Med assistants carry out many important tasks
I recently received a pneumonia shot at my doctor's office. The shot was administered by someone I thought was a nurse; no name tag or special badge indication. On a chance meeting downtown, we talked and I was told she is a "medical assistant." Now I'm wondering, what is the medical assistant's scope of duties? Are they allowed to administer shots? I always believed shots needed to be administered by a doctor or a registered nurse.
Answer: Medical assistants are allowed to administer injections, said Rona Augustine-Chun, the medical assistant coordinator at Leeward Community College's Continuing Education Workplace Development Program.
They aren't allowed to do IVs (intravenous therapy, in which liquids are delivered into a vein), but can do phlebotomies (drawing blood) and administer medication, she said.
"Medical assistants are meant for outpatient care, but they can do so much more," she said. "It's such a broad term."
They may be working the front office, greeting and scheduling patients, collecting and verifying information. They may be behind the scenes, handling "everything in the back in preparation for the physician, whether it's minor office surgeries, (checking) vitals, preparing for labs," Augustine-Chun said. "We assist for everything. We clean up for surgery that can be performed in a medical facility."
Some medical assistants also may serve as an office manager, handling billing and insurance claims.
"Medical assistants need to be rounded in all three of those aspects," Augustine-Chun said.
There are several schools in the state that offer medical assistant programs. In addition to Leeward Community College, Augustine-Chun cited Kapiolani Community College, Med-Assist School of Hawaii, Heald College and Remington College.
Programs run from a relatively brief six months, at Leeward, to two years.
"It depends on what the (applicant) is looking for," Augustine-Chun said.
Kapiolani Community College, for example, offers an associate's degree in science for its medical assistant program, but at Leeward, "We target more the work force people who are going through a change and looking just to get back into the work force for whatever reason," she said. "They don't want a degree; they just want to get going ... with practical skills."
Q: Hawaiian Telcom had promised to send out coupons for free corded phones by this summer. The summer is over, but still no coupons and no phones. What happened?
A: Hawaiian Telcom started distributing the phones to residential land-line customers in June, beginning on Molokai.
Customers on Molokai, Maui, Lanai and Kauai should have received their coupons by now, while those on Oahu and the Big Island began receiving them with their September bill. The coupons are on the last page of the bill.
According to Hawaiian Telcom spokeswoman Ann Nishida, all customers statewide should receive their coupons by early October.
See www.hawaiiantel.com for more information.
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