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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Is it Hard to be a Medical Assistant?

January 5, 2017

Is-it-Hard-to-be-a-Medical-AssistantWorking in health care can be emotionally and physically challenging, but it can also be incredibly rewarding and satisfying. Medical assisting is no different than other health care careers in this regard. But before you decide it may be too hard of a career for you, review this article to learn more about one of the fastest-growing health care jobs: Medical Assisting.

Medical Assistant Work-Life Balance

For some, the idea that being a medical assistant is “hard” comes from the perception people have about health care jobs in general. Nurses, doctors and other professional health care providers often work very long hours and can have unpredictable schedules week-to-week, sometimes even day-to-day. Fortunately, working as a medical assistant can be much more convenient.

Besides how fast you can become a medical assistant, one of the most attractive things about the position is the manageable schedule. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 60 percent of medical assistants work in a doctor’s office, which means most of the medical assistants working in the U.S. likely have a typical 9-to-5 work schedule since most physician’s offices aren’t open at night or on weekends¹. Of course, there are medical assistants who work nights, evenings and weekends, but the point is that the job is usually not as demanding as other health support careers, and medical assistants can achieve a healthy work-life balance.

The Biggest Challenges of Being a Medical Assistant

As for the job itself, we would be lying if we said medical assisting wasn’t challenging—but challenging jobs can be quite rewarding in that they allow you to think on your feet and overcome new obstacles each day. The medical assistant workday also includes plenty of structure and routine so as not to be too overwhelming.

Outside of the day-to-day responsibilities, the most difficult parts of being a medical assistant are related to the unexpected clinical and administrative “emergencies” that can arise during a shift. However, it’s important to remember that these situations can seem much more stressful to the untrained eye than they actually are. In other words, after finishing a medical assistant training program, you’ll have the skills necessary to get through your workdays.

What are some of the hardest things medical assistants must deal with on the job?

  1. Difficult Patients – Medical assistants interact with many patients each day, and not all of the interactions will be pleasant. Patients can experience a wide range of negative emotions, and as the first and sometimes last person a patient sees in the doctor’s office, medical assistants can bear the brunt of a patient’s anger, frustration, anxiety or stress. Even in these unpleasant situations, medical assistants must maintain their professionalism and exhibit patience. If you’re not a people person, this could be one of the harder things about the job.
  2. Medical Emergencies – According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, most primary care physicians report at least one medical emergency in their office per year². The most common types of emergencies are asthma attacks, anaphylaxis, seizures and cardiac arrest. These situations can be scary, but as a medical assistant, you’ll have the training and confidence to assist with any office medical emergency that presents itself. That’s why CPR and First Aid Certification are included in medical assistant training programs.
  3. Emotional Closeness – Medical assistants often build very close relationships with regular patients. Because of this, it can be extremely hard on medical assistants when a patient receives upsetting news or passes away after a long fight with a disease. However, medical assistants also have responsibilities to other patients and will need to stay professional and composed during the workday until they can decompress at home.

The bottom line: Medical assisting can be a challenging career. Can it be stressful? Sure. But is it so hard that you should pursue another line of work? Absolutely not.

How to Manage Stress as a Medical Assistant

The job isn’t always stressful, but uneasy challenges can be trying for even the most prepared medical assistant. That’s why we wanted to give you some quick tips on how you can manage stress after you graduate and start working in a doctor’s office, hospital or outpatient care center.

  • Take Care of Yourself – Get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet and dress comfortably.
  • Arrive Early – Showing up early gives you extra time to get organized and prepare for the day, and it also leaves a good impression on your employer.
  • Work Smarter – Stay organized, plan your work ahead, don’t procrastinate and – most importantly – ask for help when you need it.
  • Embrace Challenges – Demonstrate a positive, can-do attitude when challenges arise (and don’t be surprised when your employer notices and praises you for it).

If you’re ready to start a rewarding career in healthcare, train to become a medical assistant at San Joaquin Valley College. You can earn a Certificate of Completion in as few as 9 months. Call toll-free 866-544-7898 to learn more about SJVC’s Medical Assistant program, which is offered at several SJVC California campuses as well as online.



Medical assisting is an exciting and rewarding entry-level healthcare career. To help you decide if this is the right path for you, SJVC created a free guide outlining the roles and responsibilities of a medical assistant. Download your guide to learn what medical assistants do, why they are in demand, and how you can become one.

Get Your Guide: What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Related Articles:

What to Look for in an Online Medical Assistant Program in California

Do Medical Assistants Need to be Certified to Work in California?

Medical Assistant VS Nursing Assistant: What’s the Difference?

Medical Assistant Skills and Abilities Checklist

How to Become a Medical Assistant Online

Guide to Becoming a Medical Assistant

Learn what you need to start a career as a medical assistant.

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