Important Job Skills for Medical Assistants

Smiling female medical assistant.
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Medical assistants work alongside doctors performing a wide variety of tasks, including helping patients, performing minor procedures, and various administrative work.

Medical assistants work mainly in doctors' offices, facilities that handle outpatient procedures (or ambulatory care), and hospitals. While there is some overlap between medical assistants and other medical support staff, medical assistants have a distinct role and skill set.

Preparing for a Job as a Medical Assistant

To become a medical assistant you must complete a training program, but you don't need a license. Most medical assistants have a postsecondary education award, such as a certificate. Others have a high school diploma and learn through on-the-job training.

While your training will prepare you to do your job, understanding the skills you'll need will help you prepare your resume and ​cover letter.

Top Medical Assistant Skills

Different employers may emphasize different skills when hiring staff, so be sure to read all job descriptions carefully. Be ready to provide examples of how you embody each skill because most likely your interviewer will ask you to provide explanations.

Here's a look at the top medical assistant skills you'll need:

Basic Office Skills

These office skills are similar to those done by an administrative assistant in any field. You’ll need telephone courtesy, strong written and verbal communication, and strong customer service skills.

You will have to handle billing and bookkeeping, and you’ll have to troubleshoot computer problems. If you have experience with a particular computer system or software, mention that in your resume. Microsoft Excel and Word skills are commonly needed. You will need writing skills to handle correspondence.

Experience with specific phone systems, PC or Mac computers, and medical records management software may also be required.

Medical Administrative Skills

Medical administrative skills include monitoring inventories of medical supplies and re-ordering as needed, selecting the best suppliers by price and quality. You'll schedule patient appointments, arrange for hospital admissions, work with laboratory services, update patient records after exams and test results, and record medical histories.

You'll also have to handle billing, which involves processing insurance forms, reconciling co-pays, resolving insurance billing problems, and advocating for patients with their insurance companies.

You'll likely need to learn medical practice software and screen sales reps, as well.

Medical Skills

Medical assistants are not doctors or nurses but must provide simple medical and nursing care under the direction of doctors. You'll be asked to administer medications, give injections, apply dressings, draw blood, secure blood and urine samples, remove sutures, perform EKGs, and convey information and relay questions from doctors to patients and vice-versa. You'll prepare treatment rooms for patient examinations.

You'll arrange prescription refills, perform accurate assessments of vital signs, and possess basic life support (BLS) skills, such as CPR. You’ll have to follow infection control and safety guidelines as well as quality control standards when sterilizing and setting up instruments, maintaining medical equipment, and preparing treatment rooms for patient examinations. 

When you apply for a job, be sure to specify your relevant certifications.

Patient Interaction

Medical assistants often work directly with patients. Because of this, you need a whole set of skills related to customer service and what is loosely called “bedside manner.” You will need to explain medical instructions, information, and procedures in a clear, non-technical way and be able to receive, interview (and sometimes triage) patients.

You'll receive patients and prepare them for exams. You’ll also need to remain calm and supportive with distressed or difficult patients. Fluency in a second or third language is helpful. And of course, you’ll have to maintain confidentiality.

When interviewing, be prepared to discuss specific experiences with patients and how you handled them, while maintaining patient confidentiality.

Personal Qualities

Emphasize the personal qualities you possess that make you the best person for the job you're applying for. To be a medical assistant, you have to be detail-oriented, committed to accuracy, empathic, and adaptable. Good interpersonal skills are a must. You must also be able to multitask.

You should be well-organized, capable of prioritizing and problem-solving, and able to collaborate with teammates.

You must be an active listener. Possessing manual dexterity and speaking a foreign language are helping things to mention.

Medical Assistant Skills List

Here's a list of medical assistant skills to use in resumes, cover letters, and job interviews.

A - C

  • Accuracy 
  • Active Listening
  • Adaptability
  • Administering Injections
  • Administering Medications According to Physician Specifications
  • Advocating for Patients with Insurance Companies
  • Answering Telephones
  • Applying Dressings
  • Arranging Prescription Refills
  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Collaboration
  • Completing Patient Records After Exams and Test Results
  • Conveying Information Supplied by Doctors to Patients
  • CPR
  • Customer Service

D - I

  • Detail Orientation
  • Educating Patients Regarding Medication Instructions
  • Empathy
  • Entering Data for Medical Test Results
  • Explaining Medical Information in Understandable Language 
  • Explaining Procedures to Patients
  • Facility with Medical Practice Software
  • Following Infection Control and Safety Guidelines
  • Handling Difficult Personalities
  • Identifying Best Suppliers by Price and Quality
  • Interpersonal
  • Interviewing Patients

J - P

  • Maintaining Confidentiality
  • Maintaining Medical Equipment
  • Maintaining Quality Control Standards
  • Manual Dexterity
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • Monitoring Inventory of Supplies
  • Multitasking
  • Ordering Medical Supplies
  • Organizational
  • Performing Accurate Assessment of Vital Signs
  • Performing EKGs
  • Preparing Patients for Exams
  • Preparing Treatment Rooms for Examinations of Patients
  • Prioritizing
  • Problem Solving
  • Processing Insurance Forms

Q - Z

  • Receiving Patients
  • Recognizing Limitations
  • Reconciling Co-Payments
  • Recording Medical Histories
  • Relaying Patient Questions to Health Professionals
  • Remaining Calm with Distressed Patients
  • Resolving Insurance Billing Problems
  • Scheduling Appointments
  • Screening Sales Reps
  • Securing Blood and Urine Samples 
  • Spanish
  • Sterilizing and Setting Up Instruments
  • Teamwork
  • Triaging Patients
  • Troubleshooting Computer Problems
  • Writing 

Article Sources

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Medical Assistants Do." Accessed Nov. 12, 2020.

  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Medical Assistants. Work Environment." Accessed Nov. 12, 2020.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "How to Become a Medical Assistant." Accessed Nov. 12, 2020.