According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a nurse is often responsible for assisting physicians in administering patient care, providing advice and educating patients on a variety of medical conditions, and giving advice to the patient as well as their family. However, that is only a vague overview of all of the intricate tasks and duties that go into nursing. A nurse workday varies from facility to facility, but in general, many of the same traits are shared.
When a nurse first arrives at work, one of their first responsibilities is to either speak with the previous night nurse or review outpatient records to get an idea of which and how many patients they’ll be dealing with. Once this has been completed, other preparations are made which include looking over patient tests that will be administered throughout that day, coordinating schedules with doctors, and checking email.
Once all of this has been completed, premed orders are faxed, and any testing equipment needed for early morning patients is set up. Additionally, if testing equipment is required to be set up, a call is usually made to them to confirm that they will be on time.
As time goes on, patients are seen and helped by the nurse, and vitals are taken for all of them. A computer is used to chart patient data, and the nurse works alongside the doctor to administer any testing and assist in whichever way the particular situation calls for.
Emergencies come up throughout the day that may prevent other, less critical appointments and testing from taking place on time.
Roughly around the point of mid day, lunch is eaten. However, this could be interrupted at any time by a medical emergency that needs immediate attention. A day in the life of a nurse can be hectic, and any nurse will tell you that no two days are alike. Whenever the emergency subsides, the nurse goes back to quickly consume the rest of their lunch with what little time they have left.
As time creeps into the afternoon, more patients are seen and dealt with. In some cases, non-English-speaking patients will bring along translators to help the communication process along.
Once the nurse gets a chance to breathe between patient emergencies, appointments, testing, and scheduling, he/she can return to their office to catch up on less critical matters, such as emails.
The nurse continues to see patients and check on ICU procedures by reviewing charts and collecting data. Many nurses are in charge of collecting and recording data on surgery patients. Amidst doing this, a nurse might continue to check and respond to emails and review the schedule for the following day.
Lastly, at the end of the day, the nurse leaves almost entirely depleted of energy. However, they are also filled with a sense of fulfillment for making such a difference in the lives of their patients. The nurse plans to go home and take care of personal matters, and he/she is usually in bed by around nine or ten to ensure there’s enough rest and recharging for the next action-packed day!
What Is a Typical MA Workday Like?
A day in the life of a medical assistant can be varied and challenging. No matter if you work in the front office, provide clinical care or a combination of both, you’re likely to have a fast-paced workday. If you’re looking for a career that keeps you stimulated and on your toes, medical assisting may be right for you.
The Day Begins
Medical offices often open at eight a.m.; earlier if early hour appointments are available. You may choose to arrive at work a half-hour before patients are scheduled to arrive in order to prepare for the day. Typically, a clinical medical assistant begins her day by:
- Reviewing the daily patient schedule with the physician
- Listening to any phone messages that came in during the night
- Organizing charts
- Filling out paperwork needed for the day, such as surgical permission forms, health check forms and insurance paperwork
- Preparing patient rooms as needed, such as for minor surgery or procedures
Some clinics have a unit coordinator available in each clinical section. The unit coordinator may help the medical assistants prepare for the day by performing some of the duties listed above. Telephone calls and messages may be handled by a call center, erasing the need for MAs to worry about taking and returning phone calls during scheduled patient care times. Some clinics, however, rely on medical assistants to handle all the responsibilities associated with a daily patient care schedule. For these medical assistants, the day can become very busy, very quickly.
An administrative medical assistant may also be busy the moment her day begins. She may start the day by scheduling appointments, preparing charts to be sent to the clinical MAs, filing or completing patient insurance forms, handling company email and more.
The hours that you’ll work as a medical assistant depend on the facility and whether they offer early and late care appointments. Some clinics are open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Others with extended hours may be open from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. How early you choose to start your day depends on when you’re scheduled to work and how long your shift is.
Once patients begin to arrive for scheduled appointments, the medical assistant must work efficiently to keep things flowing smoothly. The administrative medical assistant checks patients in for their appointment, verifies patient information and health insurance and helps the patient fill out any appropriate forms. The clinical medical assistant then greets the patient and takes her to an exam room. Then, vital signs are taken, a patient interview is done and the patient is prepared for any procedures, if applicable.
In between rooming patients, medical assistants assist the physician with procedures; give injections or medications to patients, answer phone calls, update patient charts, draw blood, perform laboratory tests and handle any emergencies that arise.
A popular physician or specialist may have a jam-packed patient schedule, giving the medical assistant little time for other duties in between rooming patients. Patients don’t always arrive on time for their appointments, which can disrupt a nicely planned daily schedule. Other patients may walk-in for urgent treatment without an appointment and need to be seen. Additionally, a physician may take longer with a patient or be called out for an emergency; these things can impact how well the daily schedule flows. A medical assistant can quickly find herself running behind.
Clinics are required to offer employees breaks and a lunch time. These times of quick rest are often welcome breaks in an otherwise busy day. You’ll usually receive a break in the morning, a longer break around noon and another short break in the afternoon. Medical assistants working with extremely busy physicians may skip smaller breaks just to get work done, depending on how the day is going.
Completing the Day
A medical assistant’s day isn’t done when the daily patient schedule is over. Many times, you’ll need to complete tasks left unfinished from the day. Returning phone calls, completing patient charts, scheduling appointments and handling prescription refills are common tasks left at the day’s end.
It is not uncommon for patient appointments to last well past their scheduled time. You may find that you have patients still being cared for even though the daily schedule is complete. As the doctor’s assistant, you’ll need to help complete the patient’s care and take care of any necessary tasks.
The end of the day can also bring time to finish work in peace and quiet without pressures from the demands of the day. Medical assistants may choose to stay a little late and complete tasks while taking time to unwind from the day. Preparing what you can for the next day is helpful so there will be less to do the next morning. Good organization skills, patience, stamina and a love for the job are all beneficial for handling the fast-pace of medical assisting.
Article Written by Elizabeth Otto
Elizabeth Otto is a freelance writer specializing in medical and health articles. Otto has worked as a certified medical assistant in specialty practice since 1994 and is also a nationally registered emergency medical technician.