Education and training is one part of becoming a medical assistant. There are also several skills, both learned and intuitive, that will help you succeed in this career path.
Medical assistants work under the license of a physician, in medical offices, clinics, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and other places where medical treatment is administered.
What skills help medical assistants work successfully and advance in their career? Below, we will look at several clinical, administrative, and interpersonal skills that every medical assistant should strive to attain.
What Duties do Medical Assistants Have?
Medical assistants have a mix of clinical and administrative duties they are responsible for, including:
- Welcoming patients and answering the phone
- Setting appointments for patients
- Overseeing patients’ medical records
- Inputting and supervising patients’ insurance information
- Organizing necessary information, such as hospital admissions and laboratory services
- Handling patient correspondence
- Moving patient information from paper records to electronic health records (EHR)
- Preparing patients for medical examinations
- Writing down medical histories
- Measuring vital signs, like blood pressure
- Drawing blood for testing
- Removing sutures and changing dressings
- Performing basic laboratory exams
- Helping physicians with medical examinations
- Administering injections or giving medications per physician’s instructions and as regulated by state law
- Instructing patients about medications and special dietary plans
In many physician’s offices, it is common for the medical assistants on staff to perform a mix of clinical and administrative tasks. In larger facilities, such as a hospital, medical assistants may be assigned specific roles that are mostly clinical or mostly administrative.
Let’s take a closer look at the different skills and aptitudes medical assistants need to thrive in their daily work.
Medical assistants primarily work in physician’s offices, outpatient clinics, or hospitals, and are directly involved in patients’ care. Clinical skills are how healthcare workers refer to skills involving medical procedures, treatments, examinations, and practical applications. The following are some of the foundational clinical skills a medical assistant will require.
1. Taking Vital Signs
One of the most common tasks a medical assistant will perform is taking vital signs from patients. This includes measuring the patient’s temperature, weight, blood pressure, pulse rate, blood glucose levels, blood oxygen levels, among others.
2. Patient Preparation
Medical assistants play a large role in preparing patients for doctor examinations. The medical assistants usually prepare the room for the patient visits, making sure equipment is in place, and the room is cleaned and sanitized from the previous patient visit. For each patient, the medical assistant talks to the patient, prepares them for the doctor, takes vitals, imparts information, and relays patient information to the physician. During the examination, the medical assistant may also help the doctor, administering basic tests, giving the patient an injection, and giving the patient instructions from the doctor.
Also known as drawing blood, phlebotomy is the process of taking blood from a patient using a needle, usually via a venipuncture. Some medical assistants have earned a phlebotomy certification, in addition to their medial assistant certification. The blood drawn from a patient is used for diagnostic testing to find more information about their health condition.
4. Medical Terminology
Healthcare professionals use specialized medical terminology to communicate with each other. It is necessary for medical workers to be familiar with commonly used medical terms and lingo to communicate with the team. This medical vocabulary is part of the curriculum at credible medical assistant training programs.
5. Knowledge of Basic Medical Procedures
Medical assistants should have familiarity and experience with basic medical procedures, as well as anatomy, terminology, and first aid. In their daily responsibilities, they may be tasked with drawing blood, administering vaccines or injections, dressing wounds, colleting lab specimens, or helping the physician with patient examinations.
6. Cardiopulmonary resuscitations (CPR)
Healthcare professionals should know life-saving techniques, like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in case an emergency arises. CPR is a technique applied to a person when their heart stops beating. Though this is an uncommon circumstance, this knowledge could potentially save someone’s life.
7. Electrocardiograms (EKG)
An EKG is a test that monitors and records the electrical signals in a person’s heart. This text is often administered in hospitals, occasionally in clinics. Usually, a EKG technician or medical assistant may oversee this test. EKGs help detect cardiovascular issues, such as abnormal heart rhythms, blocked arteries in the heart, or pacemaker problems.
8. Administering Injections
If you work as a medical assistant in a clinic, it is extremely likely you will administer injections, aka shots, to patients. These may be vaccinations, or regularly scheduled medications prescribed by a doctor.
9. Safety and Sanitation Protocols
Maintaining a sterile environment is important in healthcare, and medical assistants play a vital role in this effort. Sterile medical equipment helps keep patients safe. Following patient safety protocols is an essential part of working in healthcare.
Another major component of medical assisting is administrative work. These skills encompass the recording, processing, and organization of information so medical treatment can be delivered smoothly. Listed below are the most common administrative skills that medical assistants must have.
Medical assistants often schedule patient follow-up visits, appointments, and coordinate physician availability. Making sure patients’ visits are set up in a timely manner is a vital part of patient health, and making sure the doctor’s office runs with precision.
11. Appointment Setting
Coordinating patient follow-up appointments, setting new patient appointments, and making sure the pacing of the medical office is correct – this is another vital function that medical assistants provide!
12. Electronic Medical Records
Electronic medical records (EMR) are official patient records, which are tabulated, organized, and stored in a secure digital system. EMRs are the industry standard for healthcare in the 2020s. The big advantages of EMRs are quicker access to patient information, complete health history and test results, and physician’s notes. EMR systems make it easier to share patient information with different medical offices. Any medical assistant should be familiar with EMR systems.
