Q&A on Being a Medical Assistant: Tips from a Hiring Manager
Medical assistants are in high demand, and for good reason: They play a vital role in the day-to-day activities of clinics and other healthcare facilities. So what are hiring managers looking for in a medical assistant? Find out the answer to that and gain firsthand insights on why being a medical assistant is such a rewarding career path.
Denise Graham knows a lot about hiring medical assistants. As the former clinical floor manager at United Family Medicine, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Saint Paul, she supervised medical assistants every day. She has also worked as a medical assistant herself for many years.
Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU) recently spoke with Graham. She answered questions commonly asked from people thinking about a career as a medical assistant.
If you think this profession could be right for you, learn more about NWHSU’s programs in Medical Assisting. You can start working as a medical assistant in as little as a year:
What kind of work do medical assistants do at your clinic?
At United Family Medicine, medical assistants carry out a wide range of important duties. For example, they room patients, which involves collecting information on why they’ve come, reviewing their current medications, and updating their immunizations, if needed.
I think it’s important to note that some patients feel more comfortable sharing information with medical assistants than with a doctor. That’s just one example of why they’re a key part of the team. They help ensure that patients have a great visit and feel like their needs have been met. After an appointment, medical assistants also do follow-up phone calls.
Other responsibilities can include testing lung function and conducting diagnostic testing for certain illnesses. We have medical assistants in our lab who draw blood and run strep, pregnancy, and other tests.
There are just so many needs that medical assistants help fulfill in our clinic. That’s why we value them so much.
Would I have the opportunity to try new things?
As a medical assistant, you have a variety of options for where you want to take your career. And that’s a great job benefit because if you get tired of one type of setting, there’s always lots of opportunities to change specialties or change the type of place that you’re working at.
For example, I went from family practice to other areas like occupational medicine, pediatrics, and physical medicine rehab. You can also acquire more training and education to open up other professional paths. (See more on this below.)
How can I advance my career as a medical assistant?
Working as a medical assistant can actually be a great foundation for other healthcare professions. For example, maybe you’ll learn that being a medical lab technician could be a better fit. Or maybe you’ll discover that you want to become an x-ray operator.
Here at United Family Medicine, we’ve had medical assistants who eventually go into an RN program to further their skills.
Honestly though, many people remain medical assistants because they love it so much, especially the variety of things you can do. And as you gain experience as a medical assistant, you may also have opportunities for leadership roles.
What qualities do you look for in a medical assistant?
A good medical assistant has compassion and a genuine desire to help people. We also look for people who can be good team players and are dependable. We rely heavily on medical assistants being here every day.
On top of that, we need our medical assistants to be flexible. What you do here on a daily basis won’t always be the same.
What is the difference between working as a nursing assistant and a medical assistant?
The difference between a medical assistant and a nursing assistant is that nursing assistants are generally in a hospital or nursing home setting. They’re doing hard work like bathing and lifting patients. They typically assist RNs on a healthcare team.
A medical assistant works a lot more closely with doctors and other healthcare providers in a clinic setting. They do a lot of patient care—but not the physical part of the job that nursing assistants do.
(For more information, see What is the Difference Between a Medical Assistant vs. a CNA?)
Is there demand for medical assistants?
Medical assistants are and will be in high demand for years to come. One big reason is that we have an aging population of baby boomers. They’re going to need more healthcare attention and will be making more medical appointments. Medical assistants are essential for those appointments.
Find out more from hiring manager Denise Graham in this video.
Is the wage for medical assistants competitive?
United Family Medicine did a compensation analysis and was able to bring all of its medical assistants up to a very competitive wage. We raised our starting pay for new hires. And because of our diverse population of patients, we pay additional for bilingual medical assistants.
We’ve also done sign-on bonuses for new hires that you receive at 90 days and then again at six months. You’ll receive a $500 bonus if you reach both of those milestones.
We have to stay competitive because the need for medical assistants is intense.
Ready to take the next step?
You’ve just gotten a firsthand account of what it’s like to be a medical assistant. It’s an exciting profession with a bright future. To take the next step on this career path, learn more about NWHSU’s Medical Assisting programs today!