Important Medical Assistant Skills Needed

The role of a medical assistant is becoming more and more important in this day and age, but before you consider a career as a medical assistant you will need to know what medical assistant skills are necessary in order to do the job as well as you can. Consider the information below before deciding if this is the career for you.

Front Office Skills

Medical assistants often have to work in the front office. These are the things that they frequently have to do:Medical Assistant Skills

  • Hiring and firing staff
  • Scheduling and greeting patients
  • Answering phones
  • Pulling and file patient charts
  • Bookkeeping
  • Billing and payroll
  • Ordering office equipment and supplies
  • Sending out insurance claims

These are essential medical assistant skills, so you need to be sure that you either already have these skills, or that you are prepared to acquire these skills if you do not already have them. This is one of the main functions of a medical assistant and these are therefore tasks and skills that you cannot avoid if you are to have a career in this field.

Anatomy And Medical Terminology Skills

If you want to be a successful medical assistant you will need to know what words and phrases to use in what contexts. The terminology of the medical setting can be complex. If you do not have a working knowledge of medical terminology you will find this a very difficult job indeed to do. There are several areas that you will need to be proficient in before you can be expected to do a job like this one. These areas are:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Medical ethics
  • Medical terminology

Luckily you will not be able to make it successfully through medical assistant training without picking up these skills. Just make sure that you pay attention and that you have a working understanding of all of these phrases and so on.

Communication Skills

Communications skills are clearly a very important part of being a medical assistant. There are a number of situations that could arise in which you will need to be able to communicate well. Once of these situations is when a patient asks you questions. You need to be able to communicate with the patient in such a way that he or she clearly understands what you are saying. You will also need to make a number of phone calls throughout your job as a medical assistant and, consequently, you will need to be able to communicate clearly in that way as well. If you do not have good communication skills this is probably not the right job for you.

Lab Medical Assistant Skills

There are a number of lab skills that you will be taught during training, but often a good understanding of what to do can only be learned on the job. Lab medical assistant skills that you will need include the following:

  • Take the patient’s blood pressure
  • Take the patient’s temperature
  • Measure the patient’s height and weight
  • Draw blood from the patient
  • Give the patient injections
  • Prepare and clean medical equipment used in the examinations

Make sure you are comfortable with all of the above. For example some people are scared of needles in which case they should definitely avoid a job that involves drawing blood and giving injections.

Reading Skills

patient chartsAs a medical assistant it is essential that you have the right level of reading skills. You need to be able to read any medical text that comes your way once you are working as a medical assistant. In addition reading is a very important part of the initial medical assistant training. If you have difficulties reading you may want to look into improving your skills in that area before you commit to pursuing his career path. The things that you will have to read are many and varied, including:

  • Textbooks and first-semester texts (must be read at college level)
  • Operating manuals for equipment
  • Directions for using laboratory test kits
  • Medicare newsletters
  • Insurance company literature
  • Physicians’ correspondence
  • Patient charts
  • Information on medications

If you do not have strong reading skills, or if you feel you will struggle with the above, please reconsider your options.


It is essential that, as a medical assistant, you have the invaluable skill of patience. You will be dealing with people on a daily basis who are scared. Your employer may frequently be too busy to speak to you in a civil tone. In any situation that arises during the course of your day you simply cannot afford to lose your patience. You need to maintain a professional attitude at all times and make sure that you keep your emotions under control. This is very difficult and a lot of people do not have the skill of patience. If you feel that you will not be able to keep your cool, consider an alternative line of work where patience is not as essential.

Taking Blood Pressure

One of the skills that you will need to have a medical assistant is that of being able to take the blood pressure of your patients. There are three primary reasons why a patient’s blood pressure requires monitoring.

  • It is a medical necessity
  • It helps to gauge the patient’s health
  • It can also be a billing issue

Because a doctor or other health care practitioner may not have the time to monitor blood pressure among all of the other things that they have to do, it is essential that you as the medical assistant are able to take on this task. Fortunately advanced technology has made the monitoring of patients’ blood pressure a lot easier than in the past.

