Creating the Most Successful Medical and Dental Assistants

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As noted in my first blog, The New York School for Medical and Dental Assistants is committed to providing the highest level of training to our students both in the classroom and during the job readiness process.  Accordingly, I wrote about Professional Development (Part 1) – Personal Comportment, which was posted April 10, 2018,  and promised to follow up with a segment titled Professional Development – Personal Character and Communications.

Below you will find the follow up to my initial blog. I find this area to be quite interesting as Personal Character is primarily the responsibility of the student and the way he or she was raised and chooses to behave whereas Communications usually involves multiple parties and, thus, there is greater uncertainty.   

Professional Development (Part 2) – Personal Character and Communications

Verbal Communications – As humans we often fall prey to our comfort zone when communicating with others.  However, in the workplace it is important to remember the difference between “yes” vs. “yeah” and the added value of an appropriate “thank you”, “please”, “sir”, or “ma’am” – common courtesies that make a difference.  Thus, use of professional language is reinforced and a reminder is given about the inappropriateness of slang or idiom in the workplace. Student verbal communications go a long way toward their assessment by their supervisors.

Non-Verbal Communications – Nothing is more disarming than a warm smile and firm handshake (but, don’t squeeze too tight of course!).  Thus, reminders are provided regarding the impact of mouth, eye, and head movements as well as hand gyrations and body positioning relative to others.    

Teamwork – Teams will always produce a better result than the combined actions of individuals as there will always be times when everyone needs help and that’s what teams do.  Thus, we reinforce the importance of working together as a team to achieve a collective goal.

Flexibility – Although every student has different commitments outside of his or her externship responsibilities, we underscore the value ascribed by employers of employee flexibility.  The ability to stay late or arrive early can often make an employee stand out among his or her peers.

Attitude – A winning attitude goes a very long way in the eyes of an employer.  Externs and employees that are willing to go the extra yard, put the patients first, and do whatever is necessary for the team will always be most valued.  We discuss student experiences in this regard.

Honesty – While impossible to teach, it is critically important and is re-emphasized.

Ethics – We discuss the concept of one’s moral compass as well as the channels of communication to be followed if a student encounters a moral conundrum.  Our school will always be there for our students if they ever feel ethically compromised.

Patient Triage – Inevitably, every employee/extern will be required to deal with a patient that is “in crisis”.  Whether it be over the phone or in person, the extern will need to manage this situation as best as he or she can.  We discuss various scenarios and potential action plans.

Compassion – The healthcare field is a caring one so the assistant must go about his or her responsibilities for reasons greater than a paycheck.  Satisfaction must be gained by serving others so we delve into the reasons for joining these exciting fields.

Attention to Detail – We all know that the “devil is in the details” but it’s never more important than in healthcare where attention to detail impacts patient histories and records, procedures, and even the questions that might be asked by the physicians.  Asking probing questions, preparing copious notes, and keeping files in order are critical to properly taking care of patients.

Managing Expectations and Anticipation of Needs – The most successful assistants are the ones that understand the ergonomics of the office and the way their boss works.  Being able to anticipate his or her needs demonstrates critical thinking and makes the extern or employee that much more valuable.  We discuss different strategies to consider.

Professional Self-Advocacy – Students are reminded that they are their own best advocate but that advocacy needs to be done with sensitivity and diplomacy.  It is not unreasonable to ask one’s supervisor, “What can I do to become better and more valuable to this office?”. At the same time, students should not ask this question every hour while on externship.  We talk about balancing the communication.

Dealing with Conflict – Conflict exists in every professional environment and in all aspects of our lives.  We discuss different ways to respond to conflict with the hope that these conversations might help our students develop strategies in the event an uncomfortable situation arises.  Some of these discussions might also serve as platforms to deal with conflict in our students’ personal lives.

Stress Management – We discuss how to deal with stress management not only in the workplace but also in life.  Whether through yoga, exercise, breathing, or reaching out to valued friends, we engage our students to explore ideas to help manage their own stress.

Fear of Failure – A reasonable consideration for anyone new to any field, we remind our students to believe in themselves, trust what they’ve learned, and really concentrate on asking questions, learning from mistakes, and committing themselves to grow from their experiences.

Problem Resolution – Every problem and office are different so we engage in a conversation with our externs about their experiences in this regard.  We discuss specific situations and both positive and negative outcomes. Accordingly, we work to develop strategies for handling real life situations going forward.

