Medical secretaries are health care facility staff who perform administrative and support functions so that other medical staff do not have to. Unlike secretaries in other fields, medical secretaries must understand medical terminology and be familiar with both treatment procedures and business.
Medical secretaries sometimes serve as receptionists at hospitals, clinics, and medical offices. They also complete forms, write reports, and organize data. Specific duties vary based on the needs of the facility. Some work directly for a doctor, while others belong to a team of secretaries and report to a department head. Medical secretaries may speak to patients more often and at greater length than doctors do, and thus form a vital link in the communication system of the facility.
Educational Requirements to be a Medical Secretary
There is no legally required certification to be a medical secretary, and some facilities will hire high school graduates and provide all necessary training on the job. Others prefer candidates who have completed an optional certification program. These programs include a mix of medical information, administrative skills, and business communication. Prior relevant professional experience is always a plus.
You can keep working as a medical secretary your whole professional life, if you want. There is room to move up, since some larger medical records departments need supervisors. Alternatively, you can move on to do similar work in other fields. The skills you develop in your time as a medical secretary—from administration and customer service to basic medical knowledge—can put you in good stead in any number of other fields.
How to Use Skills Lists
You can write your cover letter and resume in a way that highlights the skills your prospective employer wants. Hiring supervisors can vary in their priorities even within the same field, so remember to always read over the job description carefully, but you can use the following discussion to get a general idea of what to expect.
Check out our compilations of skills listed by job and types of skill, too. While preparing for your interview, plan to give examples of times you have embodied the various skills your prospective employer wants. Your interviewer is likely to ask, and you’ll want to have an answer ready.
Top Medical Secretary Skills
The following is not exhaustive list, but it does introduce the four major categories of skills you’ll need as a medical secretary. A more detailed list depends on the specific needs of the facility where you work. Some skills might even change their importance over time, especially those related to data management and voicemail systems.
Medical secretaries need good verbal communication skills because they often serve as a link between patients and medical staff. Not only must they often be the first and the last person at the facility the patient talks to (making a friendly helpful attitude especially important), but the secretary might hear some important detail that the patient doesn’t think to repeat for the doctor. It is the secretary’s responsibility to recognize the importance of this information and pass it on.
Medical secretaries use various programs for word processing and data management and may also be responsible for constructing databases and spreadsheets or recommending the use of new programs. Some basic computer skills will more than come in handy.
Basic Medical Knowledge
Medical secretaries are not doctors or nurses, but do need a working familiarity with medical terminology, human anatomy, and basic physiology. Everything from correct spelling to accurate communication to proper data management depends on the secretary understanding what the doctor is talking about.
Attention to Detail
Detail matters in medicine, and therefore matters a great detail in medical records and communication. The secretary needs to be conscientious about completing all assignments accurately and on time. Numbers and long, technical phrases need to be right, or someone could get hurt. The secretary also needs to be able to notice and address any mistakes or inconsistencies that may appear in the record. Doing it right could save a life.
List of Medical Secretary Skills
A - E
- Advocating for Patients with Insurers
- Answering Questions within Limits of Knowledge
- Billing Patients
- Calmly Handling Interactions with Challenging Staff Personalities
- Creating Caring Atmosphere for Patients
- Customer Service
- Data Input
- Detail Orientation
- Editing Documents
- EPIC Electronic Health Record Software
F - O
- Familiarity with Government Health Insurance Programs
- GE Centricity Practice Solution
- Greeting Visitors Warmly
- Handling Criticism
- IDX Software
- Interacting Effectively with Diverse Patient Population
- Medical Coding for Billing Purposes
- Medical Terminology
- Microsoft Access
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft Word
- Monitoring Inventory of Supplies
- Negotiating with Vendors
- Ordering Supplies
P - R
- Patient Relations
- Positive Attitude
- Preparing and Maintaining Patient Charts
- Preserving Patient Confidentiality
- Processing Medical Records
- Processing Payments
- Recording Meeting Minutes
- Relaying Patient Questions to Medical Staff
- Remaining Calm with Stressed Clientele
- Remembering Medical Terminology
- Resolving Problems with Insurance Claims
- Retrieving Records from Other Offices
S - Z
- Scanning and Filing Documents
- Scheduling Appointments
- Screening Salespeople
- Securing Authorization for Procedures from Insurance Companies
- Taking Messages Accurately
- Telephone Communication
- Time Management
- Transcribing Physician Orders
- Triaging Requests for Care
- Typing Correspondence
- Typing Dictation from Physicians
- Verbal Communication
- Written Communication