Working in health care can be challenging both physically and emotionally. Medical assistants perform a variety of duties, from scheduling patients to assisting with minor surgery. Working as a medical assistant can be rewarding and satisfying. However, taking care of ill and injured patients and the multiple responsibilities of the profession may lead to times of stress as well.
Problems in the Office
Many medical assistants work in ambulatory care settings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ambulatory care includes medical practices like family practice and specialties such as obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics and cardiology. Routinely a physician keeps a daily schedule of patients along with additional time allotted each day for patients who come to the clinic without an appointment for an urgent visit. Working as a medical assistant in a busy practice with a full schedule can be very stressful at times.
Unforeseen scheduling problems in ambulatory care are not uncommon; an unexpected physician absence, a patient taking longer to see the physician than expected or a medical emergency may all disrupt a carefully planned daily schedule. Patients may become upset at having to wait longer to see the physician as a result.
Your workday may be very fast-paced with many things to do all at the same time. If you’re handling both clinical duties like rooming patients and taking vital signs, as well as clerical duties like answering phones and patient scheduling, it’s likely you’ll have high-stress days.
No matter what medical specialty you work in, you may need to assist a patient experiencing a medical emergency.
- As a medical assistant, you’ve been trained to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and basic first aid. Despite this training, it can be stressful to have to perform emergency procedures on a patient.
- Heart attack and stroke are leading causes of death in the United States according to the American Heart Association. The prevalence of heart disease makes it possible that you will need to administer emergency care to a patient at some time in your medical assisting career.
- At any time, you may have a severely ill or injured patient arrive at your practice. Dealing with these urgent situations and the heightened emotions involved in emergency patient care can take an emotional toll.
Medical assistants and other health care professionals who are involved in stressful patient care incidents may seek immediate counseling from a trained professional for help in dealing with the situation, if needed. Critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) counseling should be available to you through your employer; ask your supervisor for information on this if you ever need to de-stress from a patient care emergency.
Dealing with Patients
As a medical assistant, you will encounter all manners of personalities when working in a healthcare setting. Dealing with patients may be challenging at times.
- Some patients may be demanding, rude or hard to please. Your patients may have many reasons for exhibiting unpleasant behavior; an unexpected and unwelcome medical diagnosis, having to wait unexpectedly to see a physician, being ill or in pain or financial difficulties in paying for medical services. Dealing with unpleasant personalities can add a layer of stress to your day. Keeping calm and trying your best to help your patient with a solution, if possible, may help ease emotions.
- You’re likely to become very familiar with some of your patients. You may see the same patient several times per week or month for treatment or appointments. If you’re a clinical medical assistant with an active role in your patient’s care, you may take a personal interest in their well-being and treatment. It may be difficult to care for patients whom you’ve become close to, who are experiencing chronic or fatal medical conditions. The emotional human connection healthcare professionals often feel for their patients may be a source of mental stress over time.
Symptoms of stress can vary from person to person; however, may include a change in appetite, difficulty sleeping, quick anger or change in temperament. Occasional workplace stress is to be expected. However, if you find that you’re consistently feeling tense, anxious, worried or on edge or other symptoms of stress, you may be on stress overload. Medical assistants are trained to take care of other people, yet need to take care of themselves too. Be open and communicative with your employer as soon as you recognize symptoms of workplace stress. Ask for help in finding solutions to make your job as a medical assistant less stressful and more manageable.