Posted: 3/5/2018 2:17:09 PM

Never Say These Words to Your Patients

Medical assistants (MAs) are usually the first and last person to see patients when they visit the physician's office. The way MAs communicate with patients can make or break their level of engagement while receiving medical services.

Many factors affect the way medical assistants speak with their patients. They may be tired or, at times, feel emotional. There may be situations where they risk becoming too casual. Sometimes, they have to handle difficult patients. Whatever the case, they are expected to communicate with patients professionally and respectfully.

Here are some things MAs should never say to their patients:

1. False reassurances:

“Everything’s going to be fine.”
“There’s nothing to worry about.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“You’ll be ok soon.”
“Don’t worry.”

False reassurances are words that are meant to give hope or certainty even though the patient’s health condition is still undetermined. Although the main intention is perhaps preventing undue anxiety in a patient, these words eventually damage the patient's trust when the results of diagnostic tests are positive or when treatment fails and the prognosis is poor.

2. Expressions that are suggestive of errors:

“Oh, no!”
“I couldn’t find your lab results.”
“Something is off here.”

When patients come for a consult or treatment, they are usually anxious about their symptoms and complaints. When they are on the examination table or inside the treatment room, hearing these words triggers more anxiety, and even panic. They bring a flood of negative thoughts that send the patient’s trust down the drain. They may either withhold information or refuse treatment. If a mistake indeed happened, keep the patient safe and always refer to institutional policies on how to address medical errors.

3. Use of medical jargon and acronyms:

“Your pupils are equally reactive to light and accommodation.”
“There are ecchymoses near your costovertebral angles.”
“Have you had any more chest pains after your MI?” (myocardial infarction, or heart attack)

You must avoid using medical terms and acronyms when giving explanations to the patient. It confuses the patient, and they may reluctantly agree with you and pretend to understand for fear of being embarrassed.

4. Value judgments:

“You shouldn’t have done that.”
“If you followed doctor’s orders, none of this would have happened.”
“It’s your fault you had a relapse.”
“Why didn’t you come to us sooner?”

Passing value judgments on the patient can stir their feelings of guilt and cause distress. These negative feelings create a formidable wall between the medical assistant and the patient. After these words are spoken, there is a good chance that patients will not come back for their next consultation.

5. Suggestions that a divine being caused their poor health condition:

“God had a purpose when He allowed this to happen.”
“God would not give you more than you can handle.”
“Acknowledge that this is part of God’s plan for your life.”

Patients are unique individuals with their own set of beliefs, and MAs should not impose their belief system on them. These words prevent the patient from being proactive in self-care, as you are suggesting that their health problems are meant to be.

6. Asking patients if they understood what they have just been told:

“Do you understand?”
“Is everything clear?”

When you give instructions or explanations to patients, you naturally will want to know if they got the message right. But asking a closed-ended question at this point can make them nod in agreement even though their comprehension is questionable. Ask them instead to repeat the information you gave them.

7. Understating an anticipated unpleasant patient experience:

“This won’t hurt a bit.”
“It’s just a pinch.”

Pain tolerance is different for everybody, and it is disrespectful to say that a painful procedure will not hurt. This can spark anger or resentment in a person whose pain tolerance is low.

When medical assistants communicate with patients, they should always do so in a professional manner. However stressful the job is, or difficult the patient, medical assistants are expected to watch their words while still prioritizing patient’s needs.

Posted: 2/5/2018 12:48:13 PM

Do This, Do that: How to Deal with Your Coworker’s Unrealistic Expectations

“I am not a robot,” Robert, a medical assistant at a local hospital, angrily mutters to himself after a physician gives him a third task with a specific deadline within the next hour. He has barely started with the first, which will take more than half an hour to accomplish, IF there are no unexpected delays from the laboratory. Yet he finds himself saying “yes” half-heartedly to the third task at hand. Still early in this shift, he already feels overwhelmed and stressed out. Just like every day, Robert thought, as unrealistic expectations from his coworkers seem to worsen day after day. With similar situations happening more often, he is really starting to resent his colleagues.

