Skip to main content
San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Combining Compassion With Efficiency: The Ultimate Balancing Act for Medical Assistants

January 19, 2024

Balancing Act for Medical AssistantsMedical assisting is unique among healthcare career paths, as it is not strictly administrative or clinical — it involves important elements of both areas, with a strong emphasis on supporting professionals and patients alike. This means providing compassionate medical care in all its forms, be it engaging in friendly conversations, inquiring about potential sources of physical discomfort or simply letting patients know that they matter.

Prior to entering this field, aspiring healthcare professionals often wonder: what can a medical assistant do? There is no simple answer to this question, as MAs take on such a wide range of clinical and administrative tasks. However, one of their primary functions is to walk the fine line of providing empathetic yet efficient patient care. To that end, we’ve highlighted the many nuances of compassionate medical care — and the training it takes to facilitate this as a medical assistant.

The Role You Play as a Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are highly valued professionals who wear many hats in the modern healthcare environment. Their main function is to provide support wherever it’s needed, thereby promoting both compassionate and efficient medical care.

Cross-trained to handle a variety of responsibilities, MAs can be described as the healthcare industry’s jacks of all trades: they are patient liaisons, medical team members, administrative experts and clinical assistants, all at once.

This job is far-reaching, but that’s exactly what makes it so compelling. Rather than limiting themselves to a few specific roles or tasks, MAs enjoy the opportunity to experience many facets of the healthcare system while interacting with all kinds of patients and medical professionals.

Preparing for Your Career as an MA

Given the myriad of roles MAs are asked to fill, it should come as no surprise that extensive training is beneficial. Ideally, this will touch on a vast range of clinical and administrative concepts. Beyond this, it is also advantageous to develop core competencies such as empathy, collaboration and creativity. These can be built through ongoing coursework and by completing capstones or externships.

If you feel drawn to medical assisting, your efforts to prepare for this career can begin before you even enroll in a certificate  program. Start by thinking carefully about how you show compassion and how you can extend even more empathy to others in your day-to-day life. If this becomes an integral  part of your mindset, you’ll find it far easier to build empathy into the many professional tasks you’ll take on as a future MA.

Why Compassion Is Important

Compassion is one of the most essential skills MAs bring to the table. A wealth of research indicates that it improves quality of care, patient adherence and general wellbeing.[1] Compassion is also believed to reduce burnout and improve job satisfaction among healthcare professionals who extend it to others.[2]

Patient Care and Compassion

Compassionate care matters because patients deserve it.

No matter their condition, demeanor or background, patients should receive compassionate care because that’s what the medical profession is all about: easing suffering whenever and however possible.

Being Able to Stay Calm, Cool and Collected

Agitation can delay treatments or damage patients’ wellbeing. MAs make a world of difference simply by maintaining their composure — even amid urgent situations. This is easier said than done, of course.

Strategies published by the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) — but relevant to MAs — include “using a calm, lower-pitched voice” and validating the patient’s emotions.[3] While situations can sometimes feel emotionally charged, MAs can use deep breathing, visualization and the occasional break to keep themselves calm and collected.

Showing Empathy for Patients, Family and Friends

Navigating the healthcare system is often stressful. Insurance and billing are intimidating, as are medical jargon and unfamiliar environments. There is also a distinct emotional component to dealing with physical and mental health concerns — or seeing them play out in friends or family members.

MAs often interact closely with patients and their loved ones; by extending empathy to all involved, they can promote a stronger support system and help ease some of their suffering. This could be as simple as showing patience for distressed family members while allowing them to safely express their emotions.

Many of the calming strategies highlighted above are just as valuable when interacting with patients’ loved ones. In general, by remaining calm and expressing empathy, MAs can play a powerful role in facilitating stronger relationships between patients, family members and healthcare teams.