Dealing with Negative Feedback – Employers have every right to be critical in their assessment of student performance.  Students are reminded that they might not always like what they hear, nor agree, but this is a part of the employee/employer relationship.  How the student handles negative feedback goes a long way toward learning from their performance and becoming a better employee. Thus, we discuss ways to handle situations like this.

Dealing with Negative Co-Workers – Intra-office politics is always challenging but we remind our students that their primary responsibility is to the patients and the practice.  If friendships are made, that’s a bonus; however, we remind them to never feel badly about working harder than their peers even if they have to listen to their gossip.

Dealing with a Hostile Supervisor – This is a very complicated area especially in a private practice.  Most likely, the best solution is to contact the student’s placement advisor if any situation occurs that makes him or her feel uncomfortable.  But, under no circumstance should a student respond with equal hostility.

Discussion of Personal Life – While very difficult to do during times of personal crisis, the best strategy is always to keep one’s personal life private.  It is fine to build relationships but sharing too many personal thoughts can become a problem.

Sexual Harassment -  This again is a very complicated area especially in a private practice. Most likely, the best solution is to contact the student’s placement advisor if any situation occurs that makes him or her feel uncomfortable.  The good news is that we have not had to deal much with this issue but, with that said, it is a really important issue that we closely monitor.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts about what’s going on at our school.  As we have an upcoming graduation at NYSMDA on July 20th, my next blog will be titled “Graduation and Why It Matters” and it will be uploaded before the end of June.  I will discuss the importance of graduation across a variety of spectrums – both personal and professional.

Accreditation – What It Means and Why It Matters for Medical Assistant and Dental Assistant Students

A school is accredited if the quality of the education it provides has been verified by an accrediting agency according to the standards set by that agency. Accreditation ensures that the school follows best practices in educating and preparing students for employment in their chosen field; it means that the school can demonstrate successful student achievement.

Does that mean that any school that says “Accredited” on their website provides an appropriate education? Not necessarily.  Just as there are schools with low standards, there are agencies with low standards set up to provide “accreditation” for them.

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The New York School for Medical and Dental Assistants (NYSMDA) is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). The ACCSC is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) as a reliable authority on the educational quality of the schools it accredits. NYSMDA’s accreditation by an agency recognized by the DOE is what allows our students to be eligible for federal student aid funds.

NYSMDA has been accredited by the ACCSC since 1973. Our accreditation is renewed periodically, usually every five years. This is a rigorous process which allows the ACCSC to confirm that NYSMDA meets the required benchmarks. The central procedures are the self-evaluation and the onsite evaluation. The self-evaluation is a thorough report prepared by the school which describes and provides detailed documentation for how the school meets the required standards.  Once ACCSC has reviewed the self-evaluation, they send a team to the school for the onsite evaluation.

The onsite evaluation is an intensive inspection which checks on everything the school reported on its self-evaluation. The team that inspects NYSMDA includes occupational specialists – experts in Dental Assisting and Medical Assisting – as well as education specialists. The evaluation team members review files; observe classes; check on equipment and facilities; interview staff and faculty; and survey students.

In between renewals, NYSMDA provides annual reports to ACCSC which document that we continue to meet the standards.

ACCSC’s standards are student-centered. That means that they assess schools according to whether the educational program at that school provide a firm foundation for student success, and whether the students’ success can be verified.

There are ACCSC standards that focus specifically on student outcomes – objective measures of student success. These include:

    • Student graduation rates

    • Rates of graduate employment

    • Licensure / certification pass rates

There are ACCSC standards that focus on infrastructure – to support the delivery of its programs, a school needs appropriate:

    • Facilities, equipment, and library

    • Faculty, staff and administration

    • Career services and other student services

The school must also have:

    • Program Advisory Committee meetings on a regular schedule. NYSMDA has a Dental Assistant Advisory Committee and a Medical Assistant Advisory Committee. The professionals on these committees help us ensure that our training meets the current standards in these occupations.

    • Institutional Assessment and Improvement meetings and plans. There is always room for improvement, and it must be ongoing and documented.

    • Financial stability. Our resources must be sufficient to fully support our programs.

    • Policies and procedures. These must be fair, effective, and consistent.

Currently - behind the scenes at NYSMDA - it’s accreditation renewal time! Over the next few months, NYSMDA staff and administration will be hard at work preparing the required reports and documentation for the self-evaluation, which will be submitted in the fall. That will be followed by the onsite evaluation, probably during the winter. By next summer we anticipate a positive action by ACCSC, renewing our accreditation for the full five-year period.