Robert’s case is not unique. Many medical assistants feel the same way, as short-staffing and transformational changes demand more and more from healthcare workers. Colleagues become over-demanding, making requests with impossible deadlines, interrupting already rushed procedures, and assigning workloads above what any healthcare worker can handle in a day's work. Amidst MAs going the extra mile just to finish essential tasks, leaders tend to increasingly delegate responsibilities to front-liners such as them.

While MAs do their best to meet the demands of the job and their coworkers' expectations, they sometimes still feel inadequate and inefficient. But this thought pattern should not keep you down!

If you are a medical assistant and you have coworkers with unrealistic demands, the tips below should help you get through the day:

1. Be logical and keep calm.

When the going gets tough at work, it is best to keep a level head and calm demeanor. Do not let your emotions get in the way of problem-solving. Remaining logical and keeping a clear head will help you communicate your concerns more effectively to the right people.

2. Be pro-active and communicate.

If you are assigned a task with an impossible deadline, inform the delegator that the request is not feasible and then give a brief description of your current duties and what time you will become available. This will push the delegator to look for someone else who can take on the responsibility. If they are still amenable to your availability then you may accept the assignment. If you have accepted it and you know you will not make the deadline, tell them as early as possible. It is unprofessional to take on the task and say nothing, informing the delegator only at the deadline that you were not able to make it.

3. Learn to differentiate between difficult tasks and unrealistic demands.

Difficult tasks that are well within set goals can be accomplished, but may need lots of collaboration and critical thinking. Unrealistic demands will not be accomplished even with your best efforts, and can greatly compromise patient safety. If there’s a possibility patient safety will be at risk, provide a brief explanation of why this is so.

4. Know if the extra-heavy workload is due to bullying behavior.

Workplace bullies tend to dump huge workloads on their victims to make them look inefficient at work. If you think you are being bullied, refer to your institutional policies on how to handle aggressive behavior in the workplace.

5. Learn organizational skills.

Always have the upper hand at work by developing a system of doing things efficiently and in the least time and effort. Make this a personal challenge and meet your coworkers halfway. For example, place signage around the office so that other staff do not need to constantly interrupt you for frequently-used office items.

Medical assisting is a tough job. When a day becomes overwhelming because of your coworker’s unrealistic demands, be sure to set your boundaries clearly and early.

Posted: 1/8/2018 1:41:17 PM

How to Keep Calm When Dealing with Difficult Patients

Imagine yourself in the following scenario:

As a medical assistant, your to-do list that Monday morning was extraordinarily long and you have mustered all your skills and strength to finish all your tasks on time. For some reason, the second scheduled patient has arrived late. As you’re asking his permission to take his vitals, he starts complaining that the medication for his ulcer has not cured him yet. He refuses to extend his arm for blood pressure measurements, saying, “What’s the use? You can’t make me better anyway!” With that said, he also chooses not to undergo all other examinations and tests that were ordered that day, demanding to see the physician, who is still attending to patient #1. Your frustration builds, because not only did pacifying and convincing him take up too much of your time, all your other tasks were put on hold or delayed because the patient became difficult and was adamantly refusing to cooperate.

Patients do not follow a treatment regimen for a number of reasons. Perhaps they don’t see the results they were expecting, have lost all hope of becoming better, don’t have enough money to cover their medical regimen, or simply aren’t able to come back for a return visit. Whatever the reason, MAs should do their best to help patients adhere to treatment, because they are at risk of having complications or exacerbations of their diseases if they do not follow the recommended interventions.

How big is the problem of non-compliance?

