Medical Assistant Positions: What Skills Do You Need for Progress?

Education and training are crucial for becoming a medical assistant, but certain skills can further enhance your success.

Medical assistants work in various healthcare settings under a physician’s license. What skills are crucial for medical assistants to thrive and progress in their careers? 


We will explore key clinical, administrative, and interpersonal skills that every medical assistant should aim to develop.

Duties of Medical Assistants Today

Medical assistants play a vital role in healthcare, balancing both clinical and administrative tasks. 

Their responsibilities include:

  • Greeting patients and managing phone calls
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Maintaining medical records
  • Managing insurance information
  • Coordinating hospital admissions and lab services
  • Handling patient communication
  • Transitioning records to electronic health records (EHR)
  • Preparing patients for exams
  • Recording medical histories
  • Taking vital signs, such as blood pressure
  • Drawing blood for tests
  • Removing stitches and changing dressings
  • Conducting basic lab tests
  • Assisting doctors during exams
  • Administering injections or medications as directed by a physician and according to state law
  • Educating patients about medications and diets

In smaller medical offices, medical assistants often handle both clinical and administrative duties

In larger facilities like hospitals, they may specialize in either clinical or administrative tasks.

Now, let’s examine the skills and abilities required for medical assistants to excel in their roles.


Clinical Skills

Medical assistants play a crucial role in patient care, primarily working in doctors’ offices, outpatient centers, or hospitals. 

Their contributions are essential to the smooth operation of any medical assistant job.

Clinical abilities refer to skills related to medical processes, treatments, exams, and hands-on applications. Here are some key clinical abilities needed for a medical assistant.

1. Measuring Vital Signs

A common duty for medical assistants is checking patients’ vital signs

This involves recording the patient’s temperature, weight, blood pressure, pulse rate, blood glucose levels, and blood oxygen levels, skills that are essential for medical assistant open positions.

2. Patient Preparation

Medical assistants have a significant role in getting patients ready for doctor exams. They prepare the room, ensure equipment is ready, and clean and sanitize the room after each visit. 

They also talk to the patient, take vitals, share information, and pass patient details to the doctor. 

During exams, they might assist the doctor, perform basic tests, give injections, and provide the patient with the doctor’s instructions.

3. Phlebotomy

Phlebotomy, or drawing blood, involves taking blood from a patient using a needle, typically through venipuncture. 

Some medical assistants, who often work in health care administration jobs, are certified in phlebotomy in addition to their medical assistant certification.

The blood is used for diagnostic tests to learn more about the patient’s health.

4. Medical Terminology

Healthcare professionals use specialized medical terminology to communicate effectively in healthcare assistant jobs. 

Medical workers need to know common medical terms and language to communicate effectively with the team. 

This vocabulary is taught in reputable medical assistant training programs.

5. Understanding Basic Medical Procedures

Medical assistants should know basic medical procedures, anatomy, terminology, and first aid. 

They might draw blood, give vaccines or injections, dress wounds, collect lab specimens, or assist the physician with patient exams.

6. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Healthcare professionals, including those in medical administrative assistant jobs, should be trained in life-saving techniques like CPR for emergencies. 

CPR is used when someone’s heart stops beating. Though rare, this knowledge can save a life.

7. Electrocardiograms (EKG)

An EKG monitors and records the heart’s electrical signals. It’s often done in hospitals and sometimes in clinics.

An EKG technician or medical assistant may conduct this test. EKGs help detect heart issues like abnormal rhythms, blocked arteries, or pacemaker problems.

8. Giving Injections

In a clinic, medical assistants often give injections, such as vaccinations or prescribed medications.

9. Safety and Sanitation Protocols

Keeping a sterile environment is crucial in healthcare. 

Medical assistants are key in this effort, ensuring equipment is sterile, and patient safety protocols are followed.

Administrative Skills

A key aspect of medical assisting involves administrative tasks. 

These skills cover recording, processing, and organizing information to ensure smooth delivery of medical care. 

Below are some common administrative skills required for medical assistants.

1. Scheduling 

Medical assistants often handle scheduling patient follow-up visits and appointments and coordinating physician availability. 

Ensuring patients’ visits are timely arranged is crucial for their health and the efficiency of the doctor’s office.

2. Appointment Setting 

Medical assistants play a vital role in coordinating patient follow-up appointments, setting new patient appointments, and maintaining the proper pace of the medical office.

3. Electronic Medical Records (EMR) 

EMRs are official patient records stored in a secure digital system. 

They are the standard in healthcare, offering quick access to patient information, health history, test results, and physician notes. 

EMRs facilitate the sharing of patient information across medical offices. Familiarity with EMR systems is essential for medical assistants.

4. Medical Coding 

Medical coding is a standardized format recording details of a patient visit, including conditions, treatment, and any health tests conducted. 

This coded information becomes part of the electronic medical records and is used for insurance purposes. 

Accurate transcription is critical, as it impacts medical billing and insurance claims. Medical assistants may be responsible for medical coding in some offices.

5. Multitasking/Time Management 

Medical assistants must efficiently manage multiple tasks each day. Time management is crucial to avoid delays in patient appointments. 

Effective multitasking involves completing administrative and clerical tasks, such as scheduling appointments and updating medical records.

6. Computer-Based Medical Skills 

Medical assistants use computers for various tasks, including scheduling patient appointments, managing electronic health records, and submitting insurance claims. 

Adaptability to computer technology is vital for daily duties.

7. Phone Etiquette 

Impeccable phone etiquette is essential for managing patient calls and communicating effectively. 

Medical assistants must handle stressful calls with professionalism and gather necessary information.

8. Staying Organized 

Organization is key for medical assistants, who balance tasks like clinical care, scheduling appointments, entering medical records, checking in patients, and stocking exam rooms. 

Staying organized reduces stress and ensures smooth operation.

9. Attention to Detail 

Detail orientation is crucial for medical assistants. 

Accurate entry of medical records and documentation of patient visits ensure proper care in future visits.

How to Obtain Medical Assistant Skills

To gain medical assistant skills, enroll in an accredited training program. State regulations vary, with some requiring certification.

Certification Requirements

In states like Idaho, Washington, Connecticut, and New Jersey, certification is mandatory. 

Elsewhere, training can be through an accredited program or on-the-job under a doctor’s supervision.

Employer Preferences

Most employers prefer hiring certified assistants with completed training. On-the-job training is less common as employers seek ready-to-work assistants.

The Bottom Line

To succeed as a medical assistant, focus on honing clinical, administrative, and interpersonal skills. 

Pursue certification and continue learning to advance in this vital healthcare role. 

Your dedication and diverse abilities can make a significant impact on patient care and your career progression.

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