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    By Jennifer Claire, BS, MSHS, MPH, CAHI, Full-Time Professor of Health Sciences

    One of my most treasured accomplishments in life is that of a medical professional. Today, I also have the honor of taking more than 20 years of experience in the field and sharing that with hundreds of students daily in the classroom where I teach medical assisting and administrative medical assisting. These future medical professionals often ask me if I will give them “real-life” or real-word examples, and I am always more than happy to provide any knowledge and experience I can. At the end of the day, reading a brochure on what you think you might be doing in the field is a far different cry than hearing it firsthand! This is up front, close, and personal—the real deal.

    When anyone asks me what a medical professional does during a typical day, a thousand things come to my mind! Perhaps though, the first and most important thing a true medical professional needs to do is leave all the personal aspect of one’s life at the door. The minute you walk through the door of a medical office or any type of medical facility as a professional, you put yourself aside for a number of hours. You commit your mind and attention on the patients and their needs. They are counting on us to be trained, skilled, knowledgeable, kind, compassionate, and alert. This is neither a profession for the faint of heart nor for the selfish.

    Medical professionals can hold a number of job titles, such as:

    • medical doctors 
    • nurse practitioners 
    • physician assistants 
    • nurses 
    • certified nursing assistants 
    • medical assistants 
    • medical billers 
    • medical office managers   

    Medical Assistants—What Do They Do? 

    I want to focus this article on medical assistants and medical managers, as this is my passion and what I love to teach. Medical assistants may perform a variety of tasks, including:  

    • check in patients for appointments  
    • call patients, make notes in patient charts 
    • call in prescriptions 
    • assist doctors with exams 
    • draw blood 
    • administer injections 
    • calculate medicine doses, sterilize medical instruments 
    • perform laboratory tests, fill out lab slips, prepare biopsies 
    • and the list goes on! 

    Each office and facility always has their own unique twist on how they prefer duties to be completed; however, the basics are always the same. I can still recall the day my mom took me to the doctor when I was around 11 years old. I watched the “lady” coming and calling patients and she seemed so nice. Even as a child, I was impressed that this “lady” was nice because I just knew it helped the sick people feel better. When the “lady” came to get me to see the doctor I took her by the hand and asked her how I could do what she does? She told me she was a medical assistant and said that I could do what she does when I grew up. I explained how her being nice to all of the sick patients was very nice, and she told me that being nice and caring for people was the most important part of being a medical assistant. Clearly, that never left my heart and mind, and it shouldn’t leave yours if you choose this profession.

    Work Environment: Front Office Versus Back Office 

    There are many medical facilities who hire assistants and managers who know how to perform both clinical and administrative skills. This is referred to as “back office and front office.”  Back office means you are working in the clinical aspect or portion of the facility, while front office refers to working on administrative tasks without the clinical duties.

    Working in the front office is just as important as working in the back office. One takes care of the patient’s physical concerns, while the other focuses on the patients emotional and financial concerns. If anyone tries to tell you that the front office and financial aspect of dealing with a patient is not as important as the physical needs, tell them to deal with a patient who is upset over an incorrect bill! Front office professionals have the important charge of greeting a patient kindly and respectfully within seconds. This first contact with a patient comes from the front desk via phone call or face to face and will make or break the relationship with a patient.

    The administrative medical professional has to be able to:

    • assist people, hear their concerns, and be precisely accurate 
    • create patient appointments, work in computerized health record and practice management systems 
    • code and bill patient visits for reimbursement 
    • document financial transactions, collect payments 
    • type, file, answer phones, order supplies, organize and clean 
    • assist with banking and accounting procedures  

    People may assume the back and front office duties are completely different but truly, we cannot have success without both.

    My Path to the Medical Profession 

    While the desire to be a medical professional began when I was young, it evolved as I entered my 20s. I was 21 years of age, married to my high school sweetheart, 3 months pregnant, when my husband filed for divorce. I was devastated but also in dire need of making sure I could support myself and a child. I had already completed the medical assisting and certified nursing courses, but knew I needed more. My obstetrician made sure that her office staff charged me a lower than normal fee, and never gave me a rough time about my bill due to my life circumstance. This made me realize the significance of how small acts of kindness could help a patient’s entire life. I enrolled in the nearest administrative medical course and graduated at 40 weeks pregnant with preeclampsia, high blood pressure, and hands so swollen I could barely type!

    Medical professionals usually enter this field for a specific reason, and I have told you my reasons. Today, after 20 years working in the field, I am honored to teach these courses at Kaplan University and, in some way, I get to give back some of the grace that was bestowed upon me some 20 years ago. Yes, my students all get to hear the stories of my time in the field, and when they get discouraged or overwhelmed by life, I remind them of the greater good and all of the people they have yet to encounter and help. I’ve never had a student give up on their education or goals of becoming a medical professional. Perhaps they are dedicated, and most likely like me, just have a heart to help others. I have never once regretted being a medical professional, and should you choose this path, I doubt you will regret it either!  

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  • Jennifer Claire is a full-time professor at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.

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