Qualities of a Professional Medical Assistant – Can We Get There?

Published February 24, 2020

Have you ever wondered why sometimes you feel good about the healthcare worker who is caring for you and other times you simply do not? We all want to be cared for by the “feel good” healthcare workers, but what makes the difference? Professional qualities! Simply said, but not so simply taught or learned, professional qualities are the backbone to a successful career for any healthcare worker. By acquiring these qualities, the healthcare worker becomes the healthcare professional. But what makes a professional, and what are these qualities?

Professionalism is the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person. A career in healthcare requires hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are the specific technical and operational proficiencies of the career. For a medical assistant these include job tasks, such as measuring blood pressure or working within an electronic health record program like EHRclinic. On the other hand, soft skills are the personal qualifications or behaviors that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance, and career prospects. These are sometimes called people skills. Soft skills are less concrete and more difficult to observe and evaluate.

Since much of the medical assistant’s role involves dealing with other people, whether a patient, a patient’s family member, a coworker, an insurance agent, a pharmaceutical sales representative, a laboratory staff member, or anyone else there are certain professional qualities and soft skills necessary to be successful. These qualities are what make medical assistants career ready. The professional qualities that medical assistant students must learn and develop as part of a medical assistant educational program include:

  • Communication: Effective communication involves careful listening, observing, speaking, and writing. Communication even involves good manners—being polite, tactful, and respectful. You must use good communication skills during every interaction.
  • Professionalism: As stated earlier, professionalism is the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person. For medical assistants, this means placing the best interest of patients at the center of everything you do.
  • Empathetic: Being empathetic requires the ability to get along with those around you. It includes feeling and understanding another’s experience without having the experience yourself and responding appropriately.
  • Teamwork: Being part of a team requires cooperation and the understanding that decisions you make as part of the team are for the good of the team, not just yourself or another individual. Teamwork requires much coordination and integration of activities.
  • Customer service: In healthcare, the patients and their families are your customers. Practicing good customer service includes many important tasks for a medical assistant, however customer service boils down to two things: 1. The patient comes first. 2. The patient is satisfied.
  • Critical thinking and decision-making: Critical thinking skills develop over time with knowledge. They include being able to quickly evaluate circumstances, solve problems, and take action. Critical thinking and decision-making are used every day, and rely on sound judgment.
  • Dependable: Dependability is the quality of being able to be trusted and being likely to do what people expect. To be dependable means you do what you are supposed to do as well as what you say you will do.
  • Organized: To be an effective medical assistant, you must be able to manage your time and prioritize effectively. You must decide on the order in which tasks should be completed based on things such as the task deadline and importance. Organization requires time management skills as well.
  • Legal, ethical, and confidential: Knowing the legal limitations of the profession and practicing within those limits is the responsibility of a medical assistant. To be ethical requires you know the system of values of your profession and practice within that system of values. Maintaining confidentiality is a must for a medical assistant. Being legal, ethical, and confidential require knowledge of the legal and ethical standards and most importantly the scope of practice of the profession. Your scope of practice is what you are allowed to do while practicing as a medical assistant. There is no single national definition of a medical assistant’s scope of practice, so the medical assistant must research the state and facility in which he or she works to learn their specific scope of practice.
  • Self-motivated: Last but not least–the quality of self-motivation simply means you are able and willing to work without being told what to do. A successful medical assistant realizes something needs to be done and completes the task rather than waiting for that task or another task to be assigned.

Understanding and developing the above qualities as part of a medical assistant educational program is necessary for student and professional success. From the first day to the last day, it is the challenge of the educator to infuse the learning of hard skills together with learning these qualities and the soft skills. This can be done through many techniques, including the use of digital tools. In a recent survey conducted by McGraw-Hill of medical assisting programs, 59% of instructors said the digital tools they currently use help develop career readiness skills, such as professionalism, critical thinking/problem solving, communication, and teamwork. The more a student is able to practice real-world situations that require the use of these medical assistant qualities the better prepared for they will be for their career. The key to the development of professional qualities is repetition, repetition, repetition.

Contact your McGraw-Hill sale representative to obtain a poster for your classroom regarding the Qualities of a Medical Assistant.

Try the activities provided at [https://mheducation.link/HealthProfessions] to begin the infusion of developing professional qualities in your medical assistant students. By understanding and practicing the Qualities of a Medical Assistant, we are transitioning our students from healthcare workers to healthcare professionals and working toward creating the type of healthcare professional that makes patients “feel good.”