About 11% of hospital admissions and 40% of admissions to nursing homes are because patients did not take their medications as recommended. The cost of non-compliance in patients is estimated at more than $100 billion each year. Worse, 125,000 deaths are recorded each year for the same reason, non-compliance.
MAs are in the position to help the physician in this regard. Here are some helpful tips for dealing with non-compliant patients:

1. Try to understand the reasons why they couldn’t follow the prescribed treatment or medication. Do they have difficulty hearing, understanding, or remembering? Do they have adequate finances? Is the patient having reservations or feeling embarrassed? Knowing the cause will help the physician make adjustments as necessary.

2. For those who do not comply because they are stubborn and persistent in their ways, have an extra dose of patience and vigilance with them. If you found potato chip wrappers in the wastebasket of a patient fasting for blood glucose, then you must tell the physician immediately. For patients who are repeatedly non-compliant, go the extra mile. For example, make sure they do not spit out or throw their medications in the trash.

3. Educate non-compliant patients thoroughly and patiently. Medical assistants should explain the schedule of the patient’s medications multiple times if necessary.

4. Encourage patients to follow treatment procedures as recommended or prescribed by stating how the procedure can possibly help them get better and how non-compliance can be dangerous to their health.

5. Document properly. Follow proper documentation protocols when a patient refuses an examination or a test. Inform the physician immediately if they are unaware of the patient’s non-compliance.

6. If all your efforts to help a patient comply do not work, prepare a non-compliance, informed refusal, or Against Medical Advice form for the physician to fill out.

Adherence to treatment is necessary to save patients’ lives. A medical assistant is the physician’s partner in accomplishing this, and together they must exhaust all possible means to gain their patient’s trust and to ensure their compliance.

Posted: 12/8/2017 12:47:23 PM

What’s In It for You as a Medical Assistant?

If you are reading this article, chances are you are aspiring to be a medical assistant or looking forward to starting your job as one. Whatever your reasons, you are motivated to take this career path. There are many advantages to becoming a medical assistant, and you won’t be disappointed with the endeavor that you have chosen!

Let’s unpack some of the benefits of a career as a medical assistant:

1. The job outlook for MAs is excellent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more medical assistants are needed for the future. The projected growth of employment until 2026 is 29%, much faster than the average for all occupations. This increase in demand for MAs is due to the large number of incoming retirees in the baby boom population, who will all need medical services.

What’s in it for you as an MA? It means job security and more career opportunities for years to come.

2. There are many options for workplace settings and schedules.

If you choose to be a clinical MA, you will get to do more tasks that support physicians in caring for patients. On the other hand, as an administrative MA, your job is mostly clerical, with duties like organizing client files, answering phones, and scheduling appointments. If you value a 9-to-5 work schedule, working in a clinic usually means you will have weekends off. If you are up for more of a challenge, a hospital position may suit you better.

What’s in it for you as an MA? Work options are numerous. Think of any setting where physicians are needed, medical assistants can work there, too.

3. Learning is continuous.

You will never run out of things to learn. In fact, learning new things is encouraged. It may be a new set of skills, such as CPR, EKG, and phlebotomy. Continuing education is actually required before recertification, so your knowledge and skills keep growing year by year.

What’s in it for you as an MA? You become more knowledgeable and skilled with every year you stay on the job, guaranteed.

4. There are many opportunities for advancement.

An MA's career ladder is promising. To take your practice to the next level, you have the option to pursue a nursing baccalaureate degree or specialize in billing and coding. Alternatively, you can become an expert in healthcare administration by taking the Allied Health Management course. You may also take continuing education courses and training for advanced medical assisting that focus on the following areas:

a. Compliance
b. Risk management and safety procedures
c. Supervisory functions
d. Computer information systems
e. Leadership skills in the workplace
f. Advanced patient care
g. Financial management
h. Development and implementation of marketing, communication, and education plans

What's in it for you as an MA? There is no stagnation. There is always room for growth.