Why does accreditation matter for Medical Assisting and Dental Assisting students? Because it lets you know that NYSMDA is accountable for meeting our objectives:

NYSMDA has established the following objectives in order to fully implement its goal and to fulfill its commitment to serve not only the student, but the community at large. Our aim is to enrich the student’s education through high level training which is essential to meet the demands of modern medical offices, dental offices and clinics in order to achieve the following specific objectives:

1. To provide intensive training in the fields of: Dental Assistant and Medical Assistant

2. To educate and thoroughly train students for positions as successful employees in the healthcare field.

3. To provide instruction in relevant allied health skills that reflects current techniques.

4. To provide identical academic and support services to both day and evening students.

5. To insure adequate financial support for students with demonstrated need necessary to meet all educationally related expenses within the limits of the school’s resources.

6. To provide an environment that is conductive to students’ personal and academic development.

7. To assist in the placement of all graduates in satisfying, productive and growth-oriented jobs.

Creating the Most Successful Medical and Dental Assistants

At the New York School for Medical and Dental Assistants our aim is to provide the highest level of training to our students to enable them to successfully secure employment upon graduation.  This entails our faculty utilizing best practices to teach the theoretical and clinical skills necessary to perform the various duties required of medical and dental assistants but also providing support systems to assist our students while they are in school.

Another important component of our job readiness programs is our emphasis on professional development.  While theory and skills training are essential, it is equally important to provide the wisdom and tools for students to not only keep their jobs, but to excel in them.  Please note in advance that we have no desire to curb our students’ personal expression; we simply want to share what we’ve learned over many years for our students to achieve lifelong success.

Our Career Services Department has developed an extensive database of do’s and don’ts in the workplace to increase our graduates’ chances of success.  While many of the items I will share in this message might seem a bit obvious, our experience has clearly shown that reinforcement of them needs to occur throughout the educational journey.

In the spirit of readability, I will break down our professional development advice into two areas, both of which will be posted separately.  The first will cover Personal Comportment and the second will review Personal Character and Communications.

Professional Development (Part 1) – Personal Comportment

Managing Expectations – Students are reminded that the real world can be very different than what they think.  First of all, it is not perfect and there is a reason why people get paid to work. Every office is staffed with different people with different personalities and our students need to figure out how to adapt to that particular environment.  Further, just because someone is more experienced doesn’t mean that he or she is a great supervisor so, again, the student will need to adapt. Every office is a unique and dynamic environment.

Attire – The message of “dress for success” is constantly reinforced.  When the student learns the dress code requirements of their site, they need to strive to look the best they can in their uniform and ensure that it is always cleaned and pressed, if possible.  Many non-professionals look up to people in uniform and it is no different for medical and dental assistants. Accordingly, attention needs to be paid to always looking professional.

Headphones – Students who regularly wear headphones to listen to music and talk on the phone are reminded that they should never be worn while working in a medical office and caution is shared about wearing them in public as perceptions can be created; further, there are safety considerations when one can’t hear what is happening around them.  Every time our students are in the public realm, with their clean and pressed uniforms, they have the opportunity to create a favorable impression of themselves. We have seen many of our graduates get interview opportunities simply by the impression that they created on a NYC bus or subway.

Cellphones – While working, cellphones should always be on vibrate and our students are reminded of their phone call and texts distractions.  Separating one’s personal life from their professional life is never easy when there are emergencies, but it must be done when these separations are merely personal.  We fully understand the impact of cellphones in today’s society, but employers find this to be a major issue in the workplace today.

Smoking – While we cannot control addictive behavior, students are reminded that all externship sites are smoke-free and that vaping is no different than cigarettes, cigars, and pipes (or marijuana for that fact).  In addition, the smell on one’s clothing or person might be distasteful to patients and co-workers so care should be taken (for example, breath mints) to minimize this.

Drugs and Alcohol – A reminder is given to all students that drug and alcohol will not be tolerated in the workplace during working hours.  Any occurrence most likely will result in automatic expulsion. Further, students are reminded that any residual smell on one’s breath from a prior evening’s activities can also compromise one’s work status as the perception might be that the student had not prepared himself or herself for the next day’s work responsibilities.

