the life of a medical assistant and medical assistant duties

If you’ve ever called a clinic to make an appointment—or even walked into a healthcare institution of any kind, you’ve likely witnessed medical assistants (MAs) in action. These healthcare professionals are often the first face a patient sees in a clinic or hospital.

But the friendly greeting and screening questions you received barely scratch the surface on what medical assistants get up to. This role is extremely versatile.

“What most surprised me was the broad spectrum of responsibilities and duties that a CMA (certified medical assistant) has to perform,” says Raymond Ford, CMA at MAXiM Hair Restoration. “The job doesn't just involve ‘assisting the doctor.’ The scope is far beyond that—and can extend even further if you are deemed capable.”

Many medical assistants will have a mix of administrative duties and clinical duties. Or, if they work in a larger practice or hospital, they might specialize in one of those areas, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1

Are you curious about a day in the life of a medical assistant? Read on for some of the most common medical assistant duties and an in-depth breakdown on what a day as an MA looks like.

Common medical assistant duties

Medical assistants are the administrative glue holding healthcare facilities together. But since they are also able to perform some clinical duties, they wind up filling all sorts of gaps in a healthcare environment.

Medical assistants typically record patient history and personal information, measure vital signs, assist physicians with examinations, give injections or medications as permitted by law, schedule appointments, prepare samples for lab tests and update EHR (electronic health record) information, according to the BLS.1

A medical assistant could give you a flu shot, schedule your next appointment, update your allergy information and measure your height. And in specialty clinics, they perform specialized tasks, like demonstrating how to insert, remove, and care for contact lenses at ophthalmic clinics or make castings of feet in podiatrist clinics.

If you think you’d prefer a wide variety of duties in your workday, the job description of a medical assistant might be just what you are looking for!

A day in the life of a medical assistant

“My day as a Certified Medical Assistant starts early and ends late,” Ford says, offering a snapshot of his average day.

Morning duties

“I begin my day by logging into the EHR system and reviewing the schedule for the day including surgical procedures, consultations and pre- and post-ops on the schedule.”

In the morning, Ford also ensures that any leftover tasks from the day before are finished, meets with the physician and nurse on staff and examines the procedure room to ensure everything is functioning, sterilized and ready to go.

“Then, I review the medical chart of the first patient, who is generally a surgical patient,” Ford explains. “I ensure that all paperwork is complete, and I review all financial information to make sure there are no pending co-pays or payments.” Ford also talks with the patient to ask about last-minute concerns, allergies and medications.

The doctor and nurse generally instruct Ford on what he should do for a particular patient. “It may include taking vitals, weight, height, blood pressure, etc... I enter this into the EHR and report the vital signs and statistics as well as any discrepancies.”

After this, Ford escorts the patient into the procedure room, helps them get comfy and talks with any family members. “When the procedure begins, I assist the doctor in multiple aspects of the procedure.” In Ford’s clinic, these duties might include harvesting tissue, dissecting grafts, placing grafts, autoclave and sterilization of instruments, as well being a liaison for all people involved.

Break times

“During periodic breaks, I make sure that the patient is well hydrated, check on the front desk, and address any minor issues that can come up,” Ford says. Whether that means dealing with a patient issue or complaint, solving an administrative or billing issue, following up with a patient who has questions or trying to fix a piece of equipment that is malfunctioning, Ford tries to troubleshoot and keep things running smoothly.

Afternoon duties

“Once the procedure is well underway or approaching completion, my functions generally focus on handling pre-ops, post-ops, consultations, following up with patients, and handling other administrative duties,” Ford says, adding that he often fields prospective patient questions as well.

Once the procedure is complete, Ford communicates post-op instructions to the patient and makes sure that patients are fine and alert when leaving the facility. “I am also responsible for making sure that the procedure room has been wiped clean and that all decontamination procedures are followed. All floors need to be mopped and wiped clean, free of any stains or blood.”

Is it hard to be a medical assistant?

Seeing all these different MA duties might make you wonder if this career is difficult, and while it’s not without its challenges, MAs often feel a deep satisfaction in the work they do. “Assisting the physician during the procedure and partaking in advanced clinical assisting tasks really makes my day exciting and interesting,” Ford says. He adds that he loves seeing happy patients who are satisfied with their clinical outcomes. “It gives me tremendous gratitude and peace of mind.”

Still, working as an MA isn’t for everyone. Skills in various areas can make a huge difference in how much someone would enjoy medical assisting. Ford says dexterity, focus, organization, communication, interpersonal skills, and basic analytical ability can make a huge difference.

“Needless to say, CMAs must exhibit compassion and care towards their patients and provide a very high level of customer service,” Ford adds.

Medical assistants need to know medical terminology, the names of the instruments, how to interact with patients, how to code both paper and electronic health records and how to record patient information, according to the BLS.1 Medical assisting programs focus on giving students the skills and knowledge base they will need to succeed in this career.

The benefit of becoming a medical assistant

No one can just roll out of bed one morning and succeed as a medical assistant. It takes training, skill and experience to do this job well. But the benefit of investing that time can be a career that offers exciting clinical experiences and plenty of room to advance and specialize.

“You are doing a lot of the basic stuff that a doctor does, and you're very close to the action, which is thrilling,” Ford says. “And the more capable you are, the more the doctors will entrust you with responsibility.” Ford emphasizes that certified medical assistants can progress to become clinic managers and more.

