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Doctors want their medical assistants know the necessary skills revolving around their practice, including patient
intake procedures, file and record management, medical history taking, immunizations, blood draws, accurate
measuring and charting, maintaining and setting up screening devices, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG),
Holter monitor, oxymetry, or spirometry apparatus. A practicing physician, whom we simply call M.D., shared the
following information with us:
1. Do I want you doing my billing? In all honesty, no/zero/zilch. I do not want someone
with very little experience keeping track of my billing, accounts receivable and aging
reports and posting deposits that had only two weeks of training in it. On a scale of
1-10, I'd rate this a 2 (nearly non-important). Medical assistant schools don't know
2. Do I want you to be able to work computer appointments, or know manual
appointment methods? Yes, in a pinch, but that is, in my opinion, the job of the front
3. Do I want you to know and understand medical terminology? Abbreviations? Yes,
4. Smart Phone, iPhone, tablet PC savvy? Would I *love* to have you be
knowledgeable enough to know how to get Epocrates Online on your hand-held tablet, Smart Phone, iPhone (that
you should be having)? Yes, absolutely. You should know how to use mobile apps like this when looking up and
giving meds. By the time a book is published, it is out of date. So forget those hardcopy nursing drug manuals -
5. Room a patient? Yes, clean up the room from the last patient, get the chart, take vital signs (VS), height (hgt),
weight (wgt), etc!
6. Know what is sterile? And what is not (& how to clean it up)? Yes absolutely, or we both get in trouble
(financially or morally).
7. Give injections? Yes. Know sites for various injections/ age group; IM, SQ, needle sites, gauge, syringe size.
8. Know math? Absolutely. Don't kill my patients with a wrong dose EVER.
9. Draw blood? Not super important. Most offices send patients out to a laboratory. On a scale of 1-10 this is a
10. Phone triage? Yes. Know what is an emergency & what is not, and letme know right away.
11. Electronic Medical Records? Of course! This is a big thing because teaching a new medical assistant how to
properly enter basic patient demographics, current medications and vitals into the EMR can take up a lot of my
time I could be spending with the patient.
12. In-house small tests? Accucheck, Urine dip, PT, do an ECG? Absolutely, and know to alert me STAT if any of
these tests are really in dangerous levels.
13. Assist me with minor office surgeries/ procedures? Yes, if just to
be there, be sterile and hand me things, or put your finger over a
bleeder. (Again, MA schools don't know this).
14. Most of all, I would LOVE to have someone who keeps track of
labs (ie: whether the pt went & got them). If so, on my desk promptly
AND let me know if 3-5 days has passed and I don't have them yet.
15. Have someone to get the discharge summary & orders from the
hospital when a patient of mine comes back to the office (before
they suddenly show up). This is far more important to me than your
even doing a blood pressure, which I can do myself, if push comes to
16. Learn to read patients, e.g. coughing, pale, sweating, emotionally vulnerable, upbeat, confused, worried,
nervous, or nauseous. Thank them for coming into our practice. Their money can be spent anywhere but have
chosen to come to see us. Gratitude is a humbling part of a clinic. Tell them you’re sorry they’re under the
weather, then let me know.
17. Openly listen to complaints and use physical contact, e.g. placing a hand on the shoulder, to let them know
you are here for them and care. Eye contact, softening your voice and giving clear directions help to build trust.
18. The patient has the right to receive information, understand their treatment plan and associated cost. When
a patient has a question about a bill, healthy habits, lifestyle modification, nutritional food choices and physical
activity you have been given printed materials and hand-outs with simple instructions that you can go over and
discuss, however, NEVER EVER give any medical advise, NEVER EVER interpret medical tests and lab results
and NEVER EVER break bad news to a patient that I, the doctor should be discussing with them first, this also
includes medications, benefits, risks and alternative treatments.
19. Remember, your role is to help me make my patients feel better and get better, therefore I want my medical
assistants to bring kindness, empathy and intelligence to the table, be an excellent communicator and listener,
well organized and interested and make my patients feel safe and cared for.
20. Last, but not least, document, document, document! Know how to chart and chart properly. You don't have to
be verbose, the accuracy often lies in the shorter entries, and for heavens sake, don't use abbreviations no one
knows. The medical record is a legal document and whatever was NOT documented is seen as NEVER
happened. Imagine anyone has to verify a procedure and no record exists! That spells big trouble.