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A Day in the Life of a Medical Assistant

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A Day in the Life of a Medical Assistant

Jun 01, 2016

Considering a career as a medical assistant and want a better idea what the day-to-day responsibilities look like? Christine Edwards has done it for seven years and we asked her to take us though a typical day. She talks about what she does, her responsibilities, what she likes about her job and why she loves working at University of Utah Health Care.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: A day in the life of a medical assistant, we'll talk about that next on The Scope.

Announcer: focus on careers in healthcare.

Interviewer: If you're considering a career as a medical assistant, you want to know what the job is, what's it like. And the best way to find that out is to talk to somebody who's actually doing it right now. And lucky for you, we have that person right here. Christine Edwards is a medical assistant at the University of Utah Health Care. So take me through a typical day. Just pretend I was making a documentary about your typical day. What things would I see you doing?

Christine: Well, I get there a little early. I open the rooms. I'll set up the rooms, kind of review my schedule, see who's coming, what we might have on the schedule, what a patient might need. I try to anticipate that in advance. I'll meet with my provider, first off, and see if there's anything special that they want. Sometimes they'll say, "I want certain equipment," or, "I want to do this minor procedure," or, "this patient needs an immunization." It just kind of helps make us more efficient. I'll make little notes on the schedule.

Then, I'll set up the rooms with the equipment that the provider wants. I'll get my stickers ready. And I like to do what we call anticipate the patient. I like to be at the front desk so when they walk in the front door, they're usually wowed. I like to greet them. Sometimes, if the front desk registration person is busy, I'll take them over to one of our kiosks and help them get registered.

Interviewer: Who else do you work with during the day? You talk about how you collaborate with the physician. It sounds like you work very closely with physicians.

Christine: Yes, I do. And I work with other MAs. We usually have two MAs per provider. It depends on staffing and how many people are available. Right now, there are a lot of positions available at the U for MAs. It's hard to find people, even entry-level people. But sometimes I prefer the entry-level people because you can teach them the way you'd like to have them do the skills.

Interviewer: Do you give IVs? Do you have to draw blood? I'm thinking about somebody considering a career as a medical assistant, things that they might wonder about the job specifically. Do you get any kind of common questions?

Christine: Yeah, I get a lot of questions. I draw a lot of blood.

Interviewer: Is that pretty standard for a medical assistant?

Christine: It's pretty standard. You usually expect it.

Interviewer: Is it easier than I would think it might be? Because I mean, that sounds pretty terrifying to me.

Christine: I'm the one that they call for the test sticks. I think it's just something that takes a lot of practice. It's not for everybody. If you pass out at the sight of blood, you should not be a medical assistant.

Interviewer: Okay.

Christine: I do start IVs. A brand new MA would not come in doing that. I have kind of the background of an advanced EMT. So I have some skills that a new MA would not have. But those are skills that you can learn, and the U puts you with a preceptor so after you have two witnessed successful starts, usually they'll let you do some IV starts. It's not really, really common in some departments. Like dermatology, you wouldn't do a lot of IVs.

Interviewer: Sure, just because you wouldn't need to.

Christine: Right. So it just depends on the practice that you're in.

Interviewer: Is part of your job keeping track like taking notes or doing any of that sort of thing?

Christine: Yes, I go in and verify the patient's chart. I'll go over medications, allergies, past medical family history, surgical history, things like that. Sometimes when we go in, I'll go in and scribe for the doctor and make notes as they do their exam. It just helps them to be a little more efficient. It helps them to remember what happened in the room so they can complete the chart, get it signed. Sometimes they'll have me order things like a blood test or a refill medication. So I'll do that and I'll pend it in the chart that way the physician can go back and review it because sometimes they'll go from patient to patient and don't have time between patients. It just helps jog their memory, help them, get everything down in the chart, make sure it's accurate, and helps make them more efficient in charting.

Interviewer: Is it generally a medical assistant that when I go into visit my doctor will then weigh me and take my height and take my blood pressure and do those sorts of things?

Christine: Yes, we start the visit off with a set of vitals: weight, height, temperature, all of that.

Interviewer: What is it that you like about working at University of Utah Health Care as a medical assistant?

Christine: There is a culture here at the U that is really amazing. I work with some really talented, smart people. They're really fun. It's kind of like they're your extended family and you spend a lot of time with them so you want to work with people that are like that. We're always supporting each other.

The U is really good at recognizing people's accomplishments and just supporting goals. They encourage people to pursue their education and to add to their skill sets, which I think is great. I get half off tuition and I'm just finishing up my degree so it's a great benefit. HR is awesome. U has amazing benefits. We do activities with each other in clinics. Up at the Redstone Clinic, we have a softball team. I just finished a teddy-bear clinic at Farmington. It was just really fun to see the kids and have a really great time. So it's fun to do the community stuff too.

Interviewer: Tell me is it generally an eight-hour workday? Longer, shorter?

Christine: Some departments. Others do 10-hour shifts. I know a lot of people that will do four 10s a week. But some people are working moms or they're going to school so there are a lot of different shifts available. You can do part-time or, 10 to 12-hour shifts.

Interviewer: Yeah. And you get to work at different clinics as well. Is that pretty standard?

Christine: Not always.

Interviewer: Okay.

Christine: I'm kind of fortunate to do that because I get to work with a lot of different people. I know a lot of different people in the clinics, which is really neat because anywhere I go in the U system, I know somebody.

Interviewer: Sure. How do you usually wrap up your day? You talked about your beginning and your middle. What's the end of the day look like?

Christine: I go through . . . I'm OCD. I clean the rooms. I am constantly washing my hands, but I wipe every surface down. I like to have the room stocked for the next day for the provider. I don't like them to be looking for anything. It is so embarrassing to me if the provider has to step out of the room for something. I want to make sure they have everything that they need. I work really hard to manage at my provider's because I work with some really amazing people and I want them to look as good as possible because it's a reflection on me and a reflection, ultimately, on the U and the health care that we deliver here. And the U's awesome.

Interviewer: So you wrap up your day by making sure the rooms are nice and clean, they're stocked, ready to go. And then are you on call at any point or once you leave your job, are you done until the next day?

Christine: When I leave my job as a medical assistant, I'm done until the next day.

Interviewer: Yeah, and I can tell you like that.

Christine: Oh, I love it, yeah. You have to make time for you.

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