5. You will enhance your people skills.

Interacting regularly with the physicians that you work closely with, various patients with their own approach to their illness, patients’ families, insurance personnel, social workers, and people making inquiries over the phone will help you hone your people skills. You will learn how to communicate better, do active listening, and be part of a team. You will also learn the value of trust, empathy, patience, and respect so that you find yourself appreciating more what you do.

What's in it for you as an MA? You become an expert at what you do and, at the same time, you will come to appreciate the importance of working together to achieve goals.

6. You will grow as a person.

Working as a medical assistant will expose you to the realities of life and death. You will appreciate the fact that people age, get better, get sick, or die. In medical care, there are only three outcomes: success, failure, or uncertainty. You will realize how a simple decision can seriously impact someone's life. Because of this, the lessons a medical assistant learns from their job can help them become a better person.

What's in it for you as an MA? Every day you become a better person than you were the day before.
As a medical assistant, you will have a bright future in your chosen career. Often, it is just a matter of choosing which specific path will be more comfortable and rewarding for you. In the end, these benefits of a career as an MA can guide you to becoming the best person that you can be.

Posted: 11/13/2017 10:27:15 AM

A Day in the Life of a Medical Assistant

Ask any seasoned medical assistant what they do in a day’s work, and they could respond with a long list of all the nitty-gritty details regarding their role and responsibilities, which are many! But a medical assistant's duty can be summed up in only a few words - It is basically making a physician's life a lot easier while keeping patients safe and properly monitored.

If you are looking into working as a medical assistant, or are a newbie student wanting a peek into your future career, here's a summary of the everyday tasks an MA is responsible for performing:

Medical assistants have two main responsibilities: carry out clinical tasks and perform administrative duties.

As a clinical MA, you will get to perform non-invasive procedures such as obtaining an ECG. You will also examine patients and perform more complex tasks under the doctor's supervision. As patients come in, you will take their patient history and measure vital signs, height, and weight. If a client is due for an examination by the physician, you’ll have to inform the patient in advance about the procedure and prep them so that the physician and patient can experience a hassle-free procedure.

Medical assistants also prepare medications and administer them, but only after a direct order from the physician. They also inject vaccines, draw blood and perform fingersticks, and collect some specimens. They can change wound dressings or remove sutures. If you are an MA in a hospital, you may spend hours in a laboratory, testing a client's blood, urine, or stool.

Spoiler alert: As an MA you will be doing a lot of patient education! So keep those concepts from school fresh in your mind!

If, on the other hand, you work as an administrative medical assistant, it will be mostly office work for you. Your interaction with patients and their families is mostly about scheduling, form submissions, and answering general questions. Queries also come by telephone, so expect to pick up a few calls during the day.

Administrative MAs do a lot of scheduling and appointment-setting. This task involves reminding patients of their next follow-up visit and updating their calendar with other important reminders.

Since most patients have insurance, an MA is often tasked with assisting patients in experiencing a smooth process while navigating available health services. MAs assist patients in filling out insurance forms and verifying information. Administrative medical assistants also need to enter patient data electronically and keep all the files systematically.

In hospitals, MAs will do more clinical tasks than administrative duties, since their patients are ill and receiving acute care or services that necessitate hospital admission. However, physician assistants who work in clinics will have a balance of both worlds, more or less. Technically, they assist patients who come in for consultation. They also do scheduling, data entry, and health teaching.

Some medical assistants work in the ambulatory setting and accompany the rescue team to emergency situations. They fill out patient forms and collect laboratory specimens, which they test on site. Of course, if you choose this type of work, you will frequently be on the go. But if rescuing people on the road gets you inspired, then this work is for you!

Perhaps the main point of a medical assistant’s role and responsibilities is to enable physicians to spend their time diagnosing and treating patients. As an MA, you will partner with the physician by taking some burdens off their shoulders so they can improve the patient’s health, or even save their life. So maintain a bond between your physician and yourself as their assistant. This will be your ticket to a more rewarding career!

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