Medical Assistant Information
Medical assistants are unlicensed health professionals who perform non-invasive routine technical support services under the supervision of a licensed physician and surgeon or doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) in a medical office or clinic setting. The supervising physician and surgeon or DPM must be on the premises in order for medical assistants to perform their non-invasive technical support services.
The listing of "Most Often Asked Questions" addressing appropriate training, supervision and scope of practice issues was prepared by the Medical Board of California to assist members of the public and profession understand the role of the Medical Assistant within the health care team.
For national certification purposes you may contact the American Association of Medical Assistants at (312) 424-3100, the American Medical Technologist at (847) 823-5169, the California Certifying Board for Medical Assistants at (530) 647-9530 or the Multi-Skilled Medical Certification Institute at (800) 498-9897.
For further assistance, please contact the Medical Board of California Medical Assistants Program at (916) 263-2382.
Most Often Asked Questions
1. Define acceptable and appropriate training to practice
as a medical assistant.
Prior to performing technical supportive services, a medical assistant shall receive training, as necessary, in the judgment of the supervising physician, podiatrist or instructor to assure the medical assistant's competence in performing that service at the appropriate standard of care.
Such training shall be administered in either of the following settings: 1) Under a licensed physician or podiatrist, or under a registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, physician assistant or a qualified medical assistant acting under the direction of a licensed physician or podiatrist who shall be responsible for determining the content of the training and the proficiency of the medical assistant, or, 2) in a secondary, postsecondary, or adult education program in a public school authorized by the Dept. of Education, in a community college program provided for in the Education Code, or a postsecondary institution accredited or approved by the Bureau of Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education in the Department of Consumer Affairs.
To administer medications by intramuscular, subcutaneous and intradermal injections, to perform skin tests, or to perform venipuncture of skin puncture for the purposes of withdrawing blood, a medical assistant shall complete the minimum training as prescribed herein. Training shall be for the duration required by the medical assistant to demonstrate to the supervising physician, podiatrist, or instructor, as referenced in Section 1366.3(a)(2), proficiency in the procedures to be performed as authorized by Section 2069 or 2070 of the code, where applicable, but shall include no less than:
- 10 clock hours of training in administering injections and performing skin tests, and/or
- 10 clock hours of training in venipuncture and skin puncture for the purpose of withdrawing blood, and
- satisfactory performance by the training of at least ten (10) each of intramuscular, subcutaneous, and intradermal injections and (10) skin tests, and/or at least ten (10) venipuncture and ten (10) skin punctures.
- For those only administering medication by inhalation, ten (10) clock hours of training in administering medication by inhalation.
- Training in (a) through (d) above, shall include instruction and demonstration
- pertinent anatomy and physiology appropriate to the procedures;
- choice of equipment;
- proper technique including sterile technique;
- hazards and complications;
- patient care following treatment or test;
- emergency procedures; and
- California law and regulations for medical assistants.
In every instance, prior to administration of medication by a medical assistant, a licensed physician or podiatrist, or another licensed person shall verify the correct medication and dosage. The supervising physician or podiatrist must authorize any technical supportive services performed by the medical assistant and that supervising physician or podiatrist must be physically present in the treatment facility when procedures are performed.
2. Are medical assistants required to be licensed or
certified by the State of California in order to perform procedures within
their "scope of practice"?
No, medical assistants are not licensed, certified, or registered by the State of California. However, the medical assistant's employer and/or supervising physician's or podiatrist's malpractice insurance carrier may require that the medical assistant be certified by a national or private association such as the American Association of Medical Assistants, (800) 228-2262, or the American Medical Technologists, (800) 275-1268. A medical assistant must be certified by one of the recognized associations if they train other medical assistants. (B&P Code 2069(c)).
3. How may medical assistants legally "administer medications"?
The phrase intends to mean the direct application of medication in several ways including simple injections, ingestion and inhalation of pre-measured medications. For our purposes, the phrase "administer medications" when used in regards to medical assistants, means to inject, handle, or provide medications to a patient after verification by a physician or podiatrist.
