Providing Care as a Medical Assistant During the Pandemic

How to Recognize the Signs of COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to be an issue in communities throughout the United States, and medical professionals are working hard to keep up with the ever-growing number of cases. The constant news cycle has severely impacted how we absorb and process information pertaining to the topic. With such a high volume of content to consume, it can often be difficult to sort through it all and get to the all-important truth of the matter. During this period of uncertainty, it is important to educate yourself from reputable sources and remain vigilant about health and safety. As a Medical Assistant, you may or may not be directly affected by the current issue. It will be especially important for you to understand the current CDC guidelines, so we’ve assembled some of the best tips to help you stay informed and safe!

Medical Assistants and Coronavirus

If you’re in a hospital, you probably already have a firm game plan about how your specific facility is going to handle the treatment of COVID-19 patients, so stick to the official guidelines. In other facilities however, there is a bigger gray area when it comes to how the situation is addressed. Many medical assistants are not necessarily treating COVID-19 patients directly, but still seeing patients that could potentially be carriers. In many offices and work environments, medical assistants are often the first line of defense when it comes to clocking COVID-19 patients, as they will often do preliminary interviews and act as patient liaisons. Medical assistants working in environments with high risk individuals such as cardiology offices, nursing homes, or oncology departments need to be especially vigilant as they have the duty to protect other patients from potential infection. These sorts of individuals are particularly vulnerable to more serious complications with the virus, so protecting them needs to be a top priority in your workspace. 

What are the Symptoms of COVID-19?

When it comes to COVID-19, it can be difficult to differentiate the symptoms from those of a common cold, but in reality, it can be much more serious. The CDC is going to be the absolute most reliable resource when it comes to this type of information, so be sure to stay updated on any new or changing material relating to the issue. While it might be tempting to rely on information from television or social media, these sorts of resources aren’t as credible as direct CDC publication. 

Symptoms of this virus are on a pretty wide spectrum. Any given patient can be mildly symptomatic, severely symptomatic, or entirely asymptomatic. Because of this range, paying close attention to details is crucial.

The CDC cites these specific symptoms as being potential markers of COVID-19:

    • Fever or Chills
    • Cough
    • Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or Body Aches
    • Headache
    • Loss of Taste or Smell
    • Sore Throat
    • Congestion or Runny Nose
    • Nausea or Vomiting 
    • Diarrhea

Additionally, the CDC specifically notes that this list of symptoms might be incomplete, and could grow or shrink as we learn more about this novel virus. If you are seeing a patient who is exhibiting one or more of these symptoms, they could potentially be carrying COVID-19.  

What To Do If You Suspect a Patient Has COVID-19

If your practice wasn’t already asking about any potential symptoms during their patient intake routine, asking about them might be a good addition to preliminary questioning during their appointment or visit. Tell your attending physician, nurse, or whoever you report to about any symptomatic patient and develop a course of action for providing them with care. Cases can vary drastically from mild to deathly, so do proper research to understand the variety of ways that this virus presents itself. Additionally, consult CDC resources to find out the best ways to protect yourself, your co-workers, and your other patients. The CDC formally recommends that you:

    • Isolate the patient as soon as possible from the uninfected
    • Cancel elective procedures
    • Emphasize hand hygiene 
    • Cohort infected patients 

These sorts of measures can help to limit and slow the spread that this patient might have set off.  This patient should be tested as soon as possible, and you can help by providing them with the knowledge that they need to know about the procedure, testing locations, and incubation period. Additionally, you might want to consider getting tested yourself as a precaution, and take note of any emerging symptoms. 

What to Do if You Suspect That You Have Been Infected

Should you develop symptoms, or if you have been exposed to a symptomatic patient, you have adequate reason to suspect that you yourself may have been infected. If you become symptomatic, immediately seek out testing before returning to work and quarantine yourself for at least two weeks. Make sure that your workplace is aware of your potential status so that they can cooperate with you in terms of keeping the work environment safe. Be honest about the development and progression of any of the previously listed symptoms, so that your workplace can determine if you’re a risk. 

If you suspect that you’ve been exposed to a COVID patient and contracted the virus, it is also wise to amp up the precautions that you’re taking outside of work as well. Try to cooperate with the other members of your household to find opportunities for additional distance and sanitation. This might include self-quarantining in a specific area of the home, as well as wearing a mask when forced to come into closer contact with family, spouses, or roommates. 

Becoming a Healthcare Hero

Medical staff are some of our most crucial resources right now. Their sacrifice helps to keep our communities safer and healthier during such a scary time. If you would like to provide the same public service, a career as a medical assistant or other medical personnel might be a great fit for you. A career as a medical assistant, nursing assistant, or patient care technician allows you to improve public health while fast-tracking to professional success! Medical assistants play an especially crucial role in the current chaos, since they are often the first line of defense when it comes to clocking and containing new cases. Woodruff has several incredible programs that can help you get on the right track! 

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