What Doctors Want?
Doctors want their medical assistants to know the necessary skills revolving around their practice, including patient intake procedures, file and record management, medical history taking, immunizations, blood draws, accurate measuring and charting, maintaining and setting up screening devices, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitor, oxymetry, or spirometry apparatus. A practicing physician, whom we simply call M.D., shared the following information with us:
1. Do I want you doing my billing? In all honesty, no/zero/zilch. I do not want someone with very little experience keeping track of my billing, accounts receivable and aging reports and posting deposits that had only two weeks of training in it. On a scale of 1-10, I’d rate this a 2 (nearly non-important). Medical assistant schools don’t know this.
2. Do I want you to be able to work computer appointments or know manual appointment methods? Yes, in a pinch, but that is, in my opinion, the job of the front office person.
3. Do I want you to know and understand medical terminology? Abbreviations? Yes, absolutely.
4. Smart Phone, iPhone, tablet PC savvy? Would I *love* to have you be knowledgeable enough to know how to get Epocrates Online on your hand-held tablet, Smart Phone, iPhone (that you should be having)? Yes, absolutely. You should know how to use mobile apps like this when looking up and giving meds. By the time a book is published, it is out of date. So forget those hardcopy nursing drug manuals – ancient history.
5. Room a patient? Yes, clean up the room from the last patient, get the chart, take vital signs (VS), height (hgt), weight (wgt), etc!
6. Know what is sterile? And what is not (& how to clean it up)? Yes absolutely, or we both get in trouble.
7. Give injections? Yes. Know sites for various injections/ age group; IM, SQ, needle sites, gauge, syringe size.
8. Know math? Absolutely. Don’t kill my patients with a wrong dose EVER.
9. Draw blood? Not super important. Most offices send patients out to a laboratory. On a scale of 1-10 this is a three.
10. Phone triage? Yes. Know what is an emergency & what is not, and let me know right away.
11. Electronic Medical Records? Of course! This is a big thing because teaching a new medical assistant how to properly enter basic patient demographics, current medications and vitals into the EMR can take up a lot of my time I could be spending with the patient.
12. In-house small tests? Accucheck, Urine dip, PT, do an ECG? Absolutely, and know to alert me STAT if any of these tests are really in dangerous levels.
13. Assist me with minor office surgeries/ procedures? Yes, if just to be there, be sterile and hand me things, or put your finger over a bleeder. (Again, MA schools don’t know this).
14. Most of all, I would LOVE to have someone who keeps track of labs (ie: whether the pt went & got them). If so, on my desk promptly AND let me know if 3-5 days has passed and I don’t have them yet.
15. Have someone to get the discharge summary & orders from the hospital when a patient of mine comes back to the office (before they suddenly show up). This is far more important to me than your even doing a blood pressure, which I can do myself, if push comes to shove.
16. Learn to read patients, e.g. coughing, pale, sweating, emotionally vulnerable, upbeat, confused, worried, nervous, or nauseous. Thank them for coming into our practice. Their money can be spent anywhere but have chosen to come to see us. Gratitude is a humbling part of a clinic. Tell them you’re sorry they’re under the weather, then let me know.
17. Openly listen to complaints and use physical contact, e.g. placing a hand on the shoulder, to let them know you are here for them and care. Eye contact, softening your voice and giving clear directions help to build trust.
18. The patient has the right to receive information, understand their treatment plan and associated cost. When a patient has a question about a bill, healthy habits, lifestyle modification, nutritional food choices and physical activity you have been given printed materials and hand-outs with simple instructions that you can go over and discuss, however, NEVER EVER give any medical advise, NEVER EVER interpret medical tests and lab results and NEVER EVER break bad news to a patient that I, the doctor should be discussing with them first, this also includes medications, benefits, risks and alternative treatments.
19. Remember, your role is to help me make my patients feel better and get better, therefore I want my medical assistants to bring kindness, empathy and intelligence to the table, be an excellent communicator and listener, well organized and interested and make my patients feel safe and cared for.
20. Last, but not least, document, document, document! Know how to chart and chart properly. You don’t have to be verbose, the accuracy often lies in the shorter entries, and for heavens sake, don’t use abbreviations no one knows. The medical record is a legal document and whatever was NOT documented is seen as NEVER happened. Imagine anyone has to verify a procedure and no record exists! That spells big trouble.