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Medical Assistant Communication Skills and Diverse Populations

Interested in working with different types of people and helping them stay healthy? Being a medical assistant can be a rewarding career. The people you meet and the conversations you have can be life altering for both the patient and medical assistant. The US is made up of a diverse population, and most medical assistants will work with all types of patients.

Communication Skills with a Diverse Population

The medical assistant deals with a diverse population of patients, and communication can vary with each group. Medical assistants may encounter patients who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, geriatric, pediatric, terminally ill, intellectually disabled, illiterate, or non-English speaking.

Visually Impaired

On occasion a medical assistant will work with a blind or visually impaired patient. Communication can be more challenging, but there are some ways for the medical assistant to work with these patients to help educate them on treatments, exams, and medications.

First, the medical assistant should find out how such patients want to receive their medical materials. These patients may want the medical information to be recorded so they can listen to it. They may need large print or receive medical information by email so the computer can read it aloud.

The medical assistant and other medical staff members should announce themselves when entering the patient’s room with name and title. When performing a treatment or procedure, the medical assistant should make sure to fully explain what is about to happen.

If the patient has been prescribed meds, the pharmacist should use multiple rubber bands to help the patient differentiate between them. Some of the skills needed to work with visually impaired patients includes good communication and active listening. Working with a visually impaired patient can be challenging, but offering the same great care can be easy with these tips.

Hearing Impaired

The medical assistant may work also with a hearing impaired patient from time to time. The most difficult part of the process for hearing impaired patients is setting appointments. Many medical facilities expect their patients to make appointments by phone.

The medical facility can offer alternatives to the phone, including making appointments over the internet. If the patient is a lipreader, medical assistants should face patients when they talk to them and enunciate words properly.

The patient may also be able to communicate with the medical assistant through sign language or through the written word. Some of the skills needed to work with the hearing impaired include good body language, sign language and overall compassion. The medical assistant should try to supplement the consultation with pamphlets or emails to provide the patient with a summary or additional information.


Some medical assistant opportunities will be available in long-term care facilities and senior housing. Working with the elderly can be rewarding, but it comes with some challenges, as well.

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Patient conditions that a medical assistant may need to work with include loss of hearing, eyesight, mental acuity, and mobility. The medical assistant must also help to educate the elderly so they can stay healthy with diet, exercise, medication, and social interaction.

Some seniors have a hard time communicating, so medical assistants should keep concise notes to share with other caregivers who assist elderly patients.

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Medications are important for the elderly, and the medical assistant may want to review them with the patient and family during a visit, treatment, or exam. Drug interactions should be a concern for medical professionals with prescriptions, diet, and over-the-counter medicines. Some of the skills needed to work with geriatric patients includes attention to detail, active listening and patience.


Working with children can be rewarding, however there are some difficulties to overcome when working with the littlest patients. Pediatric medical assistants should calm and comfort the pediatric patient. They should have patience to deal with children and their parents. Always make the experience an adventure, and keep the child interactive during an exam or procedure. The medical assistant should speak to children on their level by bending down or sitting beside them.

The pediatric medical assistant should understand childhood development to navigate the emotional and intellectual stages of a child. Understanding the different stages of childhood development, the pediatric medical assistant can better assist the physician. Some of the skills needed to work with pediatric patients include simplistic communication, patience and an ability to amuse others.

Terminally Ill

Unfortunately, some of the medical assistant’s patients will be terminally ill. The medical assistant will need specific skills to work with the terminally ill. The medical assistant should work to offer appropriate end-of-life care and show compassion to allow these patients to retain their dignity.

A medical assistant should also be good at differentiating between the normal grief associated with dying and with depression. With grief comes sadness, however depression removes the balance of patients’ ability to experience pleasure in their lives. Depression also dampens patients’ capacity to enjoy pleasurable activities, and they may have prolonged suicidal thoughts. Medical assistants should educate themselves to know the difference.

The skills of a medical assistant who works closely with the terminally ill include competence, concern, comfort, and communication. Medical assistants need to stay professional, keep a safe distance emotionally, offer comfort to the patient, and facilitate a healthy grieving process with therapeutic communication through listening.


Much of what medical assistants will do for the visually impaired will also assist them to care for an illiterate patient. The main option is working with verbal communication, whether in person or over the phone.

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Medical assistants will want to make sure that the patient understands what they are saying.

The medical assistant should also allow the patient to mirror the discussion back to them in an effort to ensure the patient understands the treatment, procedure, or health education. If forms need to be filled out, the medical assistant can work with a patient’s partner or family member. Some of the skills needed to work with illiterate patients are active listening, good verbal communication and patience.

Non-English Speaking

Medical assistants may want to become bilingual, as many non-English speaking patients are seeking treatments in the US. According to a Simmons Market Research survey quoted in Wikipedia, approximately 19 percent of US residents speak only Spanish, and 55 percent have limited English proficiency. According to the US Census, the United States has over 37 million legal immigrants living in our communities and in need of medical services.

For those medical assistants who don’t speak a foreign language, medical materials may be created for patients in their native language, and the use of family members to translate can come in handy. With the increase in non-English speaking patents, a medical assistant will need to prepare to be a better communicator to help those patients in need.

Does communicating with a diverse population in the health care field interest you? Ready for a rewarding career as a medical assistant? The Medical Assistant program at Hunter Business School prepares competent, entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains required for professional practice.

Contact us today to find out more on how to become a medical assistant on Long Island.