Physical assessments are important for catching disorders and diseases before they affect a patient. A physical assessment should be completed when the patient is healthy, so the physician has a baseline for the patient’s condition. When the patient is sick or suffering from a medical problem, the physician and medical assistant can use the physical assessment tools to check the health of the patient and understand the treatments that are needed to help them recover. During a physical assessment, the medical assistant will assist the physician in the exam room. The medical assistant may check in the patient, escort the patient to the examination room, prepare the patient for the examination, manage the tools, instruments and supplies for the physician, and help the patient after the exam scheduling any follow up appointments.
Physical Assessment Tools, Instruments and Supplies
The physician primarily works with the physical assessment tools; however, the medical assistant must become familiar with their uses to assist the physician during a physical assessment. The medical assistant can also be responsible for disinfecting and sanitizing the instruments and preparing them for the physician before the next physical examination. The physical assessment includes an audioscope, examination light, laryngeal mirror, nasal speculum, otoscope, ophthalmoscope, penlight, percussion hammer, sphygmomanometer, stethoscope, thermometer, and tuning fork.
Audioscope – tool used to screen patients for hearing loss. The audioscope is placed in the patient’s ear and makes a serious of tones which the patient can respond to.
Examination Light – the medical assistant must make sure that all lights in the physical examination room are functioning properly and directed appropriately for the physician to exam the patient’s body.
Laryngeal Mirror – tool used to exam the larynx and other areas of the throat. The laryngeal mirror reflects the inside of the mouth and throat for the physical examination. It may be used to visualize the throat for the application of anesthesia or to remove tissue from the mouth.
Nasal Speculum – tool inserted into the nostril to assist the physician with the visual inspection of the lining of the nose, nasal membranes and septum.
Otoscope – allows the physician to view the ear canal and tympanic membrane. The otoscope has a magnifying lens, light and cone-shaped insert to examine the inner ear.
Ophthalmoscope – tool used to examine the interior structures of the eye. The ophthalmoscope has a light, magnifying lens and opening for the physician to view the eye.
Penlight – provides additional light for the physician to examine a specific area of the patient’s body. The penlight is typically used to examine the eyes, nose and throat.
Percussion Hammer – tool used to test neurologic reflexes. The head of the instrument is used to test reflexes by striking the tendons of the ankle, knee, wrist and elbow.
Sphygmomanometer – physical examination tool used to measure a patient’s blood pressure. The sphygmomanometer is composed of an inflatable rubber cuff, a bulb that inflates and releases pressure from the cuff, and use of a stethoscope to listen to arterial blood flow in the patient.
Stethoscope – tool used for listening to body sounds including the sounds of the heart, lungs and intestines. It is also used while taking blood pressure.
Thermometer – tool used to measure a patient’s body temperature. The thermometer can be inserted in the mouth under the tongue, under the armpit or into the rectum.
Tuning Fork – tool used to test a patient’s hearing. The physician strikes the prongs causing them to vibrate and produce a humming sound. Then the prongs are placed next to the patient’s skull, near the ear, with the patient describing what they heard. The physician may order additional tests depending on the results of this hearing test.
Physical Assessment Tools & Supplies
Additional Supplies are needed for a general physical examination. They include cotton balls, cotton-tipped applicators, disposable needles, disposable syringes, gauze, dressings and bandages, gloves, paper tissues, specimen containers, and tongue depressors.
Cotton Balls – used to stop bleeding from minor punctures after injections or while drawing a patient’s blood.
Cotton-Tipped Applicators – used to collect or treat a wound and to apply topical medication to the patient during a physical examination.
Disposable Needles – used to inject medicine, anesthetic or other fluids during a physical examination. Also used to extract blood from the patient for laboratory testing.
Disposable Syringes – added to a needle to extract blood or inject fluids during a physical examination.
Gauze, Dressings and Bandages – used to cover up open wounds. Non-sterile pads can be used to cushion, clean or absorb areas that are at less risk of infection.
Gloves – worn by the medical assistant and physician to keep bodily fluids from being absorbed into the skin.
Paper Tissue – helps keep exam chairs, tables and other areas hygienic. The paper tissue is replaced between each examination by the medical assistant.
Specimen Containers – used to hold blood, urine and other bodily fluids during an examination for later laboratory testing.
Tongue Depressors – used to depress the tongue of a patient to examine the mouth and throat during a physical examination.
Are you ready to learn more about how you can assist a physician with patient exams and assessments? Are you interested in becoming a medical assistant? Gwinnett Colleges & Institute offers medical assisting courses to gain essential skills and training in the healthcare field. 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.
Contact Gwinnett College today to learn more about how you can become a Medical Assistant and start your exciting career in the healthcare field!