Medical team with patient

A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing Patients for Examinations

What are patient examinations? Learn about the procedures, steps, risks, and requirements for patient exam prep.

Medical team with patient

When you visit your doctor, a physical exam is typically performed to check your overall health and spot any signs of disease. This routine test gives healthcare professionals a chance to acquire baseline information about the patient for future visits. Also known as a medical examination, a routine physical, or a checkup, this important assessment requires a degree of prep work. Mastering this skill will lead to a much better experience for healthcare practitioners and their patients.

As you can see, patient-exam prep is an essential practice in the medical field. This fundamental skill may not sound like an exciting prospect for new healthcare professionals, but it is a vital task they will need to learn.  Many Medical Assistants are trained to prepare patients for physical exams by gaining trust, explaining the process, and offering modesty as well as privacy.

This article provides an in-depth guide on the art and science of preparing patients for examinations, one of the most essential healthcare procedures for medical staff.

(Click here to see our full list of the most common Medical Assisting duties and responsibilities).

Patient Exam Prep Definition

What Does It Mean to Prepare Patients for Exams?

Like medication administration, preparing patients for exams is exactly how it sounds: Medical Assistants take patients to exam rooms and perform basic steps for the physician. They also ensure that equipment is disinfected and supplies are adequately stocked. Plus, each exam room should be clean, well lit, ventilated, and at a comfortable temperature.

What is the Purpose of Preparing Patients for Examinations?

Preparing a patient for examination helps the physician get the most out of their time with the patient. By determining the general health status of the patient, Medical Assistants allow physicians to dig into the heart of the visit, address any concerns or questions of the patient, etc. In addition, this process enables physicians to see more patients and better the overall health of the community.

How Long Does it Take to Prepare Patients for Exams?

Medical Assistants can complete most prep for patient exams in about ten minutes or less. However, the actual exam with the physician usually lasts around 30 minutes. While doctors evaluate their patients, Medical Assistants will often continue to assist them throughout the exam.

Who Can Prepare Patients for Examinations?

While most healthcare professionals can prep the room for a patient exam, it’s typically a task designated for Medical Assistants. The MA is usually tasked with preparing the exam room, ensuring the equipment is disinfected and sanitized, and confirming that the supplies are adequately stocked. Additionally, the exam room should be well lit, ventilated, and at a comfortable temperature.

In almost any healthcare setting, Medical Assistants will likely be required to prepare patients for exams. It may sound like a simple procedure, but this task is essential to the examination process and the success of the medical office. Under the scope of an MA’s practice, they prepare patients and assist the physician, podiatrist, physician assistant, or registered nurse during the examination. This may also include positioning, draping, shaving, and disinfecting other treatment sites.

(Click here to learn how to become a Medical Assistant).

Training Requirements for Patient Exam Prep

Requirements for patient-exam prep can vary and depend on your location or profession. Aspiring healthcare professionals will usually receive this training through their educational programs.

At Unitek College, we offer a Medical Assisting program that could give you a strong advantage in the field or when applying to healthcare positions. Our courses include topics like taking vital signs, medical office administration, medical law, pharmacology, diagnostic imaging, and more.

African-American doctor with an elderly patient

Patient Exam Prep Procedure

With these steps, you can start to learn more about the process of preparing patients for exams. Of course, like most skills, patient-exam prep requires time and practice to get it right. Remember to follow your facility’s rules and ask for help whenever necessary.

Patient Exam Prep Steps

Here are some of the general guidelines that healthcare professionals should follow when preparing patients for examinations:

  1. Prepare the exam room by making sure the equipment is disinfected and sanitized. In addition, ensure that the supplies are properly stocked, the room is well lit, and the temperature is comfortable.
  2. Escort the patient from the waiting room to the examination room.
  3. Wash your hands in the presence of the patient, even if your hands are clean. This simple act can help increase their confidence in you as a conscientious healthcare professional.
  4. Interview the patient and cover their medical history as well as any recent tests that have been performed. Remember to act in a polite and professional manner.
  5. Record the patient’s vital signs.
  6. Measure the patient’s height, weight, and blood pressure.
  7. Ask the patient to put on the exam gown and sit on the table. Give them privacy to do so. Once they are ready, drape a sheet over their legs. Notify the doctor that the patient is ready to be examined.
  8. Disinfect the room after the exam is over and the patient has departed. Don’t forget to replace the paper on the bed or any other surface.