Gum – Chewing gum while working is unprofessional; however, if a student is on break and chews gum to eliminate the smell of cigarettes on their breath then the gum should be removed before returning to work.

Jewelry – We remind our students that professional attire is never a fashion statement – in fact, it is often quite drab.  Less is always more and too much jewelry on hands, for men or women, can impede the ability to properly put on gloves.

Hygiene – Because we live in a very diverse society, we remind students that hygiene is critically important to balance today’s expectations in the workplace.  Students daily need to bathe, use deodorant, brush their teeth, and trim their nails. Overly long fingernails, while often very attractive and fashionable, are discouraged given the necessity of wearing gloves while working.

Piercings – Our recommendations are that piercings are a more personal expression and should be minimized in the workplace.  They remain a health concern to many in the field due to potential infection and, as a result, are not deemed appropriate for medical or dental assistants.  We don’t have a definitive opinion on piercings as there are no rules against them, but we err on the side of caution based on what we hear from employers.

Tattoos – Current research suggests that nearly 40% of our students have tattoos somewhere on their bodies and the professional world is not completely ready to see the visibility of them; indeed, this might change in the next 10 – 15 years but, for now, we reinforce the need to hide and/or cover over them as best as possible.    

This is my first blog ever so thanks for reading this initial piece on Professional Development and I look forward to adding the second component next month.  Further, in the next few weeks I’d like to add some thoughts on topics such as: Reflections and Personal Inspiration; Why Choose Healthcare as a Career; A Complete Life; How to Balance Life’s Challenges; Managing Stress and Relationships; and, becoming The Best You Can Be.  I truly believe in all of these things and have spent my life thinking about them and look forward to the opportunity to share further thoughts with all of you.

Study Skills for Medical Assisting and Dental Assisting Students

As a medical assisting student or a dental assisting student, your classes will include a lot of new information, facts, and techniques that you will have to learn thoroughly.

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As you progress through the curriculum, you will need to master the content from each class as a basis for understanding the content in more advanced classes. For dental, Oral Anatomy & Physiology and Dental Materials will prepare you to take Dental Radiology and Introduction to Chairside Assisting. In medical, Medical Terminology and Anatomy & Physiology will prepare you to take Treatment Room Procedures and Laboratory Techniques.

You will also need to have the knowledge for certification exams, the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) series for dental and the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) and the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA) for medical.

What are the best ways to study and learn all this new material? To remember it while you’re taking a class, for future classes, for certification exams, and for when you’re a working medical assistant or dental assistant? Two techniques that studies have shown to be particularly effective are practice testing and distributed practice.

Practice tests are a terrific technique for studying, even if you’re not preparing for an exam in the immediate future. Active practice is more effective in helping you remember than passively reviewing the material. Look for practice exams online or in the library. You can also test yourself by answering the questions in the back of a textbook chapter or using digital or printed flashcards.

Distributed practice is another proven technique. What that means is spreading out your study time over days or even weeks. You will learn more effectively from 3 study sessions of 2 hours each than from cramming for 6 hours. Memories are consolidated – changed from something you know at that moment to long-term memories – by coming back to the same material more than once, over time. Sleep also assists in memory consolidation; sleeping after studying and then reviewing the material again after you’ve slept is particularly effective.

Other tips for studying:

Summarize, self-explain, paraphrase. Change the information you’re studying into your own words. If you can’t do that, reread or review the material to get a better understanding. Your comprehension and memory will improve.

Chunk” your work. Don’t try to finish everything at once. Set smaller, attainable goals.

Get organized! Save time and reduce frustration by keeping your texts, handouts, and study aids where you can find them when you need them.

Manage your time. Estimate the time you’ll need to study and build it into your schedule. Determine the time of day you learn best, and schedule for that time if you can. If you can, use waiting time and in-between time – be prepared with study tasks that fit the time you have available.

Study the tough stuff first. Start with the subjects that you find most challenging, so you have sufficient time, and leave the easier subjects for the time you have left.

Alternate subjects. If you are studying three different subjects, and two of them are similar, sandwich the different subject between the two that are similar.

Take breaks. Take a few minutes off every hour or so. Get up, walk around, go outside if you can. Physical activity can be energizing and help you focus. Set a time limit for your break and stick to it.

Study on your own. Find a setting where you are comfortable and can be uninterrupted. It’s the best way to read and absorb new information.

