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Medical assistants often work in the offices of physicians, podiatrists and chiropractors, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although physician assistants work with health care providers to examine and treat patients, medical assistants don’t necessarily provide care on the physical level. Instead, medical assistants are more involved with clinical and administrative tasks associated with health care. Training may be on-the-job or through formal certification courses, but in either case professionalism in the workplace is an absolute requirement to set patients at ease.
Medical assistants help promote the health care environment as a safe, clean space by choosing appropriate attire and being well-groomed. Professional attire for medical assistants might include clean scrubs, clean shoes and name tag. Keep hair pulled back from the face; avoid excessive jewelry and perfume. Some patients arrive at the doctor’s office feeling nervous or worried, but seeing a professionally attired medical assistant can provide some visible assurance.
Workplace professionalism also involves communication for medical assistants. Communication with patients should be courteous and respectful; avoid addressing patients as “honey” or “sweetie” even when you’re trying to build rapport. Never attempt to diagnose a patient; this could have legal as well as professional repercussions. Follow directions from physicians and physician assistants with efficiency and tact to set patients at ease.
Medical assistants must also exhibit dependability. Arrive at work on time, report absences ahead of time and avoid absenteeism to ensure that the regular flow of office processes isn’t unnecessarily interrupted. Follow orders exactly, making notes of tasks completed to document the processes. Be prepared with appropriate paperwork, clipboards, office supplies and other tools so that physicians and patients aren’t fumbling for needed materials.
Health care environments leave many patients feeling scared and vulnerable. Never intrude on someone’s privacy to ask for details about diagnoses unless specifically instructed to do so by a supervisor. However, treating patients with kindness and respect helps affirm that you care for their health and well-being. If a patient confides in you about worries or concerns, listen with compassion—but refer serious concerns and inquiries to a licensed medical professional.
Working in a health care environment, medical assistants have access to plenty of sensitive information concerning patient diagnosis, insurance concerns and family dynamics. Professionalism in the workplace also involves adhering to strict standards for confidentiality. Never share confidential information with individuals outside the workplace, and share only relevant information about patient status with appropriate workplace professionals. Don’t ever make copies of files that don’t belong to you unless instructed to do so; this compromises patient confidentiality and is considered unethical.
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Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.