The Importance of Math for Medical Assistants

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Being a Medical Assistant can be a very rewarding career. There’s something very fulfilling about helping someone with their health issues or pain relief. Medical Assistants rely on several necessary skills for success in the field. Math is a skill that plays a very important role in the healthcare profession, especially for Medical Assistants. You may not have realized the importance of accurate math skills for Medical Assistants, but it is used in several different ways throughout their day: such as calculating medication, metric system conversions, vital signs, lab tests and while conducting clerical office work.

Calculating Medication

A doctor’s prescription may be filled by Medical Assistants to administer medication to patients. In measuring the medication, the Medical Assistant needs to gauge the correct dosage. It’s vitally important to calculate the correct amount, as giving too much or too little to a patient could cause serious harm.

Ratios and proportions are also used when calculating how much medication to give to a patient. The patient’s weight dictates the medication’s dosage. Sometimes micrograms will have to be converted into milligrams by setting up proportions.

In calculating medications for children, one formula to use is Clark’s rule. Graphs and rubrics are also used in determining the correct weight and height. A Medical Assistant will use the weight and height of a patient to create a graph. If a baby scale is unavailable, a Medical Assistant may have to calculate a baby’s weight by weighing an adult and the baby together and then subtracting the adult’s weight from the total.

Metric System

The medical field primarily uses the metric system for measurements. It’s the most common measurement system in the world. Many believe the metric system is a more accurate way to give medication. Decimal points are also often used in converting metrics as a short-cut. Medical Assistants must have knowledge of converting the customary U.S. measurements into metric measurements. Accurate calculations with those measurements is written in unit notations.

Vital Signs

One of the most important vital signs Medical Assistants will take is the pulse/heart rate. They will need math skills for taking respiratory rate, blood pressure and body temperature.
A person’s heart rate is measured by the number of times their heart beats per minute. A patient’s pulse can be taken by placing two fingers (not a thumb) at their wrist over the artery and multiplying the number of beats counted in 15 seconds by 4 to get the heart rate. Respiratory rates can be calculated by watching someone breathe for 15 seconds and multiplying the number of breaths taken by 4.

Blood pressure is measured by two different numbers; the higher number is the systolic pressure and the lower number is the diastolic pressure. When taken, it’s written as a ratio figure with the systolic pressure number over the diastolic pressure number. A Medical Assistant may need mathematical skills to read a thermometer and convert Fahrenheit to Celsius.

Clerical Office Work

Medical Assistants often assist with patient billing. They must know basic addition and subtraction to calculate bills for the cost of the office visit, plus any procedures that were done. A Medical Assistant may call the patient’s insurance provider to verify their insurance and the amount the insurance company will pay toward the patient’s bill and then calculate what the patient owes, minus what their insurance pays.

Did learning about the importance of math for Medical Assistants interest you? Interested in working with colleagues who want to help their patients stay healthy? Ready for an exciting new career in the Medical Assisting field? PCI Health Training Center’s Medical Assistant programs prepares a graduate to work as an entry-level Medical Assistant. Within this general career category there are several specialty areas, including Medical Administrative Office Assistant, Clinic Assistant, Clinic Tech, Medical Office Manager, Phlebotomist, Physical Therapy Aide in a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital out-patient clinic. Contact PCI Health Training Center for more information on how to become a Medical Assistant and start a rewarding career today.


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