Careers evolve over time. We learn new skills, building on them to advance professionally. But when you’re in a new field, your first responsibilities reflect your training and experience. Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll do and the skills you’ll need as an entry-level medical assistant.
Why Do People Enter the Medical Field?
People are drawn to the medical field for many reasons. Some have a passion for science or medicine while others are motivated to help the sick and vulnerable. Medical assisting is a rewarding career that satisfies both. Medical assistants:
Help Those in Need
The healthcare system is complex and difficult to navigate, no one wants to do it alone. As a medical assistant, you’ll support patients as individuals and at the community level. You will also care for them when they’re ill, while encouraging wellness practices.
Contribute to High-Quality Care
If you enjoy science and medicine, there’s no better field to work in than healthcare. There are few roles in the medical industry that you can begin with a diploma. A full member of the healthcare team, you’ll work with the latest technology and cutting-edge treatments, improving the quality of care for those you serve and the next generation.
What Is a Typical Job Description for an Entry-Level Medical Assistant?
New medical assistants are assigned a wide range of simple duties to give them time to acclimate to a new environment, while supervisors assess their strengths and weaknesses. But within a few weeks, you’ll work in tandem with the clinical and administrative staff, fulfilling the responsibilities for which you were trained, such as:
Scheduling is more than filling in empty time slots. It requires an understanding of what patients need, how long visits take, and what staff and equipment must be available for each visit. Early in your career, you’ll schedule well-exams and follow-ups, but you will need help troubleshooting complex or emergency visits. Once you learn the ropes, you’ll be entrusted with greater responsibility.
Training Phone Calls
As the doctor’s liaison, you’ll speak to patients on their behalf. Smooth working relationships take time to form, so your first duties will be taking accurate messages and waiting for a response. As trust grows, you’ll have more leeway to counsel patients directly based on the doctor’s preferences.
Rooming patients is a quick way to familiarize yourself with the workflow of a medical office, it’s a task you can take on right away. You’ll escort patients to exam rooms, update their medical records, take their vital signs, and help them prepare for the exam or treatment.
Doing Diagnostic Tests
Medical assistants are trained to perform EKGs, phlebotomy and more. But while these are technical duties that you can do immediately, safety and accuracy are paramount, so expect close supervision for a few months. As your skills grow, so will your role.
Medical assistants can give stable patients oral medication and injections. At first, you’ll assist with low-risk vaccinations and tuberculosis tests. With experience, you’ll participate more in challenging treatments, such as infusion therapy.
Some medical assistants can perform select treatments, such as suture or staple removal and applying dry dressings. Unless you work in a surgeon’s office, you may not have many opportunities to do these that often, but once your skills are checked and verified, you’ll be flying solo.
Maintaining Equipment and Supplies
A good way for entry-level medical assistants to learn about inventory and infection control is to stock shelves and sanitize equipment. You’ll ensure exam rooms have the items doctors need and that shared tools and surfaces are disinfected between patients. Later, you’ll be entrusted with ordering supplies and directing infection control activities.
General Office Duties
A medical assistant’s clinical training is too valuable to spend in the filing room. As a rule, office assistants manage most office tasks. But filing, faxing, and assisting with correspondence are all administrative parts of a medical assistant’s clinical responsibilities, so you’ll spend at least some of your time doing paperwork.
Patient education is the responsibility that evolves most with experience. Vocational school graduates are well-prepared to work in a medical office, but only by growing with the healthcare team can they develop the professional judgment, critical thinking, and communication skills necessary to safely educate patients.
Early in your career as a medical assistant, you’ll handle basic inquiries, but as your employer’s confidence in you grows, they’ll allow you to act as a team representative within your scope of practice. Baby steps count, as long as you’re moving forward.
Where Do Medical Assistants Work?
Most medical assistants are employed by private practices, but roles are expanding in hospitals and clinics as employers learn more about their unique skills. One of the many benefits of becoming a medical assistant is the diversity of work environments. Each has something a little different to offer:
Medical assistants working in private practices enjoy the intimate environment. The pace is brisk but predictable. You’ll serve many of the same patients over the years, managing their clinical and administrative needs. And if you enjoy a particular type of medicine, there are opportunities to specialize. Popular choices include pediatrics, urology, geriatrics, and cardiology.
Hospitals are exciting settings with flexible opportunities. If you have an aptitude for administration, a job as a unit clerk might be a good fit. If you prefer a more clinical role, you can work in an ambulatory or day surgery unit. You won’t work with the same patients as often, but you’ll see intriguing cases you won’t see in a doctor’s office.
Clinics are a fun middle ground where you can use the full spectrum of your clinical and clerical talents. Busier than a private practice but smaller than a hospital, you’ll be a jack-of-all-trades, assisting with most aspects of care from filling out insurance forms to performing diagnostics.
What Skills Does an Entry-level Medical Assistant Need?
Medical assistants need many skills, but some can only be built over time. Be patient with yourself. Essential skills for a new medical assistants include:
Ethics are the moral principles that tell us what’s right and wrong. In medicine, the first rule is to do no harm, so ethics are foundational.
Compassion is the desire to help others. It’s okay if you don’t know quite how to express it your first days on the job, but as long as you’re motivated, you’ll learn.
Healthcare is a team sport where everyone plays an important role. Personalities in the workplace can sometimes clash, but it’s essential to put aside personal differences and be supportive of others.
Medical assistants have a responsibility to the team to be focused and ready to work when they begin their shift. Whether it’s calling with test results or to answer a question, they need to keep their word to patients or risk losing their trust. Reliability is a must.
A Positive Attitude
No one smiles every day, but medical assistants are the people patients look to for encouragement, so a positive attitude is a plus. Laughter is the best medicine.
Commitment to Learning
Getting a formal education is just the beginning of your learning journey as a medical assistant. The healthcare field changes daily as it seeks to improve itself. Embracing continuing education is necessary to keep pace with advances in the industry. With experience, you’ll gain additional skills and build on those you learned in school. Only practice makes perfect.
Empathy, the ability to see things from another’s perspective, is the practical form of compassion that only comes with experience. It’s less of a quality than a skill that you cultivate over time.
Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking, the ability to analyze problems and make logical conclusions, comes naturally to some people, but without experience, it’s a skill that stagnates. Challenges on the job make us grow as thinkers, it’s a process that continues until retirement.
As a medical assistant, you’ll graduate with basic communication skills, but therapeutic communication with patients, the use of verbal and non-verbal language to exchange information is an art that requires years of practice. The more you interact with people, the easier it becomes.
When we consider career paths, we tend to look at the finish line. but your first step is as important as your last. Every day matters as a medical assistant, and a great start leads to a strong finish.
Want to Learn More?
The objective of this Medical Assistant training program at Peloton College is to prepare the student for employment as an entry-level Medical Assistant performing administrative, clerical, and clinical duties within the health care field.
The mission of Peloton College is to be the premier provider of hands-on training and education by providing students and graduates with the necessary skills to secure occupational careers. Contact us today to learn more.