Q&A: Medical Assistants and IV therapy

Q: Can medical assistants in office based infusion settings insert peripheral IVs and administer IV medications?

A: This is a question I get weekly.  I have posted a previous blog about this topic and replied privately to individuals asking the question. But I think it’s time to post my response again:

Medical assistants (MAs)as defined by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, perform routine administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices and clinics of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and optometrists running smoothly. In many states, the classification of medical assistant is defined under the provisions of the Medical Practice Act. Thus, the responsibility for the appropriate use of medical assistants rests with the physician.

With that in mind, the question is… can a medical assistant perform a peripheral intravenous insertion and administer (infusion) medications? The answer is …with or without proper training and experience in peripheral insertion techniques and the principles of infusion therapy, there are medical assistants who perform this function in clinics and physician’s offices across the United States. There are no federal regulations or state mandates that prohibit a medical assistant from performing these functions as long as the function is delegated and the medical assistants are supervised by the physician. 

So if they can, should they? There is no clear and easy answer. Because the medical assistants are under the employment of the physician or the practice employing the medical assistants, the decision to use medical assistants for this function rest solely on them.

My thoughts as an infusion nurse is the use of medical assistants for the direct provision of infusion therapies  may result in potential adverse outcomes to the patient and the public, and may increase liability risks for the physician and the practice. If and when the physician decides to delegate the task of IV  insertion and IV medication administration, according to the INS Standards of Practice is for the MAs to complete a course of infusion therapy training, including supervised clinical practice. 

The reply above does not include “nursing  assistive personnel”  (NAP). The Infusion Nurses Society (INS) has addressed their role in a position paper entitled, ” The Use of Nursing Assistive Personnel in the Provision of Infusion Therapy.

I would highly recommend checking with your specific state regulations regarding the use of medical assistants or NAPs in Infusion Therapy as well as the responsibilities of the professionals (RN or MD) who delegate and supervise them while performing these procedures.


INS Position Paper: The Use of Nursing Assistive Personnel in the Provision of Infusion Therapy. 2009

INS Standards of Practice 2011 – Scope of Practice Standard/Practice Criteria.