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The Diary of a Medical Assistant


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The Diary of a Medical Assistant

This week is Medical Assistant Recognition week and my thoughts are directed back to when I was a new medical assistant graduate and what valuable experience I might like to share with new MA graduates – or those considering a career as a medical assistant. I thought about all the really cool cases I have seen, all the amazing doctors I have worked with, and all of the technical skills and neat equipment. None of these seemed to do the trick. What I have decided to share is an early personal revelation and one that affirms for me that I made the right choice for my career.

If you have ever seen an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or its ilk, you see anxious young surgeons eager to get involved with every extreme or unusual case that comes in the door. They want to learn all that they can and have as many and varied experiences as possible. The hope is that all this exposure will eventually make them better doctors. When entering the field of medical assisting the tendency is the same. Medical assistant extern students and new graduates want to get involved in all the crazy, gruesome, messy cases in order become the best medical assistant they can be. I was no exception.

As a new medical assistant, I found working in urgent care to be very exciting. There was no telling what kind of wonderful mayhem was going to walk through the doors and they were coming straight to my doc and me. I witnessed all kinds of amazing insults to the human body and we fixed them or sent them to be fixed. We took care of crazy injuries like little Susie’s ripped open armpit, and old man Dexter’s gangrenous diabetic feet. We even responded to the occasional crash code. It was wonderful!

There were also days that were regularly scheduled appointments and the usual drill of sport physicals, sore throats, runny noses, and pap smears. It was on one of these scheduled days that I happened to make an off handed remark to my physician that maybe I didn’t find this work as exciting or as important as our urgent care days. I will always remember his words to me: “A sore throat and runny nose might not seem like much, but to this patient, at this time, it is the most important thing. Because it is the most important thing to them, it is also the most important thing to us right now. That is our job.” I will be forever grateful to my doc for this. It has made all the difference to me in my career and in my life. I learned to see things from a different point of view that was not all about my experience, and me but about how I fit into the experience of others. I began to view clients differently, not as cases with things to fix, but as people with concerns and I had the ability to change their experience. I found this intriguing and powerful, and it was through this idea that I learned the true meaning and practice of empathy, compassion, and service. Our clients rely on us to guide them through the scary uncertainty of a trauma, an illness, accessing resources, and making them work.

At the end of the day, it was not the site of little Susie’s internal axilla, or the smell of old man Wilton’s gangrene, or even the adrenaline rush from the crash code that had impressed me. What turned out to be most important, and what filled me up, was performing my small task during the crash code with efficiency, for the benefit of the client. It was holding little Susie’s hand while the surgeon patched her up, reassuring her that she was safe and at least for today, she would be ok. It was the realization that the elderly need us every day in small ways that are not always recognized, and that we can make a difference. Our interactions with each other are what make our careers and our lives worthwhile. As a medical assistant, at the end of the day, I am filled up intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. My cup runneth over!

Happy Medical Assistant Recognition week, ATCers. #ATCpride

– Carrie, Medical Assisting Program Director – Draper campus