13. Medical Coding
Medical coding is a universal format which records all the details of a patient visit, including their conditions and treatment, any heath tests conducted, and other important information. This coded transcription of a patient visit becomes part of the electronic medical records, and is also used for insurance purposes. The information coded needs to be accurately transcribed, as it can make a big difference when the medical billing specialist sends it to the insurance company. In some offices, the medical assistant may be responsible for the medical coding.
14. Multitasking /Time Management
In a productive office, the medical assistant will have many tasks they must complete in an organized and timely manner each day. Getting behind on patient appointments can throw the entire office off, so time management is one skill medical assistants must possess.
Multitasking is part of working effectively, completing administrative and clerical tasks such as scheduling appointments and adding medical records to the system. Be sure to manage your time effectively when you work to excel at your job.
15. Computer-Based Medical Skills
Whether you are using scheduling software for patient appointments, managing electronic health records, or using billing and coding software to submit an insurance claim, computers will be an integral part of your work as a medical assistant. Being adaptable to computer technology will help you in your daily duties as a medical assistant.
16. Phone Etiquette
Having immaculate phone etiquette, managing patients calling the office, and communicating effectively are a big part of medical assisting. Sometimes patients who call in will be under stress – how will you diffuse those situations and get the information you need? Good telephone communication is another essential skill for medical assistants.
17. Staying Organized
Organization is a crucial skill, as medical assistants often must balance different tasks, such as giving patients clinical care, scheduling appointments, entering medical records, checking patients in, and stocking inventory for exam rooms. Staying organized throughout the day and the week will help you complete your work with minimal stress.
18. Attention to Detail
Being detail-oriented is a major positive for medical assistants. In a doctor’s office, medical records must be entered accurately, with precise detail. By paying close attention to electronic health records, and documenting patient visits accurately, patients will receive the proper care in future visits.
Interpersonal skills make a medical assistant valuable to the staff and patients alike. Working directly with people is part of working in healthcare, and fostering trust from patients will help you do your job more effectively. Here are some of the most important interpersonal skills for a medical assistant to possess.
Medical assistants must be able to convey information clearly and effectively with patients and doctors, in verbal and written communications. The medical assistant is often the point of communication between patients and doctors, as well as insurance companies. You will find yourself responding to emails, answering phones, interacting with patients in person, and working alongside doctors and other medical professionals. Strong written and verbal communication skills will be a great asset to your medical career.
Dealing with multiple patients, insurance companies, and situations that arise daily requires medical assistants to be good problem solvers. Thinking quickly, being able solve problems, and overcoming obstacles with poise and grace will benefit you as a medical assistant. If you are stuck in a situation where you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Collaboration is a substantial piece of being an effective healthcare team. By working responsively and in sync with doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, you will fulfill your responsibilities as a medical assistant. Take time to understand the role you play in the team, and the importance of the skills and abilities you provide to your co-workers. Being easy to work with and get along with makes it easier for everyone to play their part efficiently. Everything that your medical team does is for the benefit of your patients.
22. Active Listening
Active listening is the act of hearing what a person, or people, say with all your senses and your full attention. It is a skill that allows you to get necessary information from your colleagues and patients. By comprehending what patients or staff are saying, it enables you to ask necessary follow-up questions, and get the information you need. Active listening allows patients to feel seen and heard and makes them feel more at ease about sharing sensitive health information.
Empathy is best described as the ability to see a situation from someone else’s point-of-view and put yourself in their shoes. How would you think and feel if you were in their exact situation? Medical assistants connect with patients on a very human level, when they are concerned about their health. Having empathy for patients allows you to build a degree of trust that will help them relax and share more about their health experiences.
24. Customer Service
Lastly, customer service is a very important skill for medical assistants to practice and perfect. Patients choose a health provider based on how they are treated, and whether they feel like they are receiving quality care. Treating patients with dignity, respect and sensitivity will help you play your role in the medical team. Medical assistants are often the first and last person that a patient sees during their visit. Be sure to make them feel comfortable, like their health will be well-taken care of by the medical staff.
How to Obtain Medical Assistant Skills
The most best way to acquire and refine medical assistant skills is to enroll in an accredited medical assistant training program. Depending on what state you live in, regulations will determine whether this is absolutely required or not. In Idaho, Washington, Connecticut, and New Jersey, medical assistants must be certified to work for a healthcare facility. The remaining states allow medical assistants to receive training in preparation for certification either by completing a medical assistant training program from an accredited college, school, or university; or by doing on-the-job training under the supervision of a doctor.
Most physicians and medical facilities tend to hire candidates who have already completed medical assistant training and earned their certification. On-the-job training is possible, but it tends to be very rare, as most employers want a fully-trained medical assistant who is ready to work.
Get Medical Assistant Training at Campus
The Medical Assistant Program at Campus, formerly known as MTI College, prepares students to work as a medical assistant. At the conclusion of training, students will earn a NCMA certification. This medical assistant training program is a hybrid program, offered in our OnlinePlus format, with most of the coursework completed online, with required clinical studies held in person at our location in Sacramento. Our medical assisting students learn medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and pharmacology. Each student in the Medical Assisting program is required to finish a 200‐hour unpaid off‐campus Medical Assisting Externship along with standard course requirements to graduate. To become certified as a Medical Assistant, the classroom work can be completed, followed by a 4-week externship. This means you can become certified as a Medical Assistant in as little as 36 weeks.
If you would like more information on the Medical Assisting program at Campus, fill out the form on this page, or contact our friendly Admissions team today!