A medical assistant is a healthcare worker that assists other medical staff by performing clinical and administrative duties. Some of their job responsibilities include taking patient vitals, scheduling appointments, preparing laboratory specimens, and maintaining patient records.
People that are well-suited to working as a medical assistant are organized, can handle a variety of tasks, are good communicators, and are quick learners.
This guide will go over qualities that make a good medical assistant to help you decide if it is the right career for you.
Traits That Make for a Good Medical Assistant
Good medical assistants usually possess a combination of soft and hard skills. In addition, they have particular qualities that set them up for success in the field.
Here are some traits that make for a great medical assistant:
- Organized. During a typical workday, medical assistants will have to balance a variety of tasks. For example, they may need to keep patient records updated, take patient vitals, and answer phone calls. It is important to be able to multitask and stay organized.
- Good communication skills. It is essential to know how to communicate information to patients and coworkers in a clear and friendly manner. In addition, it is also important to be able to actively listen to others.
- Patient. Working with patients and other staff can sometimes be challenging. It is not uncommon to have to deal with difficult or uncomfortable situations. Being patient, compassionate, and willing to listen goes a long way towards resolving a lot of problems.
- Knowledgeable. Medical assistants work closely with other healthcare professionals such as physicians and nurses. As a result, it is important to be knowledgeable about topics such as medical terminology, common procedures, and basic aspects of patient care.
- Enjoys learning. A good medical assistant is open-minded and enjoys learning new things. During their career, they will encounter a variety of situations. They will also experience changes in the workplace as new technology or treatments become available.
- Can handle being around bodily fluids. Compared to other staff (such as nurses) medical assistants may not encounter bodily fluids as often. However, because they work in a healthcare setting, they should be able to handle being around specimens such as blood, stool, or urine samples.
Reasons You May Want to Avoid a Medical Assistant Career
A career in medical assisting is not for everyone. If you have certain expectations about the career or are lacking in particular skills, then you may want to avoid working as a medical assistant.
Here are some reasons why a medical assistant career may not be the best fit for you:
- Can be stressful. If you tend to have trouble working in a fast-paced, dynamic, and stressful environment, then medical assisting may not be the right career choice for you.
- Uncomfortable working with people. Working as a medical assistant involves a lot of interaction with other people. For example, you may have to deal with unhappy and dissatisfied patients. In addition, you may have to work in harmony with difficult or uncooperative coworkers.
- Limited opportunities for advancement. Compared to other careers, there are limited opportunities for career advancement. Some options include getting a certification or working in a medical assistant specialty or going back to school to become a registered nurse.
- Relatively lower salary. Medical assistant salaries are lower than similar healthcare careers, such as nursing, medical technician, or dental hygienist..
- Desire for more complex tasks. In the context of healthcare as a whole, medical assistants perform relatively low-level tasks. They are not responsible for more complex tasks like diagnosis, treatment, or management.
- Lack of autonomy. Medical assistants work closely with higher-level professionals, like nurses, physician assistants, or physicians. They will generally work under close supervision and will need to defer to other coworkers for more complex tasks.
Why You Should Consider an Externship Before Jumping In
A medical assistant externship gives you the opportunity to experience first-hand what working as a medical assistant is like. It can help you gain a stronger understanding of whether becoming a medical assistant is the right career choice for you.
In addition, an externship is an excellent opportunity to network with others in the medical assistant profession. By participating in externships, many prospective medical assistants make meaningful connections that help lead them towards job opportunities in the future.
Many medical assistant training programs include an externship component as part of their curriculum. For example, Stepful’s 4-Month Online Medical Assistant Training Program includes an in-person externship to help you get real-life experience.
There are other ways to find an externship if you choose not to complete a training program. Some of these ways include contacting local clinics and checking job sites such as Indeed or Glassdoor.
Medical Assistant Salaries & Job Outlook
The average annual salary for medical assistants in 2021 was $37,190, which comes out to around $17.88 per hour.
In addition, medical assistants have a positive job outlook, with jobs expected to increase by 16% over the next decade which is much faster than the national average.
How to Become a Medical Assistant
Here is the general process you have to follow to become a medical assistant:
- Obtain your high school diploma or GED. Before you can begin work as a medical assistant or enter a medical assistant training program, you must graduate with a high school diploma or earn your GED.
- Get the necessary training & education (optional). While it is not required to be certified to start working as a medical assistant in most states, it does help. You can choose an online medical assistant training program and finish in as little as four months, or choose an MA degree program that will last up to two years.
- Complete an internship or externship (optional). While this step is not required, completing a medical assistant externship will help you get a feel for different offices and see what will be a good fit for you.
- Apply for jobs. With such a high demand for medical assistants, you can start applying to clinics and hospitals right away. Some medical assisting programs will help you build your resume and find a job.
- Start your career. Now you are ready to start your career as a medical assistant.