Passion is Not Enough: 8 Traits that Make a Remarkable Medical Assistant

So, you have a passion for helping people—that is fantastic, but is that enough to make it in the health care world? Lisa Schroeder, instructor in the medical assistant degree program at Globe University-Madison West, says, “No way.”

“Yes, you’ve got to love people,” she says. “But, just because you love people and have passion for them, doesn’t mean you will be a good medical assistant. There are other attributes you need to have besides passion to help people.”

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Before coming to Globe University, Lisa was a medical assistant for four years at UW Health clinics in Middleton and Mt. Horeb. Currently, Lisa teaches five classes including Introduction to Clinical Skills, and Patient Care Sciences and Certified Medical Assistant I and II.

Recently, Lisa received our campus’s “Faculty Star of the Month” award. With her star status comes wise knowledge. For this reason, I asked Lisa to share several attributes one must have in order to become an amazing medical assistant. Here are her words of wisdom:

  1. Passion for People: It’s that love for your patient that drives a medical assistant. If you don’t love people, then you need to be a medical administrative assistant—someone who does the books, coding, etc. If you have any doubts, you should move to a different program.
  2. Empathy: Empathy means being able to put yourself in that patient’s situation. Whether they get a diagnosis of cancer, an unwanted pregnancy, or something that they don’t want to hear, you have to be empathetic, not sympathetic. You can’t sit and cry with them, because they need you to be their rock at that point.
  3. Attention to Detail: You can have all the passion in the world for people, but if you don’t know how to do a math problem to get a correct dosage calculation, you could potentially kill somebody. It’s that easy to make a mistake. You have to do a multitude of checks and balances to make sure you are drawing up the right medication.  If you are not really focused, it’s probably not a good area to be working in.
  4. Dependable: Be on time, all the time, every day when you are expected because in a busy clinic setting, anything goes. If you are consistently late or absent, the people you work with will have to pick up your work. This puts a lot of stress on the people who managed to show up. Not having a baby sitter or your car didn’t start isn’t an excuse. Have back-ups to your back-up plan. Sure, life happens; just don’t make it a habit.
  5. Good Attitude: You can be the most book-smart person in a class, but if you don’t have a good attitude when you walk out of your externship, they are not going to hire you. They want somebody who is open and willing to take constructive criticism. You have to have an open mind and attitude to be willing to learn different things. They want upbeat and positive people.
  6. Be Flexible: I worked in a plastic surgery clinic where there were 16 plastic surgeons. If you think there is a typical day, there is no such thing as a typical day when you are working with 16 physicians. Some of them fly in for the day, some flights are late, there are emergencies—anything can happen. Everybody likes to have things very organized; it doesn’t happen in a clinic. You have cancellations, no-shows and that will put a damper on your day.Medical assistant school
  7. Take Initiative: We hope at Globe University-Madison West when we send you out at your externship that if you have a free minute, you are not wasting time surfing the internet. Take initiative; go clean out a drawer or check expiration dates on medications. There is always something to do.  When administration sees you take initiative, they want to hire you. If you are looking to be hired, you have to show them you want it.
  8. Desire to Learn: Medical assistants must complete 60 credits of furthering education in order to stay certified. You have to stay up to date on policies and medical procedures. If you are not up on this, you will be left behind. Don’t miss an opportunity to learn something. Just because you have your certification, doesn’t mean you should stop learning.

Do you have what it takes to be a medical assistant? Are you ready to take that next step toward your goal of working in the heal care field? Learn more about the medical assistant program and other health sciences programs at Globe University.