How an Externship Helps Prepare You for a Career as a Medical Assistant

If you’re already enrolled in a medical assisting program, you’ve made a wise career choice. If not, you might want to consider becoming a medical assistant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare industry is expecting to add nearly 4 million jobs by 2026 – about one-third of all jobs. Many of those jobs will be held by medical assistants, who help doctors in private practice, hospitals and outpatient clinics perform a number of clinical and administrative duties. That’s great news as you look down the road toward career advancement in clinical industry occupations.

Getting the proper training is essential and should include a mix of traditional classroom learning and hands-on experience. Enhance your studies and improve your readiness for the workshop when you participate in an externship. This is an opportunity to spend time working and learning in a real-world setting before you ever graduate. For schools with a comprehensive medical assisting program, like MTI College in Sacramento, it is a requirement for graduation.

MTI requires you to complete a 160-hour off-campus, unpaid externship program in a professional healthcare facility setting. The experience you get will be invaluable.

Get firsthand experience in the field.

Your externship might have you helping out in a hospital, clinic, physician’s office, rehab facility, retirement home or one of many other places. Depending on the location, you may be tasked with doing a particular job, such as recording patient information or drawing blood, or a combination of clinical and/or administrative duties.

Administrative duties may include:

  • Welcoming patients and answering the phone
  • Setting appointments
  • Overseeing patients’ medical records
  • Supervising patients’ insurance information
  • Organizing necessary information, such as hospital admissions and laboratory services
  • Handling correspondence

Clinical duties may include:

  • Preparing patients for medical examinations
  • Drawing blood
  • Removing sutures and changing dressings
  • Performing basic laboratory exams
  • Writing down medical histories
  • Assisting the doctor during exams
  • Instructing patients about medications and special diets they may need

When you’re working in an actual healthcare facility, you will likely “shadow” (follow) a professional who is already working in the field. This might be a doctor, nurse, lab technician or even another medical assistant. This is an opportunity to observe, take notes and apply what you learned in school in a real-world situation – working on real patients. Don’t worry; your supervisor will be there to guide you. You may also be invited to attend staff meetings and/or conferences. All told, you’ll learn about all aspects of the business and what goes on in healthcare facilities.

Practice professionalism.

During your medical assisting classroom training, you’ll learn many things that will provide a solid background as you participate in your externship, including:

  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical protocol and procedures in clinics and laboratories
  • Front-office practices, including coding and billing procedures
  • Patient relations
  • Medical law and ethics

Those things are all critically important, but as you apply what you’ve learned in the classroom in a real-world situation, you need to be professional with patients and co-workers. That means you should show up on time, appear neat and clean, show respect to your patients and colleagues, and follow through on all assigned tasks.

Evaluate potential future work locations.

While you are working in the field, you’ll have a chance to get to know the facility. If your externship lands you in a hospital and you decide it’s too busy, then you know that it’s not the ideal workplace for you. As you shadow various working professionals, you may discover you are drawn to a particular specialty. Maybe you’ll enjoy interacting with patients more than anything, so you might decide to focus on a job that offers that opportunity – a retirement home, for example.

Find a mentor.

During your externship, you will be working among industry professionals. Observe them. Listen to them. Ask questions. They can be valuable resources for you who can provide a wealth of information and practical advice. They’ll also teach you about protocol to follow in various real-life situations and can offer techniques to help you do your job more easily and effectively.

Take advantage of networking opportunities.

Having an externship could lead to your first job after graduation. If you do a good job, show enthusiasm and volunteer to do as much as you can you may be asked to come back for a permanent position after you graduate from your medical assisting program. In addition, if you forge relationships with some of the people you’ll be working with they may have contacts who can help in your job search.

Participating in an externship can really tie together all that you’ve learned in the classroom and in your hands-on training with real-world experience. Take full advantage of all that you can learn.

If you are considering a career in medical assisting, check out the comprehensive program MTI College in Sacramento offers. As a graduate of the medical assistant program at MTI, you will be prepared to go out into the workforce in less than a year.

Additional benefits of studying medical assistant at MTI include:

  • The flexibility of a new program that allows you to take classes just three times a week
  • Preparation for the National Certification for Medical Assisting (NCCT). Test can be taken during regular class hours on campus.
  • Access to MTI’s job placement assistance after graduation

Graduates of the medical assistant program at MTI College will have proficiency in the skills needed to perform diverse duties in the healthcare field and can look forward to an in-demand career. Contact MTI College today to enroll.

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