An Interview with Jeff Meyers, Former Medical Assistant, Paramedic, and Owner of Grand Rapids Healthcare Training
Jeff Meyers has a birds-eye view of how the skill set of medical assistants is changing in the healthcare industry. Starting out as a medical assistant, Meyers now owns a healthcare company that medically trains people in life-saving skills such as First Aid CPR and basic life support.
Meyers started his education by earning his Bachelor’s in Business Administration degree from Cornerstone University and went on to earn his Paramedic’s degree at Great Lakes EMS Academy. Drawn to a profession where he could help people, he left his career in business to become a medical assistant and a trained paramedic, and eventually founded the Grand Rapids Healthcare Training company. He was featured in a Fox TV news broadcast about his involvement in CPR training in West Michigan and was invited back to speak about DNA testing.
Meyers believes an important key to being an effective medical assistant is to soak up as much medical and health knowledge as possible. Read on for our full interview with Jeff Meyers and find out where he sees the future of the medical assistant field going, and what skills and qualities he believes are necessary in order to move along with it.
How did you start out and how did you end up where you are today?
My career path has taken lots of turns before becoming a medical trainer and owner of my own business. I started out in business working in the office for a large manufacturer. I always wanted to be able to do something that was in the field of helping people—being in an office didn't help anyone. I took a paramedic degree program while still working and began to work in the medical field, and ending up working at the area's largest hospital as a medical assistant. I feel like I did get to help people. My ambitions changed to medical education as I saw that there was a need for people in all levels of healthcare to improve their skills, and to be able to learn in a non-threatening fun environment. So I started my medical education business.
What are some of the changes in the field of medical assisting that you’ve witnessed over the past few years?
There are a couple of large changes I've seen. One change is that more skills are being required to be performed by the medical assistant (MA) than ever before. Doctors are giving standing orders to MA's that were traditionally being given to registered nurses. As long as those orders are not outside of the scope of practice for an MA, I think that's a great thing. But MA's need to know how to do those skills.
Also, I see changes in the way training is being done. The days of having a full-day class for basic life support (BLS), or another skill, are over. Employers don’t want MA's to be off the job for a training session, so training is being delivered electronically more and more.
Do you think that the aging baby boom generation is having an impact on the field, particularly when it comes to demand for medical assistants?
Yes, in a couple of ways. First, there are more patients than ever before because of the aging population. Second, if you are a recent graduate, you will probably be working with other MA's around your age. The older MA's are retiring and those positions are being filled with new graduates as opposed to someone coming from another office or hospital.
What are some challenges that you see medical assistants facing with a growing aging population?
I've heard it said that in someone's lifetime 2/3 of the money they will spend on healthcare will be in the last few years of their life. This means that MA’s are treating an older population more and more. You'll need to be sensitive to the way they think and their mindset. What would probably be understood by someone in your age range may need to be explained more thoroughly to an older person.
How did your career experience and educational background lead you to your current role?
Everything you do in healthcare will build upon what you've done in the past. My advice is to do everything you can, and learn about every new 'thing' that you can. Make it point to learn about something new in medicine every day, no matter how small.
What is the mission of GR Healthcare Training? How does it help prepare students who are pursuing a career in healthcare?
We want to make learning a no-hassle experience. In our BLS for Healthcare Providers classes that are approved by the American Heart Association, we try to provide students with new knowledge, while building on what they already know. We try to do this in a fun way without the arrogance you sometimes find in healthcare training.
How do you feel about online vs. traditional learning when it comes to medical assisting?
There are advantages to both. What I find is that the younger people in healthcare are okay with taking an online class, okay with technology (even if there are glitches in it). The older MA is still used to the traditional classroom teaching. They sometimes are frustrated with technology, and like I said above, training today is quickly moving to an online or a blended format, so this can be a struggle for them. For the newer MA's, technology in training as well as electronic charting, etc. are not really problems for them.
Where, in your opinion, is the field of medical assisting heading?
I think we are going to see a lot of new technology in the MA field. MA's shouldn't feel threatened by it. Older MA's were worried about their jobs when machines that tested urine samples came out. They thought that this was the end of their ability to analyze a sample. Don't worry about new technology. There will always be a role for an MA.
What types of qualities and skills may make a student more suited to a successful career as a medical assistant?
#1 is communication. You need to be a great communicator to everyone around you. I would also suggest that you need to have a non-judgmental attitude. You'll work with many different people and patients. Don't get the reputation of being arrogant. Make sure you know how to do the skills your job requires, but don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
What do you think are some of the potential challenges for students pursuing medical assisting degrees? Do you have any suggestions about how to cope?
Time. When you are getting an MA degree you will have time taken away from family and friends. Are you okay with that? You'll need to put in the time to get great grades and learn the skills. If you get a job as an MA, you also will probably need to work a few weekends and odd hours. Make sure you're okay with that, because that's the way healthcare is.
Do you have any other advice for students who are interested in entering the field?
Ask a lot of questions of MA's you know. Try to do some job shadowing so you know what you're getting into. And, make sure the school you are going to attend is one with a good reputation, not just one that makes a bunch of promises to get you to sign up with them. Do a ton or research on the schools in your area and ask other MA's of their opinions of the schools.