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Who Provides Medical Assistant Equipment? What You Need to Bring

Many people who are new to the healthcare environment aren’t sure what they’re expected to bring with them to work versus what their employer provides for medical assistant equipment. It’s a bit tricky to answer because every practice is different. Some employers will give you everything, right down to your shoes, while others may reimburse you for purchases. In some cases, the responsibility for purchasing most equipment is on you. As you prepare to embark on your new career, here’s what you need to know about common medical assistant equipment.

Employer-Provided Medical Assistant Equipment 

While every employer is different, some equipment will always be provided for practical reasons. Here’s a list of the equipment that your employer should provide when you start to work with them. 

  • Blood pressure cuff and stethoscope: This one is a bit tricky because sometimes your employer will only provide half—the blood pressure cuff. You may be expected to provide your own stethoscope, but this will depend on the employer. Bay Area Medical Academy (BAMA) students receive a stethoscope as part of their training program that they can go on to use in their careers.
  • Thermometers: Measuring a patient’s body temperature has come a long way from old-fashioned mercury-based thermometers. Medical assistants may use anything from digital and ear thermometers to unique infrared devices that can measure a patient’s temperature through the surface of the skin.  
  • PPE: Medical assistants will be expected to wear PPE (personal protective equipment), like gloves, masks, and glasses. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration requires employers to provide PPE to workers who come into contact with hazardous materials like blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM).  
  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter allows you to measure a patient’s oxygen saturation levels using a probe that’s attached to their fingertip, earlobe, or toe. This simultaneously takes the patient’s pulse as well. 
  • Phlebotomy supplies: Medical assistants with a CPT-1 license will also be provided with supplies to perform tasks related to patient blood collection. Employers will provide supplies like needles, syringes, and collection tubes.
  • Otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes: These are used to examine the ears, nose, throat, and eyes of patients. The handheld instrument combines a light source and magnifying lens so you can see into these small spaces.
  • Glucometers: These are small meters that are used to test a patient’s blood glucose level. It’s technically a phlebotomy supply, though medical assistants may use it under the guidance of a doctor in limited situations.
  • EKG machines: These machines are used to record the electrical activity of the heart over a period of time. They consist of electrodes that are attached to the patient’s chest and limbs and a monitor that displays the EKG waveform. While California does not require EKG certification to operate these devices, your future employer most likely will.

These are just a few of the small pieces of equipment that will, in most cases, be provided by your employer. However, there are a few things that your future employer generally won’t provide, and you will need to purchase them yourself.

What You Need to Bring 

While a lot of your medical assistant equipment will be provided, there are a few things that may be too inconvenient or expensive for employers to provide to all of their staff members. There are five things that you will likely use in your daily duties as a medical assistant that your employer may not cover.

ScrubsA Watch with a Second HandNonslip, Closed-Toe ShoesPenlightBadge Holder or Lanyard
Scrubs are a staple for medical assistants, though it’s best to wait to purchase them until you’ve chosen your employer. Some medical providers will work with supply companies to get you discounts for purchasing your scrubs. Your employer may also have color or embroidery requirements that you’ll want to follow.Timing is everything in healthcare but watches with second hands aren’t as common as you think. Many watchmakers omit this hand for a cleaner appearance, but then it’s not useful for medical assistants who must keep precise time. A watch with a timer or a second hand is ideal.All healthcare environments will have specific requirements related to footwear—in most, if not all, cases, shoes should be closed-toe and non-slip. This is another one where you may want to wait until you’ve chosen your employer, as they may have access to discounts. They may also have specific criteria relating to color and shoe style.Medical assistants may need to examine a patient’s mouth, throat, or eyes, and a penlight can be useful for providing additional light. These are very inexpensive, usually costing under $10. Hospitals and medical offices are secure environments, so you’ll typically be expected to wear an identification badge. A badge holder or  lanyard will make this a lot more convenient. Some employers provide them, though some medical assistants choose to get more sophisticated ones.

These items are the main medical assistant equipment that you’ll be expected to bring yourself—almost everything else that you’ll need will be provided for you. That’s usually great news for individuals entering the healthcare field for the first time.
At Bay Area Medical Academy, we provide all the basic medical assistant equipment plus the scrubs and stethoscope you’ll need to start your career. Offering this equipment helps our students more seamlessly enter the healthcare field. To learn more, contact an admissions representative.

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