How to Collaborate With the Physician: 7 Tips for New Medical Assistants
Many students entering the medical field find that becoming a medical assistant is the perfect career track for them. Medical assistants are in high demand, and students can often begin work as soon as they complete their educational requirements. The field offers plenty of options for specialization, too. But once you complete your medical assistant program and land your very first job after school, what are the best ways to collaborate with the physicians you’ll be working under?
Some new medical assistants want to hone their collaborative skills but are unsure of how to do so while making a great impression on their new colleagues. If you’re a new medical assistant on the job — or are about to become one soon — here are seven things to consider that will help you gain stellar collaboration skills that will make your physician extra grateful to have you by their side.
1. Remember the physician is a person, just like you.
Working with a physician for the first time can be intimidating to some new medical assistants. Physicians’ authority and experience can make them seem like the end-all point of knowledge in the workplace, but it’s important to remember that the physician you work with is a person with thoughts and feelings, just like you. Make an effort to get to know them outside of work-related communications.
You can do this and still maintain a very professional demeanor in your job — just ask a few questions about their hobbies, where they studied, or other interests. Before you know it, you’ll have found a common topic to help you build a friendly sense of camaraderie. This can do wonders in medical assisting, just like it does in any other field, because professional collaboration is always stronger when there’s a foundation of goodwill and friendliness to support it. It may make you nervous to break the ice the first time, but you will most likely find that reaching out to find common ground is well worth the nerves.
2. Practice active listening.
Between patients, physicians, and other colleagues, it can be too easy to tune out the constant stream of information arriving from all directions throughout your day as a new medical assistant. But despite the volume of communication coming your way, you’ll quickly learn to tackle all of it with ease and grace if you make a conscious effort to listen actively. What does active listening entail? Like a lot of other communication styles with their own origins and taxonomy, it’s just a practice to get the most from communication.
To be an active listener, check in with yourself when gathering information from doctors and patients to make sure you’re not distracted by thoughts about your next meal, your personal life, that parking ticket on your desk at home, or any other scenario unrelated to the present moment. One way to become an extra-skilled active listener is to repeat back what you hear to the person speaking. While it may sound robotic, it’s actually a great way to make people feel that they’ve been heard and understood. Rather than using their words exactly, you can repeat back the gist of what someone says in your own words. There are plenty of ways to become a better listener, and medical assistants become better collaborators the more they improve this skill.
Related Resource: The Greatest Benefits of Becoming a Medical Assistant
3. Set the physician up for success at every visit.
One of your main tasks as a medical assistant will be managing the beginning and end of patient visits. This means you will need to take measurements and vitals, gather information from patients, explain medications and other treatments that patients will administer themselves, and handle other tasks that make up the practices of wellness that patients seek medical care for. Your physician will be grateful to arrive into the room with the patient if you do your part to gather all the necessary information and record it in a clear, concise, and timely manner.
When you fill the physician in on the symptoms the patient is experiencing, try to imagine what you would want to know from their perspective. Put an effort toward giving the physician just the right amount of detail — not too much and not too little. And of course it goes without saying that taking accurate measurements and recording them properly is central to your success as a medical assistant. Making sure to set the physician up for success will improve your collaborative relationship and ultimately put the health of your patients at the best possible odds as well.
4. Speak up confidently when you see an error.
Wherever you choose to work as a medical assistant, minding the details is one way in which you can make a real impact. Just because the physician you’ll be working with has tons of professional experience doesn’t mean that they will have 100 percent accuracy as far as prescriptions, charting, and other documentation goes. Don’t be afraid to mention something if you see it being overlooked. It might take a bit of courage, but it’s worth it to know you’re acting in your patient’s best interest.
Related Resource: The Most (and Least) Expected Places to Work As a Medical Assistant
5. Know when to jump in and when to step back.
Emergency situations call for quick thinking — and quick action. If a patient’s vitals change suddenly, you should use your skills and expertise to intervene whether you’re alone with the patient or collaborating during an exam or procedure.
Likewise, there are times when the best thing to do is to play a supporting role and give the physician room to respond to the situation at hand. All you need to do is act calmly and decisively while communicating with your physician on the best course of action.
6. Be self-sufficient.
Sometimes the strongest collaborators are those who know how to find answers to their own questions. You’ll be in regular communication with physicians as a medical assistant, but sometimes it’ll be a boon to their workday for you to exhaust other sources before bringing them in to help solve a problem.
The trick is discerning between which specific situations require the physician’s attention and which don’t. This distinction might take a little time, but being proactive and self-sufficient will make you a huge asset to any medical team; it’s a great way to collaborate by holding your time management and prioritization to a strong standard.
Related Resource: Why Your Demeanor Matters As a Medical Assistant
7. Be a keeper of morale.
Hands down, medical assistants are busy people. So are physicians. Fast-paced schedules and patients in pain can lead to stressed-out medical assistants. But you can make a wonderful difference by fostering a positive atmosphere with the physician you work with. Communication flows better when both parties can focus on the sunnier side of the situation while staying down to earth about what’s needed in each moment.