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Scope of Practice

What is the scope of practice for a medical assistant? In some states medical assistants have a clearly stated scope of practice, but in some states there is no law on the matter. Several sources for medical assistants state that a medical assistant can:

  • Perform clinical and administrative tasks to keep the workflow going, if supervised by a physician or other health care practitioner.
  • Determine the acuity of a visit and the visit length for appointment scheduling purposes using an office protocol provided by the supervising physician.
  • Measure and record vital signs.
  • Record patient demographics and basic information about the presenting and previous conditions.
  • Use medical terminology and accepted charting abbreviations.
  • Escort patients to the exam room and prepare them for an exam.
  • Use scientific methods to solve problems and choose a mathematical method or formula to solve problems.
  • Convey clinical information on behalf of the physician.
  • Arrange examining-room instruments and equipment.
  • Change wound dressings and obtain wound cultures.
  • Remove sutures or staples from superficial incisions or lacerations.
  • Operate diagnostic equipment but cannot interpret tests.
  • Provide patient information and instructions.
  • Provide a single dose of oral medication as ordered by the physician to a patient for immediate self-administration under observation.
  • Administer medications topically, sublingually, vaginally, rectally, and by injection.
  • Perform CPR and render First Aid in an emergency.
  • Prepare patients for examination, including draping, shaving, and disinfecting treatment sites.
  • Perform aseptic procedures such as wound care.
  • Collect blood specimens via capillary and venipuncture technique.
  • Obtain specimens by noninvasive techniques, such as wound cultures.
  • Perform simple laboratory and screening tests customarily performed STAT in a medical office, such as urinalysis.
  • Administer different types of cryotherapy to reduce pain or swelling.
  • Filing and bookkeeping.
  • Process insurance claims.
  • Transcribe medical dictation for medical records. Call in prescription orders or refills to the pharmacy, but only as ordered and approved by physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.

A medical assistant cannot:


  • Independently perform telephone triage (medical assistants are not legally authorized to interpret data or diagnose symptoms!).

  • Independently diagnose or treat patients.

  • Independently prescribe medications.

  • Independently give out medication samples.

  • Independently refill prescription requests.

  • Independently do triage.

  • Inject medications into a vein (most states) unless permitted by state law.

  • Start, flush, or discontinue IVs (most states) unless permitted by state law.

  • Provide medical treatment, analyze, or interpret test results.

  • Advise patients about their condition or treatment regimen.

  • Make assessments or perform any kind of medical care decision making.

  • Administer any anesthetic agent (except topical numbing agents such as EMLA cream).

  • Perform tests that involve the penetration of human tissues except for skin tests and drawing blood as provided by law.

  • Interpret the results of blood or skin tests.

  • Operate laser equipment.