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Medical assistants perform a unique combination of administrative and clinical duties in hospitals, doctors' offices and medical facilities. They explain procedures to patients, obtain and process lab samples, record vital signs and take patients' medical histories, as well as answer phones, schedule appointments and file paperwork. There are several characteristics medical assistants should possess, but above all, they should have an overriding desire to help the people they encounter.
Medical assistants must be compassionate. They often deal with patients who are enduring physical and emotional difficulties so they must empathize with their patients and treat them with kindness, caring and gentleness, and project an inspirational and reassuring demeanor.
Medical assistants should be good listeners. Doctors and nurses divulge information quickly and may be too busy to repeat themselves; patients may be too embarrassed or uncomfortable to repeat themselves, especially if discussing their health issues or medical history. Medical assistants also work with insurance companies, laboratories and other businesses; they must be good listeners to ensure all details are handled accurately.
Medical assisting is a people-oriented industry. Medical assistants must be outgoing and personable to work successfully with the different personalities they encounter, including physicians, nurses, co-workers, adolescent and adult patients, laboratory personnel and insurance staff.
Medical assistants must be adaptable as they fluctuate daily between medical and and administrative duties. Part of their job entails anticipating patients' needs; whether they need an energetic person to talk to and help them forget their troubles, or a calm, quiet person to help them maintain their composure. Medical assistants may become attached to patients whose conditions worsen and pass away so they must adapt to the job's occasional emotional strain.
Medical assistants are often provided with personal, confidential medical information. They must remain nonjudgmental and treat all patients equally, regardless of their health and personal history. Because the information is privileged medical assistants are bound by law to keep it to themselves.
As in any fast-paced office environment, medical assistants are required to be problem solvers who think quickly on their feet. They are often required to deal with insurance billing issues, scheduling mix-ups and disgruntled patients; problem solving in these situations requires a calm demeanor and the ability to perform under pressure.
Medical assistants are required to have excellent verbal and written communication skills. They create professional documents for office correspondence. They must also speak intelligently and authoritatively to doctors, nurses, co-workers and colleagues, as well as relate to patients in an easy-to-understand manner.
Medical assistants must be well organized and able to multitask to deal with the numerous responsibilities they face daily, such as ordering laboratory tests, filing patient charts, scheduling appointments and contacting insurance companies. They must follow a proven system of organization to get their work done efficiently and effectively.
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.