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Find a partner or group to study with, for some of your study time. Asking each other practice questions and explaining challenging topics to each other helps both the person explaining and those listening to understand and retain the information. If your partner or group is serious about studying, working together can help you stay motivated. But be careful – if your group gets distracted and doesn’t do the work, you’re better off on your own.

Figuring out which study techniques work for you can help you get better outcomes in your classes, on your exams, and in your career. Studying to be a dental assistant or a medical assistant is challenging, but the results are worth it!

Library Services for Medical Assisting Students at The New York School for Medical and Dental Assistants (NYSMDA)

Information literacy encompasses the skills that enable an individual to: identify when information is needed; find the needed information; evaluate the information; apply the information effectively; and acknowledge the source of the information. Libraries serving Medical Assisting students provide the space, the resources, and the assistance needed for students to develop these skills and effectively retrieve and utilize the information they need to complete their school assignments. Best of all, a Medical Assisting student who develops information literacy skills uses those skills on the job, keeping current and accurate both with clinical services and with the knowledge needed for up-to-date and effective patient education.

The stated mission of the NYSMDA library is: “to provide students, faculty, and staff with excellent service and the quality resources needed to support the skills necessary to access, evaluate, and use information effectively. The library aims to support the educational and research activities of the NYSMDA community in order for students to develop an appreciation of library resources and become lifelong learners. “

We fulfill that mission by providing the following:

Location: The library is the place to go for learning outside the classroom.

Sometimes it gets lively, but most of the time the library is a place where students can study without distractions. We provide space, equipment, resources, and supplies to facilitate student learning. Students can work at a study table or use one of the library computers for research or for Microsoft Office Applications. Work on their own or collaborate with a group. Print and photocopy. Staples, tape, scissors, pencils… students ask at the desk and we provide it if we can.

Lookups: The library has the right stuff to use for school research.

The library provides books and articles that are specifically geared to what Medical Assisting students need for their classes. We have over 1500 books and journals in the library. Our electronic databases include medical journals and online reference books, and can be accessed both at the school and off-campus, twenty-four (24) hours a day seven (7) days a week. Topics include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, insurance and medical billing, disease and pathology, pharmacology, law and medical ethics, phlebotomy, medical office administration, electronic health records, psychology, electrocardiography, nutrition, and more.

During the Medical Assistant Program at NYSMDA a student will be required to complete several research projects.  The school strongly recommends that its students seek the assistance of the school’s full-time librarian in completing these projects.  Working with the assistance of the librarian teaches NYSMDA students to be more efficient in finding information on the internet as well as finding printed resources.  

Some of the topics of the research papers include: Selecting a body system and composing a brief description of its organs and describing the most common diseases that are associated with this system; Selecting a topic about either healthcare laws or bioethics and describing its practical application; Selecting a disease and outlining the diseases history, pathophysiology, diagnostic criteria and the management of the disease; The holistic research project allows students to select a topic about herbs or complementary medicine or alternative medicine and if applicable share their personal experiences with holistic medicine.  In addition to writing a paper these projects also give the student the opportunity to make an oral presentation of their paper in front of their classmates.   

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Librarian: The librarian is there to help.

Students come to school knowing how to search online for things they need; they don’t always know how to tell whether information is reliable, authoritative, or appropriate for the Medical Assisting field. The librarian knows the resources and the curriculum, and can help students go beyond Google to find information in sources appropriate for health professionals. The librarian works individually with students who come into the library, and provides lessons to classes who are preparing for a research assignment. Ask a question! We help students find the answers – and learn how to find the answers for themselves.

By

Hinde Fertig Senior Librarian NYSMDA

Advantages of Medical Assistant Certification

If you are considering a career in medical assisting, you should be aware of the advantages of becoming a certified or registered medical assistant.  The New York School for Medical and Dental Assistants (NYSMDA) has an outstanding reputation for producing well-prepared, quality medical assistants in and around New York City.  However, some doctors outside of the city may not aware of the school’s outstanding reputation. Therefore, if you move and conduct a job search outside of New York City, it is very important to have a nationally recognized credential.  By obtaining a nationally recognized credential, you demonstrate to a prospective employer that you have a certain level of competency.

Additionally, doctors who hire staff that are certified or registered receive a larger reimbursement from Medicare and or Medicaid.  Therefore, being certified or registered will make you a more attractive job candidate.  Another advantage to becoming certified is that studying and taking a certification exam allows you to brush up on and demonstrate your theoretical knowledge.  As a result, you will be much more capable of communicating your knowledge with doctors and patients and you will approach the job with a much higher level of confidence.   