Giving Injections

To be a medical assistant you will need to be comfortable with the idea of giving injections. This is such an important part of your role that it will simply not be possible for you to do your job well if this is the kind of thing that scares you or makes you feel a little squeamish. In addition it is an important skill to know exactly how to give injections without leaving a bruise or hurting the patient too much. The types of injections you will give include:

  • Flu shots
  • Vaccinations
  • Immunizations
  • Pain medicine
  • Steroids

This is a skill that can be taught in a formal program, but it is also one that you can learn on the job.

Math Skills

Although you will need to have a basic understanding of math, no additional math courses are required in order to become a medical assistant. There are certain mathematical calculations that you may have to use in your job on a daily basis, but these will be included in the general training. For example you may need to measure the head circumference of a baby. This will require an understanding on measuring circumferences, but this will all be covered in your actual training. However if you do not have a natural math brain you may find it a little more challenging than other students to pick these skills up.


When it comes to prescriptions you will probably not have to actually fill any prescriptions yourself as a medical assistant. However it will be part of your job of making the pharmacist or doctor’s life easier by dealing with prescription requests. You will need to have a bit of intuition here as it will make life easier for everyone if you are able to sort through the prescription requests and only send those through that are needed immediately. You will also have to advise your patients on the best times to fill a prescription or get a repeat. You will have endless enquiries regarding this aspect of your job, so patience plays an important role here.

Creating New Patient Histories

It is your job as the medical assistant to ensure that patient information is kept up to date. You will have to gather the following information from the patients in your care:

  • Information about their chief complaint
  • Information about their previous medical history
  • Information about their allergies
  • Information about their education
  • Information about their alcohol consumption
  • Information about their tobacco usage
  • Information about their medical problems
  • Information about their surgeries
  • Information about their prior injuries/accidents
  • Information about their family medical history
  • Information about their review of systems

Obviously this kind of interaction will require some people skills on your part as well as record keeping skills.

Answering Patients’ Questions

There are some basic things that you will need to know as a medical assistant. Some very simple questions that patients may ask you need to be answered without first referring to their doctor. You need to be able to be independent to a certain degree in small matters such as this. The following are some things that you will need to be able to identify for yourself as a medical assistant because the doctor doesn’t always have the time:Nurse and patient

  • Does the patient needs to be worked into the clinic
  • Does the patient need to see a different doctor
  • Does the patient needs to go the ER
  • Does the patient needs to schedule an appointment

Learning Skills

There are a number of learning skills that you should possess if you plan to pursue a career as a medical assistant. They are as follows:

  • High motivation
  • The ability to handle stress
  • Excellent time management skills

These skills are incredibly important not only for your studies but also in your everyday job. These are skills that will directly translate to your daily tasks. Your tasks will include:

  • Using sequencing skills to follow directions for completing lab work and to determine the most efficient order for completing multiple tasks
  • Observing patient symptoms accurately
  • Making logical inferences about the level of attention needed at the time
  • Making judgments about which results are consistent with the clinical picture and which should be rechecked
  • Using cause-effect reasoning to troubleshoot errors in the results

Phone Etiquette

As a medical assistant you will be required to frequently deal with patients as well as other health care facilities on the phone on a daily basis. This means that in order to show yourself as well as your employer in a good light you will need t have excellent phone etiquette skills. If you do not know how to speak properly and politely on the hone you will need to learn as quickly as possible. Never lose your temper on the phone and try to keep a smile in your voice at all times. It is very important that you read tips on how to answer the phone correctly as well as how to conduct a phone conversation.

Computer Skills

Needless to say, in this day and age computer skills are needed for any job, and this includes the area of being a medical assistant. You will, for example, need to record patient information in a computerized format. This means that you will need to know how to use the keyboard efficiently as well as how to use all of the basic programs on the computer. You will also need to learn how to use the specific programs used by your facility or institution. These are all essential skills, some of which will be taught during training, and others which you will pick up on the job. However there are many which you will need to know before you begin training.

As you can see there are a lot of things that a medical assistant has to do, and most of these things are not what you would describe as intuitive or easy. So if you think that you will not be able to learn or develop these skills then perhaps an alternative career is what you should look into. However, if you feel that this is exactly what you want to do, and if you feel that you already have many of these medical assistant skills, then this may just be the perfect line of work for you to get into.

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