Necessary Equipment for Patient Exam Prep

Typically, the suggested supplies for patient exam prep include but are not limited to the following items:

  • Tissues
  • Gloves
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Face masks
  • Razors
  • Cleaning equipment
  • Draping

Potential Risks or Complications of Patient Exam Prep

It’s vital that you correctly prepare patients for examination. For instance, if you do not disinfect the room first, disease or infection could spread between patients. This simple yet easily avoidable result could have disastrous or potentially fatal consequences down the line. While patient-exam prep might sound mundane, it’s actually a critical component of the patient’s visit.

Additionally, healthcare providers must be calm, receptive, and neutral. This attitude particularly applies to sensitive topics. If a patient feels judged or uncomfortable, they may not provide you with accurate information as you prepare them for the exam. Always remember to act understanding and empathetic; put yourself in the patient’s shoes.

The word tips in wooden letter blocks

Pro Tips for Mastering the Art of Patient Exam Prep

Here are some tips that may assist you in the future.

  • Be warm and attentive to the patient: You’ve probably heard the saying, “first impressions matter.” This is because they can set the course of a meeting, appointment, etc. Start by introducing yourself and offering a friendly smile. It would be best to sit in a chair to be at eye level with the patient.
  • Earn their trust: Always approach the patient calmly and confidently. They will subconsciously pick up on your body language, tone of voice, etc. Remember that your patient may be very concerned about a condition or bodily issue. If you are not confident in yourself, it’s likely that their anxiety will only heighten.
  • Explain everything you do: Another great way to lessen your patient’s anxiety is to explain each step of their physical exam prep. Ideally, you want them to feel prepared for what is about to transpire. Be honest and specific without using too much medical jargon that is difficult to understand. Let them know if the doctor’s exam might be invasive, uncomfortable, etc.
  • Respect their privacy: Most people feel vulnerable in medical settings. You can help by ensuring their privacy and modesty are always respected. For instance, make sure your patient can change into their gown behind a curtain or closed door. Also, you must always knock and wait for their response before opening the door. In addition, it can be beneficial to provide an extra sheet or blanket for the patient.
  • Be aware of special requests: Some of your patients might have special requests. These requests could be attributed to preference or cultural and religious backgrounds. For example, a female patient might only want to be examined by female medical professionals. Other patients might need a translator to communicate with you. If your patient expresses a request, make sure you accommodate them as soon as possible.

Why Should Medical Assistants Learn How to Prepare Patients for Exams?

It is very beneficial for Medical Assistants to learn how to prepare patients for examination. This is because physical exams are a key component in maintaining the overall health of each patient. Thanks to MAs, physicians can maximize their time with each patient and better serve the public.

While patient-exam prep isn’t always a job requirement, Medical Assistants are often responsible for this task. It’s a simple yet valuable skill that can lead to more significant opportunities. Therefore, it would be advantageous for MAs or aspiring Medical Assistants to pursue the proper training. Once they are ready to prepare patients and assist physicians, an MA could become more indispensable to their employer and possibly gain greater responsibilities.

Portrait of a smiling African-American nurse

Start Your Career in Medical Assisting

The ability to prepare patients for examination is an essential skill that aspiring Medical Assistants should learn for their careers. It’s also an essential medical practice for most healthcare professions, proper diagnoses, treatment options, etc.

Think about it: Physical exams play a critical role and serve as a significant diagnostic tool for physicians. By assisting them throughout this process, Medical Assistants can help establish patterns, obtain valuable information, and establish the foundation of a diagnosis.

If you’re feeling inspired and want to pursue a career in medicine, Unitek College offers various healthcare programs, such as our Medical Assisting program.

Contact us today to learn more about our programs and tuition assistance options. Take the first step toward a rewarding future in healthcare!