How to Become a Medical Assistant

Interested in becoming a medical assistant? Want to know how to become a medical assistant?

Clinics and doctors’ offices need a talented crew to give people the high-quality care they deserve, but for physicians and nurses to stay focused on what happens in the exam room, they need support professionals who can bridge the gap between the clinical and administrative parts of medicine. They need trained medical assistants.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

A medical assistant performs a wide range of duties in a medical setting—from front office clerical functions and back office billing support to basic clinical tasks that require training—that does not need the attention of a licensed health care provider.

Medical assistants work under the supervision of doctors, nurses, and office managers, and their special blend of administrative and medical skills make them valuable members of the health care team.

Medical assistants are in demand, and their opportunities are growing. Depending on the setting, a medical assistant may have many of these responsibilities.

  • Greeting clients
  • Triaging phone calls
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Managing medical records
  • Assisting with minor treatments and in-office procedures
  • Coding billing and insurance forms
  • Preparing patients for exams
  • Taking height, weight, and vital signs
  • Collecting lab specimens
  • Performing routine medical tests like electrocardiograms and urinalyses
  • Drawing blood
  • Providing patient education

As the ultimate support specialists, medical assistants keep things running smoothly so the clinical staff can give patients more one-on-one time. Medical assistants are right in the thick of things with the know-how necessary to make a difference in patients’ lives. It’s an exciting and important role.

Do You Have the Right Qualities to Be a Medical Assistant?

Anyone can train for a rewarding career as a medical assistant, but for success and satisfaction in the field, having these personal qualities and basic skills is a plus.

Empathy

Sympathy is the recognition that other people are suffering, but empathy is the willingness to put one’s self in their shoes. Medical assistants work with vulnerable people from diverse backgrounds, and to meet their needs requires the ability to see things from their perspective, even if it’s a new or different point of view.

Some people have a more natural sense of empathy than others, but with education, experience, and practice, it’s a skill that can be learned and developed.

Compassion

Empathy recognizes the pain of others. Compassion is the eagerness to do something about it. Compassionate people are problem solvers who do what it takes to help others, through both understanding and action. Compassion is the foundation of health care, and it’s a medical assistant’s primary mission.

Communication Skills

As a representative of the clinical team, medical assistants must be excellent communicators. Patients need friendly, approachable staff to be comfortable sharing their needs.

Medical assistants must take accurate notes about patient symptoms. They must fill out complicated insurance forms to help clients prepare for an exam or better understand their doctor’s instructions. A large part of a medical assistant’s job requires reading, writing, and speaking with others.

Basic Computer Skills

Today’s private health care practices are computerized, and they rely heavily on software and technology to maintain medical records and guide productivity.

As part of a medical assistant training program, popular electronic health record software and practice management software are reviewed, but it helps to have general keyboarding skills and confidence around computers.

Comfort with Technology

In addition to computers, medical assistants work with cutting edge technology. Vital sign equipment like blood pressure cuffs and thermometers are electronic, as are testing devices like blood glucose meters. Training on these devices is covered in school and on the job, but comfort around technology makes learning easier.

Simple Math Skills

Math skills help medical assistants do things like take accurate vital signs, order medical supplies, and perform simple lab tests. Higher math isn’t usually required, but addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills are a must.

The good news is that using calculators is encouraged and helps to hone math skills as part of a medical assistant’s training.

Organizational Skills

Medical assistants must manage a variety of administrative responsibilities while prioritizing clinical tasks. The ability to roll with shifting priorities while remaining focused and professional at all times is a must.

Critical Thinking Skills

Being able to think critically allows medical assistants to assess situations and prioritize their actions. In a health care setting, things can change quickly. A plan to spend a quiet day catching up on filling out insurance claims can quickly turn into a waiting room full of patients with the flu who can’t wait for attention.

The ability to see the big picture rather than just working from a list of tasks keeps a busy day from becoming overwhelming and ensures clients get the service they deserve.

Reliability

Both clients and coworkers need team members who can get to work on time, be energetic, and stay focused. Tasks in health care are time sensitive, and when colleagues work short-handed, care is less efficient and mistakes can happen. Reliability is a must for every member of the health care team, including medical assistants.

Becoming a Medical Assistant

Medical assisting isn’t a new job. It’s been a recognized profession since the 1950s, but because health care is a dynamic and evolving field, medical assistants need more education and training to be successful.

As doctors and nurses get busier, the role of medical assistants is becoming more critical than ever, and employers are looking to hire support experts with proven skills.

Vocational schools offer a range of general and specialized training options from diplomas to certificate programs. Medical assisting students can pursue administrative or clinical concentrations.

Some careers in health care take years to launch, but with vocational school training, students can be ready to be a medical assistant in months. Programs can be completed in under a year, helping students who want to further their education accomplish their goals without being out of the workforce too long.

Medical assistants can choose from flexible job opportunities that fit most lifestyles. Vocational schools excel at helping students find jobs after graduation, and many offer assistance with résumé writing and learning successful interview techniques.

Building on Education

Graduates of medical assistant programs are work-ready, but becoming certified demonstrates a higher level of skill and a commitment to lifelong learning that is attractive to prospective employers.

To keep up with the changing face of health care, continuing education is important, and most employers are happy to help their staff get the training opportunities they need to maintain peak skills and qualify for advanced positions.

With experience and additional coursework, some medical assistants move into specialty areas of health care like billing, informatics, and office management.

For anyone interested in opening the door to a bright future as a valued and respected member of a health care team, a career as a medical assistant is just months away with the right education. The only requirements are a positive attitude, a desire to help others, and the willingness to learn. Training does the rest.

Do you have what it takes to become a medical assistant? Ready for an exciting new career in the medical assisting field?

The Medical Assistant program at Hunter Business School prepares competent, entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains required for professional practice.

The Medical Assistant program provides hands-on experience in a real medical setting where you can foster professional relationships with actual patients. Medical Assistant students spend 160 hours in an externship at a medical facility where they are supervised and taught in order to gain valuable on-the-job training.

Contact us today to find out more about how to become a medical assistant on Long Island.

To access information on our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other consumer data regarding programs leading to gainful employment at Hunter Business School, please visit Consumer Information.