The certification organizations listed below have strong continuing education courses and being a member of these organizations allows you to continue taking continuing education courses at a reasonable price.  The three (3) leading medical assisting certification organizations are the American Association of Medical Assistants which administers the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam, the National Health Association (NHA) which administers the Clinical Medical Assistant Certification (CCMA) and the American Medical Technologist (AMT) which administers the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Exam.  

Although all of these organizations are reputable and have a lot to offer, at NYSMDA we recommend that our students take the RMA exam to become certified and to qualify for membership with the AMT.   The AMT is a nationally and internationally recognized certification agency and membership society for a variety of allied health professions including medical assisting.  The AMT is located in Rosemont, Illinois and was founded in 1939.

AMT certification examinations are developed, administered and analyzed using industry standards and state-of -the-art methodologies.  Each examination is developed by a committee of subject-matter experts.  The AMT is accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCAA) for its competency based examinations.  Upon passing the RMA, you will automatically become a member of the AMT and have the benefits of membership at your disposal.  

The fastest way to be eligible to sit for the RMA exam is to graduate from a Medical Assistant Program accredited by an agency that is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDOE) that is at least 720 hours in length and includes at least a 160-hour externship component.  If you have graduated from such a program in the last four years, you are immediately eligible to sit for the exam.  If you graduated more than four (4) years ago then you must have worked as a medical assistant for three (3) of the last five (5) years in both clinical and administrative areas.  

You can also qualify to sit for the RMA exam if you graduated from a military medical services training program, or you have worked, and you can document that you have worked as a medical assistant for five (5) out of the last seven (7) years.  This work experience must be full time and must include both clinical and administrative duties.

You can also sit for the RMA exam if you are a current instructor in a medical assisting program that is accredited by an agency that is recognized by the USDOE and you have completed a course of instruction in a healthcare discipline and you have one (1) year of teaching experience in both clinical and administrative areas and you can verify at least three (3) years of medical assisting occupational experience in both clinical and administrative areas.  If you have five (5) years of medical assisting teaching experience in both clinical and administrative areas, then the occupational experience is not a requirement for eligibility.  

The RMA exam is a difficult exam to pass and it is highly recommended that you take the exam as close to your graduation date as possible.  The further away a graduate is from their intense course of study, the more they forget and the harder it is for them to be well prepared for the exam.  It is recommended that a recent graduate spend at least thirty (30) hours preparing to take the exam.  

Is a Career in Medical Assisting for You?

There are numerous considerations when considering whether to enter a career in medical assisting.  This article will discuss the medical assisting career, so you can determine if the career is a good fit.  

Medical Assistants are employed in doctor’s offices, hospitals and other healthcare facilities.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics fifty-seven (57) percent of all Medical Assistants are employed in private doctor’s offices and fifteen (15) percent are employed in hospitals.  

Most Medical Assistants have some administrative duties and some clinical duties.  Some larger medical facilities have assistants who specialize in clinical or administrative duties.  Some Medical Assistant duties may include taking and recording patient histories, measuring vital signs such as pulse, blood pressure, weight and respiration, take and record electrocardiographs (EKG), perform Phlebotomy (drawing blood), performing simple lab tests, scheduling patient appointments and entering patient information into medical records.  Most medical facilities have switched from paper records to electronic records.  Therefore, the Medical Assistant must be able to input the patients records into the facilities electronic system.  The duties will vary significantly based on the specialty of the healthcare facility, the size of the facility and its location.

The effective Medical Assistant must be able to take accurate readings on a timely basis and must be able to record these readings in the patient’s file.  In today’s healthcare field patient confidentiality is very important.  Therefore, it is important that the patient’s records are only discussed with healthcare employees who are working with the patient.   Most Medical Assistants spend a good part of the day standing so it is important that you can stand for a good portion of the work day.  

Most doctors who hire a medical assistant want someone who has achieved at least a high school diploma or its equivalency.  If you do not have this important credential and want to be a Medical Assistant, it is important that you either finish high school or study and take the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC).  If you reside in the state of New York, please go to http://www.acces.nysed.gov/what-hsetasc-test to find information on how to take and study for the TASC.