Staying Efficient in Your Medical Office

Compassion only goes so far if the healthcare environment feels chaotic. Support from medical assistants ensures that offices feel orderly and calm, so that they (and other employees) are better equipped to provide compassionate medical care. Key tasks that promote efficiency and organization include:

Providing Smooth Clinic Operations

MAs should possess a thorough understanding of how clinics function on a day-to-day basis —and which obstacles might impede these operations. From there, MAs can work within the scope of their allowed duties to streamline daily tasks. This can take many forms but may be as simple as ensuring that clinics consistently look and feel organized. When handled well, recordkeeping, stocking materials and handling calls or emails can all positively contribute to the general perception of order and efficiency.

Administrative Tasks Support Patient Satisfaction

No matter how well they are treated from a clinical standpoint, patients will only be satisfied if administrative functions feel seamless. Scheduling, billing and insurance cause a lot of undue stress, which, in turn, may negate various clinical efforts made to boost patients’ health and wellbeing. Patient burnout is a huge problem in the modern healthcare system and, according to an alarming report from Time, may even discourage them seeking care in the first place.[4]

MAs can do their part by ensuring prompt, courteous and reliable communication every step of the way. This begins with helping clients make appointments and providing reminders. They may also handle medical records, complete insurance forms and coordinate lab services. The less patients have to worry about, the better.

How MAs Improve Overall Workflow

If properly used within their scope of practice, MAs can facilitate better workflow within busy clinical environments. Much of this involves taking on previously described administrative tasks, thereby freeing up nurses and other healthcare workers to focus on clinical care.

Beyond this, MAs can also serve many clinical functions that expedite patient visits and expand available time to meet with nurses or physicians. From measuring vitals to preparing blood samples, every minute MAs handle basic tasks means another minute patients can spend discussing their concerns and establishing rapport with their doctors.

Combining Efficiency With Compassion

Too often, healthcare professionals find themselves forced to choose between two competing priorities: efficiency or compassion. Assigned high caseloads, for example, physicians or nurse practitioners may feel the need to rush through appointments, rather than taking the time to truly listen to and empathize with patients’ concerns. This may contribute to compassion fatigue, in which professionals feel helpless or exhausted — and unable to give their patients the empathetic care they deserve.

MAs play a valuable role in combating these issues. They can shoulder much of the administrative burden, freeing others up to focus more on maintaining meaningful interactions with patients. What’s more, MAs can provide compassionate responses when time-sensitive demands prevent other professionals from fully taking on this supportive role.

Positive Outcomes and Support for Patients

A growing body of research indicates that both short- and long-term health outcomes improve dramatically when patients experience empathy and believe that providers are truly invested in their care.[5] Prompt and efficient care are also vital to fostering positive outcomes, but these two qualities may sometimes feel at odds.[6] If healthcare workers take extra time to extend empathetic care, their overall efficiency may feel limited — and vice versa.

This is where MAs can be their most impactful. Their administrative efforts make healthcare facilities more efficient, while their clinical work largely emphasizes compassionate and caring interactions. Meanwhile, their support eases burnout among other healthcare workers, allowing them to be more efficient and compassionate as well.

Enhance Workplace Reputation

MAs help to shape patients’ impressions of healthcare in general. Hence, the need for highly professional — but also warm and compassionate — care. By making a strong impression, MAs can garner greater respect among many other medical professionals, including nurses, doctors and healthcare administrators.

Finding and Demonstrating Balance With Work

Among the demands highlighted above, it can be easy to neglect work-life balance. That said, MAs are far more effective when they’re well-rested and able to pursue their personal goals and priorities: family time, for example, or hobbies that enrich their lives outside of the workplace. Again, their behavior can have a powerful impact on other professionals, encouraging those most prone to burnout to engage in the self-care they need and deserve.

SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting Program

If you are empathetic by nature and eager to integrate this critical quality into your work, you could have the makings of an excellent medical assistant. Compassion is not entirely innate, however; it takes effort to develop — and insight to apply it ethically and legally within the scope of practice as an MA.

You will gain these nuanced skills while enrolled in the Clinical Medical Assisting program at SJVC. We offer multiple options to develop foundational skills. When you pursue your Certificate of Completion, you will emerge feeling inspired and confident in your ability to provide compassionate medical care. Get in touch to learn more about becoming an MA.



Request Information

All fields using an asterik (*) are required.

Step 1 of 2

* Required Field