Essential Medical Assistant Skills for Success
What Skills Do You Need as a Medical Assistant?
The healthcare industry is growing and continues to evolve over the years. And in order to keep up with the demands and advancements in the medical field, healthcare facilities must have the professionals, equipment, and resources. In line with this, there has been a rise in demand for medical assistants (MAs). The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that between 2010 and 2020 the demand for MAs will increase by 31%.
The Important Role of Medical Assistants in Healthcare
Medical assistants are valuable professionals in healthcare facilities who have a variety of roles. They can work in hospitals, doctor's clinics, assisted living facilities, laboratories, and other institutions that cater to inpatient and outpatient services. They must learn how to respond to medical emergencies, treat people who have different health problems, and handle other healthcare needs of patients and their family (like processing health insurance and explaining medication and treatment options). Aside from that, they will also deal with administrative and clerical work in their place of employment. They create and organize medical records, set up and manage appointments, and even make billing reports. If they work for a facility that specializes in a certain medical field, they must also learn procedures and tasks related to the specific field.
Because of the many important roles they play, MAs must be equipped with a variety of skills that will make them more efficient and successful in their jobs.
Considering a Career as a Medical Assistant
If helping patients and assisting medical professionals is appealing to you, then go ahead and explore your opportunities to become a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). You can enroll in a diploma program or a medical assistant associate degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). After completing the program, you should take and pass a certification exam administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
The Skills You Need as a Medical Assistant
1. MEDICAL/CLINICAL SKILLS
– Has extensive working knowledge of common medical terms and names (such as parts of the human body and the Latin prefixes and suffixes pertaining to them, viruses, bacteria, parasites, diseases, physical injuries, ailments, symptoms of health conditions and problems, medication, treatment, medical procedures, instruments, devices, and equipment).
– Is able to properly perform certain medical procedures (like taking vital signs, administering injections, drawing blood, preparing examination rooms, and recording patient medical history).
– Understands and practices healthcare laws and ethics.
– Can assist doctors during surgery or other procedures involved in implementing treatment on patients if required (and allowed by the state).
A medical assistant should be well-trained and very knowledgeable in performing clinical and medical tasks because they are dealing with the lives of patients. Therefore, it is not enough to learn the theories and have classroom learning. They must gain first-hand experience with the guidance of a senior medical professional and must always follow legal and ethical healthcare procedures. It is the goal of MAs to never put a patient's life at risk.
2. ADMINISTRATIVE SKILLS
– Can handle basic clerical tasks (phone handling, typing, operating office equipment, sending emails, creating original documents, and setting appointments).
– Is highly organized and detail-oriented. You will be in charge of making and keeping the medical records of patients so you must have a good system of updating and keeping those files in order.
– Is good with numbers. You may be asked to handle billing and bookkeeping.
– Can be relied on to order, organize, and keep an inventory of medical supplies and equipment in your workplace.
Not all healthcare facilities have an office manager to oversee the administrative work, and in this case it is a medical assistant who will be in charge of making sure the facility's day-to-day operations will flow smoothly and efficiently.
3. COMMUNICATION SKILLS
– Has the ability to translate complicated medical terms into a simpler language that patients can understand.
– Can effectively give instructions regarding processes, treatments, medications, and other procedures involved in a patient's healthcare.
– Knows correct grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. This is very important because MAs are required to write professional documents and communications on a variety of medical subjects that will be sent to patients or their families and to other professionals in the medical industry.
You also function as a liaison from patient to doctor. You can be taking instructions from a physician one time, then you can be explaining to a patient how an electrocardiogram machine works another time. Thus, you must communicate effectively to make sure your patients don't undergo unnecessary stress, your healthcare facility follows professional standards, and your fellow medical professionals are able to do their job well.
4. INTERPERSONAL SKILLS
– Can make patients feel at ease and more comfortable before, during, and after their visit to your healthcare facility.
– Has the ability to be caring and patient, especially when dealing with people who have special needs.
– Is able to remain calm and helpful, even when dealing with difficult situations or people.
Medical assistants usually function as frontliners for the healthcare facilities they work in. So patients' first impressions rely heavily on their interaction with you. That is why you have to be very good in dealing with different people. Plus, going to a doctor's clinic or a hospital can be a scary or nerve-racking experience for some individuals, so it is important to help them feel more relaxed and more confident in the healthcare service they are going to get. You might even have to gain the trust of some patients who are nervous or unsure about sharing vital information that can give a better diagnosis of their health condition.
As you can see, being a medical assistant requires a lot of flexibility and competence. You need to be skilled at multitasking as you need to jump from one role to the next when you are at work. Plus, you should be ready and open to upgrading your knowledge and skills because the healthcare industry continues to evolve. With all this, it is very important to have passion for your job as a CMA, because no matter how challenging it can be, a genuine interest and love for your profession will help you become a successful certified medical assistant.