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The Importance of Communication for Medical Assistants

Communication is a part of everything medical assistants do. Whether it’s answering patients’ questions, offering to help colleagues or phoning vendors to place orders, the ability to express yourself clearly and confidently is critical. In a vocational school program, you’ll learn about the different types of communication plus gain tips for connecting effectively with people across cultures and generations. It’s the key to personal and professional success as a medical assistant.

What Does a Medical Assistant Do?

As allied health professionals, medical assistants support doctors, nurses, and administrators by doing both clinical and clerical tasks in a healthcare setting. Responsibilities include:

Managing the Schedule

Office assistants handle routine scheduling duties in most doctor’s offices, but they collaborate with medical assistants when penciling in urgent care or booking appointments and procedures. Working hand-in-hand with providers, medical assistants have the clinical training necessary to know which equipment and staff are needed to manage complex visits.

Triaging Phone Calls

Medical assistants take health-related phone calls, screening patients on doctors’ behalf while triaging requests based on urgency so that the sickest patients receive the quickest replies.

Rooming Patients

Medical assistants escort patients to exam rooms and perform the necessary clinical and administrative tasks that are a part of every visit. They collect biological samples for testing, to prepare them for the doctor’s visit.

Updating Medical Records

Among those responsibilities is updating the patient’s health record. You’ll reconcile their drug list, review their physical complaints, and prescreen them for mental health and safety issues. The goal is to ensure the data doctors use to make medical decisions is complete and accurate.

Obtaining Vital Signs

Medical assistants take patients’ temperature, pulse, blood pressure and respiratory rate at the beginning of each visit. Readings are used to diagnose disease, identify clinical risk factors for chronic illness and monitor the effectiveness of certain medications.

Performing Diagnostic Test

Medical assistants can perform a range of diagnostic tests from checking blood glucose levels to taking electrocardiograms. It’s a time-saver for the doctor and patient.

Phlebotomy

Doctors use blood test results to diagnose and treat illnesses. In a vocational school program, you’ll learn how to draw blood and process samples.

Assisting with Surgical Procedures

Private practices are increasingly offering on-site surgical procedures to generate revenue and for a patient’s convenience. Medical assistants prepare instrument trays, check emergency equipment, and pass the doctor instruments during the procedure while monitoring the patient’s safety and comfort. Medical assistants may also assist with postoperative care.

Educating Patients

Medical assistants can’t diagnose or treat patients, but they can educate patients about their treatment plans on the physician’s behalf. As the doctor’s liaison, they help patients better understand recommendations.

Skills for Success as a Medical Assistant

Vocational schools teach more than technical skills. They help you develop the qualities you need to succeed in a healthcare environment, such as:

Compassion

Compassion is the motivating force in medicine. Without it, you can’t be sensitive to the needs of others. But to empathize with patients, you need to understand what they’re going through. Your vocational school program will give you the knowledge you need and help you cultivate compassion through experience.

Reliability

Medical assistants have a key role on the healthcare team. Patients and colleagues count on them to put their best foot forward every day, so they have a responsibility to be physically and emotionally prepared for work.

Team Spirit

One of the best parts about being a medical assistant is working with a supportive team that can put aside personal differences to meet a common goal. Personalities in the workplace don’t always mesh perfectly, but teamwork is a must for the patient’s sake.

Dedication to Learning

The medical field continues to advance. So, from keeping your certification current to staying abreast of the latest developments in your field, continuing education is vital for keeping pace with changes.

Empathy

To be empathetic is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to understand where they’re coming from and why you may interpret events differently. It’s the bedrock of compassion and good communication.

Communication Skills

The most important skill in medicine is communication. The art of exchanging information is the foundation upon which trust and therapeutic relationships are built. As team representatives, how medical assistants communicate matters as much as what they say. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of communication.

The Importance of Communication for Medical Assistants

Medical assistants interact with a diverse group of people, patients, colleagues, vendors, and professional staff, each with different needs. The mission is to communicate accurately and with sensitivity to avoid misunderstandings and damaging relationships.

But while the rules seem simple, many are unwritten. Communication has a practical aspect that impacts documentation and correspondence, the accuracy of your language, grammar and spelling, and an emotional dimension that reflects the cultural and generational expectations of those with whom you communicate. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Communicating with Patients, Colleagues and Companies

Communication is a two-way street, but in a professional environment, the most effective way to interact with others is on their terms.

Patients

Medical assistants have a therapeutic relationship with patients. While maintaining boundaries, they need to ask personal questions and gain their trust. But the patient is in the driver’s seat, so medical assistants need to assess both their verbal communication and body language to sense their level of comfort.

Known as therapeutic communication, this type of conversation utilizes proven techniques, such as active listening and exploring emotions, to optimize responses.

Colleagues

Interpersonal relationships with colleagues are easier to navigate because they’re symmetrical, but co-workers often face communication challenges. Asking a peer who’s swamped with work if they need a hand seems helpful, but it could also be interpreted as an accusation of failure, so it’s crucial to be empathetic and tactful. Communication strategies could include using humor to lighten the mood or asking for feedback before jumping in with unwanted assistance.

Supervisors

Communication with supervisors from middle managers to executives is different than it is with peers because higher-ups have authority. A medical assistant’s perspective is valued, and they can feel comfortable expressing themselves, but the tone of conversations should always remain respectful.

Vendors

Business communication is more formal and fact-based. Relationships vary from polite to casually acquainted. When placing supply orders, for example, submitting accurate item numbers is the priority. Asking for feedback helps ensure the information received was understood as intended. And as always, being polite and professional reinforces positive working relationships.

Communication Across Generations and Cultures

There’s a movement within medicine for all staff to be culturally competent. That means being empathetic toward patients from different walks of life and age groups. With a generation or culture, we share a framework of ideas. But people from other countries and demographic groups may have different values, customs and expectations deserving of respect. Avoid these common communication traps:

Stereotyping

Stereotyping reinforces dangerous misconceptions about people as a group and impairs communication. People should be treated as individuals regardless of their race, age, gender, or physical challenges. The more you interact with people who are different than you, the easier it becomes.

Sensory Barriers

Patients in a medical setting may have vision or hearing deficits that impact their ability to communicate. Medical assistants should adapt their communication methods to meet others’ needs, such as offering verbal instructions to patients that can’t read small print.

Generational Issues

People from different generations have unique expectations when it comes to communication. The elderly, for example, may consider it disrespectful to be addressed by their first name. When people get off on the wrong foot, communication can hit a wall. It’s up to medical assistants to set a welcoming stage.

Negative Body Language

Research suggests that much of communication is non-verbal. Our emotions show in our posture and how we make eye contact. Negative body language, from slouching to crossing your arms, send the wrong signals and should be avoided.

Final Thoughts

Nothing that we think, know, or feel matters if we can’t convey it. But the good news for medical assistants is that while communication is easier for some people than others, it’s a skill you can learn and perfect through experience.

Ready for a new career in the medical assisting field? 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. The Medical Assistant program provides hands-on experience in a real medical setting where you can foster professional relationships with actual patients. Medical Assistant students spend 160 hours in an externship in an actual medical environment where they are supervised and taught in order to gain valuable on-the-job training.

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