Assisting with a Physical Examination and Health Assessment

Did you know that employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 23 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics? There is a great demand for medical assistants. Part of this exciting career involves preparing patients for physical examinations and health assessments in exam rooms.

Want to help patients stay in good health? Ready to become a medical assistant? The medical assistant will assist the physician with a patient’s physical examination and health assessment by preparing the room, preparing the patient, assisting with the physical examination, knowing the physical examination format, and assisting the patient after the physical examination is complete.

Room Preparation

The medical assistant is responsible for preparing the examination room, making sure the equipment and instruments are disinfected and sanitized, and the supplies are adequately stocked. The examination room should be clean, well lit, ventilated and at a comfortable temperature for the patient. After every physical examination and health assessment the medical assisting should disinfect the room and paper on the surfaces should be removed and replaced. The medical assistant must also make sure that the physical examination instruments are working properly and charged for the next patient examination.

Patient Preparation

Once the room is ready, the medical assistant will escort the patient to the examination room. It is the medical assistants goal to create a low-stress and comfortable atmosphere for patients. The medical assistant will record the patient’s history and check vital signs.

The medical assistant will then ask the patient to disrobe for the physical examination and health assessment and put on the examination gown. Once the patient is fully transitioned to the examination gown, the medical assistant will have the patient sit on the examination table and drape their legs for privacy. The medical assistant will then place the patient’s chart outside the examination room door and notify the physician that the patient is ready for the physical examination and health assessment.

Assisting with the Physical Examination

The medical assistant may assist the physician while performing the physical examination. The medical assistant will be responsible for handing the proper instruments and supplies to the physician. The medical assistant may also help the patient move into the appropriate position while adjusting the drape to expose the right part of the body for the physician to examine the patient.

Physical Examination Format

The physical examination and health assessment begins with the patient on the examination table with a drape sheet over the lap and covering the legs. The physician will examine the patient in an orderly and methodical sequence. First, viewing the patients head and neck. Then, examining the eyes and ears, nose and sinuses, mouth and throat, chest, breasts and abdomen, genitalia and rectum, and legs. Finally checking the patient’s reflexes.

Head and Neck – The patient’s skull, scalp, hair and face are inspected for size, shape and symmetry. The physician will look for any nodules, masses or local trauma. The trachea, lymph nodes and thyroid gland are examined for size and symmetry. Finally, the physician examines the carotid arteries to check for abnormal sounds caused by a blockage.

Eyes and Ears – The physician will inspect the fibrous tissue covering the eye for normal coloring. Then the pupils are inspected with a penlight to view their size and see if they react normally to light. The patient will follow the physician’s finger to examine proper eye movement. The ears are inspected for size, symmetry, lesions and nodules. The physician uses an otoscope to examine the interior of the ear for discoloration and fluids caused by infection. Auditory acuity is tested with the tuning fork or the audioscope.

Nose and Sinuses – the external nose is examined for abnormalities and the interior of the nose is examined using a nasal speculum and penlight. Each nostril is inspected for discharge, lesions or other signs of infection.

Mouth and Throat – the physician inspects the mucous membranes, gums, teeth, tongue, tonsils, and throat. The physician looks for any abnormalities including color, ulcerations and nodules.

Chest, Breasts & Abdomen – the physician looks for any obvious masses or swelling. With the stethoscope, the physician listens for any abnormal sounds in the lungs, heart and apical pulse while the patient takes deep breaths. The breasts of male and female patients will be examined for any abnormalities or masses. Then, the physician examines the abdomen for contour, symmetry and movement from the aorta. The physician will also use the stethoscope to listen to the bowel sounds. Finally, the physician will examine the abdomen organs for enlargement, masses, pain or tenderness.

Genitalia and Rectum – the male genitalia are inspected for lesions, swelling, masses and hair distribution. The scrotum is checked for testicular size, contour and consistency. The anus is inspected for lesions and hemorrhoids. The female genitalia and rectum are inspected for lesions, edema, cysts, discharge and hair distribution.

Legs – the legs are inspected for any abnormalities and the pulse is measured for extremity blood pressure. The legs are also inspected for varicose veins.

Reflexes – the physician uses the percussion hammer to test the patient’s reflexes by striking the biceps, triceps, patellar, Achilles and plantar tendons.

After the Physical Examination

The medical assistant will perform any follow-up treatments and procedures as ordered by the physician (i.e. flu shot administration). They will ask the patient to redress and wait for further instructions. The medical assistant will escort the patient to the front desk where they can schedule any follow-up appointments.

The medical assistant will want to dispose of any disposable supplies and equipment used during the physical examination and health assessment. from the exam room Then, the medical assistant will cover the examination table with clean paper and prepare the room for the next patient.

Ready to learn more about assisting the physician with a physical examination, exam room preparation and health assessment? Interested in becoming a medical assistant? Gwinnett Colleges & Institute offers medical assisting courses to gain essential skills and training. The core curriculum focuses on the medical assisting skills and training you will need to seek entry-level employment in physicians’ offices, clinics, hospitals, and other medical settings needing the services of associates trained in both front and back office medical assisting skills. These medical assisting courses will be the first step in starting a rewarding career.