Medical Assistant Skills and Abilities Checklist
Medical Assistant Skills and Abilities: What You Need to Know
Medical assistants play an essential role in the day-to-day operation of physician’s offices, hospitals and other health care centers. They may help with both administrative and clinical tasks ranging from medical billing and coding to drawing blood and administering injections.
Are you a good fit for a position in this growing field? The list of medical assistant skills below will give you an idea of what it takes to become a medical assistant. Keep in mind that even if you don’t have these skills and abilities now, you can go to school to become a medical assistant and learn everything you need to know to begin your new healthcare career.
Medical Assistants by the Numbers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the career growth outlook for medical assistants is good — projected 23 percent growth between 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average across all occupations.
In addition, the BLS reports that the annual mean wage for medical assistants in California is $38,250, and California employs more medical assistants than any other state.
Day-to-Day Medical Assistant Skills and Duties
Because medical assistants are expected to perform a wide range of tasks on a regular basis, they must employ a wide range of skillsets. To get a sense of why medical assistants need such wide-ranging skills, consider some of the duties and responsibilities listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Association of Medical Assistants¹,²:
- Record patient history and personal information
- Measure vital signs
- Administer injections or medications
- Schedule patient appointments
- Arrange for hospital admissions and laboratory services
- Perform basic laboratory tests
- Assist physicians during an exam
What does a medical assistant do? In this 3.5-minute video, KSEQ on-air personality Kimmie spends time with Kayla, an SJVC Clinical Medical Assisting student, to learn how to draw blood.
As you can see from the diverse set of tasks and job duties listed above, medical assistants need to have various technical, communication and office management skills to succeed. Here’s a closer look at some of the specific skills medical assistants need to have.
To provide support for both administrative and clinical operations, medical assistants need a firm grasp of common medical names and terms, including those related to human anatomy, medical instruments, medications and diseases. Medical assistants also need superb communication skills to convey this information in a way patients can understand. As an SJVC medical assistant program student, you’ll learn medical terminology pertaining to:
- Structural anatomy
- Laboratory tests and procedures
- Medical administration
Although there are many aspects to a career as a medical assistant, one of the biggest components is patient interaction. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET OnLine, interaction with people and providing personal service is the number one skill that medical assistants need.
Medical assistants can expect to spend most of their day interacting with patients, whether to confirm insurance information, measure vital signs or schedule an upcoming appointment. With this much patient interaction, patience and compassion are both essential.
Those who prefer to work alone need not apply. Medical assistants interact with patients, physicians and insurance companies daily. Whether it’s working together with patients and their families to schedule appointments or arrange medication, organizing insurance information with front office staff or arranging blood draws and lab testing with physicians, working well with others is essential for anyone in the role of a medical assistant.
Medical assistants regularly draw blood, take fluid samples, conduct respiratory and pulmonary tests, replace stitches and bandages, sterilize rooms and equipment, administer medications and safely dispose of medical materials. Although these may not seem like glamorous tasks, they are critical to the smooth operation of any healthcare facility. Here’s a quick look at some of the tools and technologies used in this occupation according to O*NET OnLine:
- Appointment scheduling software
- Diagnostic and procedural coding software
- Billing and bookkeeping software
- Hypodermic needles
- Blood pressure measurement equipment
- Office administration
Just as important as performing clinical tasks is supporting the office and administration of a physician’s office. For patients to have a successful and stress-free experience when they visit the doctor, their insurance information must be recorded accurately and processed properly, they must be scheduled at an appropriate time, and the billing and bookkeeping must be accurately completed.
These tasks often fall to medical assistants, who must be just as knowledgeable about administrative tasks as they are about clinical ones. To stay up to date on the latest healthcare and medical assisting news, you might use these resources:
- American Association of Medical Assistants
- American Registry of Medical Assistants
- American Health Care Association
- California Society of Medical Assistants
- Healthline — an online magazine by and for healthcare professionals
- TED Med Blog — curated content from the people behind TED Talks
- Kaiser Health News
- Modern Healthcare — online news site for medical news
Learn the Skills Needed to be a Medical Assistant
A career as a medical assistant offers the opportunity to work directly with patients and physicians to improve patient quality of life. To make sure you have the skills employers are looking for and patients need, enroll in a medical assisting program. Not only will you learn the skills required to work as a medical assistant in medical offices and specialty clinics, completing a medical assisting program can also give you a leg up on job seekers who only have a high school diploma.
Got 30 seconds? Learn about SJVC’s program:
Medical assisting programs are especially helpful for newcomers in the medical field, as learning all the necessary skills through on-the-job training alone can be a slow process. In turn, having a certificate or A.S. degree might be able to jumpstart your career and increase your earning potential.
San Joaquin Valley College offers its Medical Assisting program at many of its California campuses and online. For those looking to change career paths and enter the medical field, taking classes online is a convenient option that allows you to gain new skills and enter a new field while still providing the flexibility you need to accommodate your busy life. Request more information about the program, or call 866-544-7898 to learn more about training to become a medical assistant at San Joaquin Valley College.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.