Another important factor when considering a career in this field is to assess whether you enjoy working with many different people over the course of a day.  Most Medical Assistants work in busy offices where they must serve many different people on a daily basis.  The assistants must be engaging and polite with patients who are often nervous and sometimes in considerable pain.  If a patient is in pain a medical assistant must act in a calm and professional manner.  A medical assistant may see twenty-five (25) patients a day and before choosing this career everyone should ask themselves if they can keep themselves in an upbeat mood for all twenty-five (25) patients that they may see daily.

Another question to ask yourself prior to embarking on this career path is will I be able to earn a satisfactory salary?  According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm) the 2016 median annual earnings of a Medical Assistant was $31,540.  Medical Assistants often go back to school, so they can advance and earn a higher salary in the healthcare field.  Some of the careers Medical Assistants advance into are Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN), Respiratory Therapists, X-Ray Technician and Physicians Assistant.  In the New York City area admission into these programs are competitive so it is important to maintain good grades.  

Being a Medical Assistant is a good profession if you like being on your feet for a good portion of the work day, have earned at least a high school diploma or its equivalency and enjoy engaging and helping a wide variety of people.  While Medical Assistants have earnings limitations, it can be considered a great entry level position in the healthcare field.

Choosing the Right Clinical Medical Assisting School

So you have decided that you want to be a Medical Assistant, now there are several steps that you need to take to be able to find employment as a medical assistant.  Some doctors will hire Medical Assistants who do not have any formal training and they will train their assistants in their office.  These doctors usually want to hire someone who is articulate and upbeat and usually someone with some post-secondary education.  However, most doctors prefer to hire assistants who have had formal training.  Therefore, it may be advantageous to attend a training program.  By attending a training program, you will have general training which will make you more marketable to a wide variety of doctor’ s offices.

There are many training programs in New York City.  Some are certificate programs and others are associate degree granting programs.  Some programs are exclusively administrative programs that do not have any hands on clinical portion.  So, if you want to be a clinical assistant make sure that you do not enroll in an administrative program.  There are many online programs.  An online program cannot adequately train you in the clinical skills to make you an effective assistant.  So, do not enroll in an online program.   

Most clinical Medical Assistant programs have an internship component to the program where the school will place you at a medical office where you can practice the skills you learned in school on the job.  This is a very important component of a training program and you should only attend a program that offers an internship component.   

In selecting a training program to attend it is very important to select a program that is taught at a New York State licensed school.  By selecting a New York State licensed school, you are assured that the curriculum has been reviewed and approved by the state and that the teachers are licensed teachers who meet the New York State teaching requirements in terms of education and occupational work experience.  Upon calling a school this should be the first question you ask.

Another question that should be asked is whether a school is accredited.  School’s that are accredited undergo vigorous reviews from their accrediting agency.  In these reviews a team of experts visits the school and evaluates the effectiveness of the education.  Accrediting agencies have minimum employment and graduation standards that a school must meet.  Therefore, it is advantageous to choose a school that is accredited.  

Since there are many medical assistant training programs in New York City it is very important that you visit more than one program.  I recommend that you visit at least three (3) different programs before making your choice.  The first step to visiting a program is to call the school and book a tour and an informational interview.  During your informational interview you should ask to see the career services people.  If the school does not have any employees specifically dedicated to career services, then you should find another school.  When you meet with the career services personnel you should ask them what their placement rates are and the average starting salaries of graduates.  You should also ask them the reasons why graduates do not find positions in the field of training.  If the school does not have at least an eighty (80) percent placement rate, then you should look for a school that has better placement.

Another thing that you should do on your visit is to ask to sit in on a class.  Sitting in on a class can tell you many things about an institution.  Does the teacher have the attention of the students?  Is the teacher passionate about teaching?  If the answer to both questions is no, then maybe you should not enroll in the school.

Sitting in on a class also affords you the opportunity to meet students who are currently attending the program.  You should also find out if the students are happy attending the program.  You can ask questions such as; Do you feel good about your decision to attend the school? Are the instructors interested in your academic progress? and Is the training equipment sufficiently up to date and kept in good repair?  If you consistently receive negative answers to these questions, then you should not enroll in the school.


You should also visit financial aid to make sure how much the program will cost you and whether you will be required to take out a loan to pay for the cost of the program.  If the school wants you to sign an enrollment agreement prior to visiting financial aid and prior to knowing how you will pay for the program then you should choose another school.


There are many Medical Assistant programs in New York City, so you should spend a considerable amount of time visiting these schools and asking the right questions so that you enroll in a school that will provide you the best opportunity to succeed in the field.