That’s not in my job description! Have you ever thought or uttered those words when your supervisor assigned you a project or task you weren’t expecting? You’re not alone!
For every job, there is a corresponding job description — a comprehensive list of the day-to-day duties you would be expected to perform in the role. But no job description can completely capture what any given career is like. As you probably know from your own experience, most jobs also have unexpected or unofficial duties attached to them — parts of the role that might surprise you.
The medical administrative job description is no exception, so we are here to help demystify the role as you consider your career path. You can probably guess that these professionals perform administrative or clerical tasks in hospitals or clinics, often at the front desk in the context of a customer-facing role. But what are some of the more elusive aspects of this career?
We spoke with Dr. Jeremy Barthels, Medical Administrative Assistant department chair at Rasmussen College, to gain some important insight into the job description. Read on to learn what he had to say!
5 lesser-known medical administrative assistant duties
1. Problem solving and critical thinking
Like most administrative assistants, medical admins work with a high level of detail in a fast-paced environment. This means you may need to independently improvise with your problem solving skills with little notice. “One cannot train or practice for every scenario,” Barthels explains. “Critical thinking skills are at the forefront of every job, especially within the medical administrative assistant profession.”
2. Dealing with a diverse population of patients
Medical administrative assistants are customer-facing, meaning they work directly with patients on a daily basis. According to Barthels, though working with people is definitely rewarding, this level of patient interaction can also quickly become challenging.
“Patients are extremely diverse in age, ethnicity, religious background, overall needs and mobility, accommodations and insurance coverage,” he says. “Because of this diversity, it’s impossible to train and prepare for every single patient scenario. Critical thinking skills are vital in this aspect, too, and will be used on a daily basis to overcome challenges and resolve issues.”
3. Setting a positive tone in the hospital or clinic
Personality and demeanor matter in every job, but especially in a highly customer- or patient-facing role like working as a medical administrative assistant. Though this aspect of the job may seem obvious, Dr. Barthels says it can often be overlooked.
Think of it this way: As the first and last point of contact for a patient — whether on the phone or in the clinic or hospital — medical admin assistants play a large role in determining the overall feel of the office. “Being cheerful and respectful to a patient can really set the tone for the patient’s visit and office experience,” Barthels says.
4. Ensuring quality control
Though their roles differ from the roles of the health care practitioners they work with, medical administrative assistants share one large responsibility with them: quality control. While interacting with patients, insurance providers and medical professionals, it is crucial for medical admins to maintain a high level of confidentiality and professionalism, all the while providing a positive experience for everyone involved.
According to Barthels, “Medical administrative assistants should always be on the lookout and are responsible for identifying errors within patient care, billing, scheduling and services. Being part of this process relates back to critical thinking skills and is something medical administrative assistants should always be looking for.”
5. Observing and asking questions
Continued learning and adaptability are important aspects of career success in any field, especially in a high-pressure environment like a medical office. As you pursue an education in medical administration, you will receive training to work in a variety of settings, and your work will likely vary from one environment to another based on the size, location and specialty of the healthcare facility where you work.
What’s Barthels’ best advice for aspiring medical administrative assistants, and those already working in the field? Always be observant and curious, and keep learning. Every setting has its own procedures and protocol, so try to recognize how they differ from one organization to another, even if you are just visiting the chiropractor or your family doctor.
Ready to take the next step?
As you can see, there’s more to working as a medical administrative assistant than meets the eye — including things the typical job descriptions don’t cover. If you can envision yourself fulfilling the more nuanced duties of the job listed above, then it might be time to take the next step toward your future career!
No matter where you are in your education or career journey, we have the resources you need to be successful in your pursuit. If you want to learn more about the day-to-day duties of a medical administrative assistant, be sure to check out our article: What Does a Medical Administrative Assistant Do?