4. Are medical assistants allowed to administer injections of scheduled drugs?
Yes, after receiving the appropriate training as indicated in Item 1 response, medical assistants are allowed to administer injections of scheduled drugs only if the dosage is verified and the injection is intramuscular, intradermal or subcutaneous. The supervising physician or podiatrist must be on the premises as required in Section 2069 of the Business and Professions Code.
5. Are medical assistants allowed to start or disconnect IVs or administer injections of medication into IVs?
No, medical assistants may not place the needle or start and disconnect the infusion tube of an IV. These procedures are considered invasive, and therefore, not within the medical assistants scope of practice. Medical assistants are not allowed to administer medications or injections into the IV line. (CCR 1366(b)(1)).
6. Are medical assistants allowed to perform nasal smears?
Yes, only if the procedure is limited to the opening of the nasal cavity.
7. Are medical assistants permitted to perform "finger sticks"?
Yes, medical assistants are trained and allowed to draw blood. The procedure of finger sticks is the pricking of the finger in order to collect a sample of blood. This procedure is within the "scope of practice" of a medical assistant. (B&P Code 2070)
8. Are medical assistants allowed to swab the throat in order to preserve the specimen in a throat culture?
Yes, medical assistants are allowed to swab throats as long as the medical assistant has received the proper training and a physician or podiatrist is on the premises.
9. Are medical assistants allowed to take a patient´s blood pressure?
Yes, medical assistants are allowed to take the necessary information to prepare a patient for the physician's or podiatrist's visit. This information may include taking the patient's height, weight, temperature, blood pressure and noting the information on the patient's chart. (CCR Section 1366(b))
10. Are medical assistants allowed to give narcotic injections?
Yes, at this time there are no restrictions as to what type of medications a medical assistant may inject, as long as the medication has been pre-verified and the injection is given either intradermal, intramuscular, or subcutaneous. (CCR Section 1366 (b)(1)).
11. Are medical assistants allowed to have access to the keys of the narcotic medication cabinet?
This question should be directed to the supervising physician or podiatrist as it is an "in-house" procedure and the decision must be made by the supervising physician or podiatrist.
12. Are medical assistants allowed to chart pupillary responses?
No, the charting of pupillary responses are considered an assessment, which is a form of interpretation. Medical assistants are not allowed to read, interpret or diagnose symptoms or test results. (B&P Code 2069)
13. Are medical assistants allowed to insert urine catheters?
No, insertion of a urine catheter is considered an invasive procedure and therefore, not within the medical assistants scope of practice.
14. Are medical assistants allowed to perform telephone triage?
No, medical assistants are not allowed to independently perform telephone triage as they are not legally authorized to interpret data or diagnose symptoms.
15. Are medical assistants allowed to inject collagen?
No, the injection of collagen does not fall within the medical assistants scope of practice. CCR Section 1366.4 states that medical assistants may inject "medications".
16. Are medical assistants allowed to use lasers to remove hair, wrinkles, scars, moles or other blemishes?
No, medical assistants are not legally authorized to utilize lasers to remove hair or to remove wrinkles, scars, moles, or other blemishes.
17. Are medical assistants allowed to administer chemotherapy and/or monitor the patient?
No, medical assistants may not legally authorized to administer chemotherapy or make an assessment of the patient as the procedure does not fall within the medical assistant scope of practice.
18. Are medical assistants allowed to apply orthopedic splints in emergency situations, such as splints in a physician's office?
No, medical assistants are legally authorized to remove casts, splints and other external devices. Placement of these devices does not fall within the medical assistants scope of practice. Please reference CCR Section 1366(b)(3).
19. Are medical assistants allowed to interpret the results of skin tests?
No, medical assistants may measure and describe the test reaction and make a record in the patient chart. For every questionable test result, the result should be immediately brought to the physician's attention. In addition, all results need to be reported to the appropriate provider. Please reference CCR 1366.(b)(2).