Interview With Loretta Lyons – Medical Assistant for 5 Years

When it comes to understanding the details of a medical assistant’s job, there’s just no substitute for firsthand experience. The next best thing, though, is an interview with an actual medical assistant, which is what we’ve put together here. Loretta Lyons is a certified medical assistant who works at an independently owned multi-specialty private practice, where she assists with patients ranging from children to the elderly. She’s been working there for almost five years, and she was certified as a medical assistant for three months before she landed this full-time position. Here, in her own words, are the ins and outs of the job.

Loretta, what factors do you think helped in landing your current position?

I think there were two main reasons why I landed this position. For one thing, I did my externship at an assisted living facility for people 55 and older. I worked with three doctors there – one of whom was the director of that facility – and that helped me gain an extraordinary amount of experience, because we were responsible not only for the basic medical assistant duties, but I was also working in the lab, drawing blood, performing EKGs – the whole gamut, really; so I  really had a lot of hands-on training. And that also earned me a lot of support from the other staff members when my current employer called to ask for references.

The second part is that the medical center where I now work was opening up a new concussion clinic, and they were specifically looking for a medical assistant without much experience. So I was fortunate enough to land a position where there wasn’t too much experience required. And from there I was able to show my new employer everything I knew. I went above and beyond and branched out and offered to assist in many other areas. And that???s helped me branch out even more in terms of skills and experience. So I’ve worked in pediatrics, general medicine, the laboratory – I’ve really worked in all areas of the medical assistant field since I’ve been hired here.

How did the interview process go?

Yeah, the interviewers were geared very much toward health and nutrition, since this clinic is part of the wellness group. They were looking for somebody who had some clinical experience, which I had through my externship, so that was really beneficial. They were looking for a people person, so it definitely helped that I have a passion for helping people, and that I was able to make that come across during the interview. So with all those factors, I think I sold both my interviewers on the first round, and I was offered the position just a day or two later.

Why is it so important to be a people person in this career?

You have to be able to set your feelings aside, and not think about tough things that happened the night before. You have to remember to keep your patience and have some level of empathy toward the patients you’re helping, and keep a very positive attitude. So it’s not a job for everybody – some people might prefer to do just the administrative side, and not have a lot of contact with patients; but you really do need to be quick on your feet, and always try to have a positive attitude, because you’re dealing with people who have all kinds of illnesses and wellness concerns. People will come to you and tell you the most private things, so being a people person is definitely a plus in this industry.

What kinds of tasks do you have on a day-to-day basis?

I take a look at what types of appointments are coming in that day, and I make sure the exam rooms are prepared for each one. I take patients back to exam rooms, verify basic information about their health, and prepare them for examination by nurses and doctors. I assist with some basic medical procedures like injections and suturing. I use our office’s health portal to correspond with patients, schedule and follow up on appointments, send necessary forms, and handle other administrative duties. I help keep the exam rooms clean and well-stocked with supplies. I fax and verify prescriptions and refills. And at the end of each day, I help run through a final check and make sure we’re all clean and stocked for the next morning.

Do you enjoy having all those additional responsibilities, or not?

I actually think it’s phenomenal. I feel so blessed that I’ve had opportunities to train and gain experience in so many different areas of medicine – especially since I plan on furthering my career by becoming a registered nurse or even maybe a nurse practitioner at some point. So having all this experience under my belt is great – the more information I can acquire, the better. And it’s made me super marketable, which is another key point. I’ve posted my resume on some of the medical assistant job websites, just to get feedback on where I am in my career, and I always get requests for interviews. So being able to put all this experience on my resume has definitely given me a boost in terms of my marketability as a professional.

Any advice on starting a medical assistant career on the right foot?

You may not get hired out of the gate, but my advice is just to land yourself a position somewhere and start gaining experience. Show your employer that you’re willing to work hard and keep learning, and that’ll be your opening to better positions.

And make sure you’ve got some experience prior to looking for a job. If you want to test the waters before you jump in with both feet, try getting trained as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), which may take as little as six weeks; and get some experience that way. Or just get an externship or internship as you’re completing your medical assistant program.

Most employers require at least some experience, because medical assisting isn?????????????????t just a desk job – there are a lot of legal liability issues that come into it, so the hiring process is treated pretty seriously. I went to school with a lot of people who took quite a while to land a full-time job after graduating, or had to accept really low-level positions; and that was almost always because they didn’t have enough experience. I really wish someone had told me that before I started.

And any advice on finding the right medical assistant education program?

Make sure the program is certified and accredited by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). That’s the main thing you want to make sure of before you even take the time to apply.

Investigate a variety of schools. Get some feedback from other students that’ve gone to the school, look for reviews online, and make sure their reputation in the news is solid. Some of these schools do get in trouble for mismanaging funds and stuff like that, so you need to be careful. And keep in mind that there’s a range of quality and price. I’ve heard of programs that cost $500 for six months, all the way up to $20,000 for higher-quality ones.

The last bit of advice I’d pass on is that some of the medical assisting programs require you to get Continuing Education Units (CEUs), which consist of ongoing training after you graduate. So you go to a career fair, or you sit in on a class about a specific topic within medicine – for example, I’m going to one about concussions – and that keeps your certification current. I think it’s a great requirement, actually, so I???m glad some programs require you to continue your training. So you should still do them, even if your school doesn’t require them.