Think you’re ready to pursue a career as a medical assistant? First, you’ll need to know what medical assistant duties and skills are essential for this challenging and often highly-rewarding vocation.
Depending on your employer, each day may be different – that’s what many people love about this career choice. But you can expect to find many of the same duties and skill requirements in almost any medical assisting position.
Medical assistant skills and abilities [i]
Medical assistants are versatile professionals called on to perform tasks ranging from drawing blood and checking vital signs to managing patient records and setting appointments – and everything in between. As a medical assistant, you may perform primarily office tasks, mostly clinical tasks, or a mixture of both. That means the skills of a medical assistant are incredibly numerous and varied! Here are a few of the most common skills:
- Good communication skills. Medical assistants must be active listeners in order to understand and accurately record patient issues and specifications. They must also be capable of clearly articulating instructions to the patient and effectively communicating information, both written and spoken, to other health care professionals working with the patient.
- Organizational and clerical skills. Most medical assistants have at least some office duties, from answering the phones and scheduling appointments to maintaining patient files. Being highly-organized is critical, and clerical skills like typing and filing are helpful.
- Medical knowledge. Medical assistants should have a good working knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy, and basic procedures like drawing blood or dressing a wound. Knowledge of first aid and CPR may also be required.
- Knowledge of safety and sanitation. Medical assistants should be aware of personal and patient safety at all times. Understanding and practicing safety and sanitation protocols is essential.
- Computer skills. Being comfortable with using computers is necessary for a variety of administrative tasks. Especially as many health care practices are adopting EHRs (Electronic Health Records), computer competency is one of the most important medical assistant skills.
- Customer service skills. Remember, patients are customers who select their practitioners based on quality of care and service received. Treating patients with sensitivity and respect is essential.
Medical assistant duties [ii]
The day-to-day tasks of a medical assistant may be enormously varied. In larger offices, medical assistants may specialize in clinical or administrative areas, but in a smaller office, one or two assistants may do it all! Here are some of the most common duties to expect:
- Clinical duties: take vital signs; collect patient medical history and information; prepare and clean treatment rooms; prepare and administer medications under the supervision of a physician; collect and log laboratory specimens such as blood samples; instruct and educate physicians on good health practices as directed by the attending physician; properly dispose of waste and contaminated materials; sterilize instruments; conduct routine lab tests
- Administrative duties: answer phones; schedule patient appointments; follow up with patients regarding questions or test results; log patient information; create and manage patient records; utilize EHR software to manage patient files electronically; track and order supplies; provide prescription information and refill authorization to pharmacies
If you’re looking for a career track that lets you perform a variety of skilled tasks in a fast-paced work environment, medical assisting might be the job for you. Understanding the abilities you’ll need to complete your duties is a great first step towards becoming a knowledgeable and experienced medical assistant.