“Don’t be short-sighted about this career,” Ford urges. “It could be a stepping stone to a long-term health care career as an Administrator, Consultant or Executive—or even a pathway to a clinical career as a PA, NP, RN or physician.”

If this career path sounds good to you, get an idea of what it takes to arrive at your first day in the life of a medical assistant with our article, “How to Become a Medical Assistant: The Steps You Can’t Ignore.”

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed April, 2020] Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.

About the author

Brianna Flavin

Brianna is a senior content manager who writes student-focused articles for Rasmussen University. She holds an MFA in poetry and worked as an English Professor before diving into the world of online content. 

Related Content

Related Content

This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen University to support its educational programs. Rasmussen University may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit for a list of programs offered. External links provided on are for reference only. Rasmussen University does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

logo-accreditation-acen logo-accreditation-ccne chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors-masters 0 Credits 90 Credits 180 Credits 48 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE Start Here MASTER'S DEGREE PURSUERS End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE End Here MASTER'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 90 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 180 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-msn chart-credential-laddering-nursing-programs chart-credential-laddering-post-grad-np chart-credential-laddering-nursing DNP MSN RN to BSN LPN to RN Bridge Accelerated BSN Professional Nursing ADN Practical Nursing Diploma Pre-Licensure Post-Licensure icon-colored-outline-bank icon-colored-outline-certificate icon-colored-outline-circle-dollar-sign icon-colored-outline-folder-search icon-colored-outline-hand-heart icon-colored-outline-head-blocks icon-colored-outline-head-cog icon-colored-outline-head-heart icon-colored-outline-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-outline-hospital icon-colored-outline-lifelong-learning icon-colored-outline-light-bulb-analytics icon-colored-outline-location-pin icon-colored-outline-magnifying-glass icon-colored-outline-monitor-healthcare icon-colored-outline-monitor-paper-search icon-colored-outline-nurse-rays icon-colored-outline-padlock-shield icon-colored-outline-person-presenter-screen icon-colored-outline-scales ras-logo-flame ras-logo-horizontal ras-logo-stacked icon-colored-advance icon-colored-arrows-cross-curve icon-colored-briefcase-star icon-colored-build icon-colored-bulb-analytics icon-colored-certificate icon-colored-continual-development icon-colored-duo-chatbox icon-colored-folder-mortarboard icon-colored-forward-ribbon icon-colored-gears-clock icon-colored-globe-pen icon-colored-growth icon-colored-hand-bubble icon-colored-hand-stars icon-colored-hands-gear icon-colored-head-blocks icon-colored-head-cog icon-colored-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-hospital-building icon-colored-laptop-cbe-skyscraper icon-colored-laptop-checkmark icon-colored-laptop-webpage icon-colored-location-map icon-colored-location-pin icon-colored-monitor-paper-scan icon-colored-mortarboard-dollar icon-colored-national icon-colored-people-chat-bubbles icon-colored-person-cheer-star icon-colored-person-laptop-checkboxes icon-colored-person-screen-instructor icon-colored-person-whiteboard icon-colored-phone-chatbox icon-colored-police-light icon-colored-prep icon-colored-presenter icon-colored-regional icon-colored-save-time icon-colored-shirt-hat icon-colored-skyscraper icon-colored-state icon-colored-student-centered icon-colored-support icon-colored-world-experience icon-triangle-arrow-up-plant icon-triangle-calendar-pencil icon-triangle-clock-rotating-arrows icon-triangle-display-gears icon-triangle-hand-right-speech-bubble icon-triangle-laptop-coding-brackets icon-triangle-mortarboard icon-triangle-paper-ribbon icon-triangle-person-cheer-star icon-triangle-person-juggle icon-triangle-triple-people-chat-bubble icon-modality-campus icon-modality-field icon-modality-online icon-modality-residential icon-arrow icon-bank icon-camera icon-filter icon-general-chart icon-general-connect icon-general-degree icon-general-discuss icon-general-email icon-general-find icon-general-hat icon-general-heart icon-general-laptop-building icon-general-laptop icon-general-leader icon-general-map icon-general-money icon-general-paperwork icon-general-people icon-general-phone icon-general-speak-out icon-head-heart icon-info-circle icon-mail-forward icon-mglass icon-play-solid icon-quote-mark-left icon-quote-mark-right icon-scales icon-share-square-o icon-simple-chat icon-simple-desktop icon-simple-find icon-simple-hamburger icon-simple-phone icon-spinner icon-tag icon-testimonial-quotes icon-util-checkbox-white icon-util-checkbox icon-util-checked-white icon-util-checked icon-util-chevron-down icon-util-chevron-left icon-util-chevron-right icon-util-chevron-up icon-util-circle-arrow-down icon-util-circle-dot icon-util-language-switch icon-util-loading icon-util-open-window-link icon-util-pdf-link icon-util-refresh icon-util-x rebrand-arrows icon-social-facebook-colored icon-social-facebook-square-colored icon-social-facebook-square icon-social-facebook icon-social-google-plus-square icon-social-google-plus icon-social-instagram-colored icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin-square-colored icon-social-linkedin-square icon-social-linkedin icon-social-pinterest-p-colored icon-social-pinterest-p icon-social-twitter-colored icon-social-twitter-square icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube-play-colored icon-social-youtube-play graduate-cap-star-coin hand-coin hand-heart nurse-stethoscope-rays card-send-smile person-yoga-pose suitcase-star