We had the pleasure of talking with one of our medical career course instructors, Patrick Yates, this month. Patrick facilitates the Medical Administrative Assistant course. With over 10 years of experience in the medical field, Patrick brings unique experiences and knowledge.

During our conversation, we asked Patrick about the Medical Administrative Assistant course, why someone should pursue a career as a medical administrative assistant, and how one can advance in the profession. We concluded our interview with Patrick’s own professional development and how she maintains success.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became interested in the medical field. 
I have been a medical administrative assistant in a medical practice for about 11 years now. I’ve had the privilege to work in both medical practices and hospital settings.

When I was growing up, my mother worked for a large urology group in Nashville. In the summers, my twin sister and I would sometimes go to work with her. We’d help around the office and such. It was fun because we learned a lot, and we learned from the doctors.

Patrick Yates Medical Administrative Assistant Course Instructor

Later, when I was in college, one of the doctors from the urology group helped me get a job at Baptist Hospital, now Saint Thomas. I worked in the emergency department and admitting. That position was probably one of the more interesting jobs I think I’ve ever had. I got to see so many different trauma medical cases, so that’s what started my real interest in the medical field.

I knew that I enjoyed working in a medical environment, but I had no desire to be a nurse or physician. A medical administrative position allowed me to still fulfill that passion.

What kind of medical facility do you work at now? 
I’m affiliated with a large hospital here in Chattanooga. I work on the management executive side and help manage multiple physician practices in the Chattanooga area. With my experience, I’ve had the opportunity to advance my career.

What is the role of the medical administrative assistant and what are some of the responsibilities? 
This role is more on the clerical side of the physician practice or facility, but you still need to be knowledgeable about how clinical operations work. I look at this position key to helping the practice run efficiently. Your job duties can vary from tasks such as managing the front desk or ordering supplies. You might do some event planning or marketing. This position also can assist in patient issues. The issue could be billing, or it could be clinical care. Also, this position may even be working directly with some of the physicians in the practice. But typically, it has always been more on the clerical side.

Why are medical administrative assistants important to an organization? 
The reason why I think medical administrative assistants are important is because you are the go-to person. You are the person who may not always have the answers, but you must know how to find the answer. You perform multiple job duties. You have to have a good, working knowledge of day-to-day operations and clinical practice to ensure the practice is running efficiently and patients’ needs are being met.

What are some other skills that are required?

You must be well organized and able to multitask. Good judgment also comes into play when emergencies occur. You need to know how to prioritize tasks. I think of it almost like medical triage where patients come in, and you assess them in the order of severity. So, if someone has a laceration versus a simple sniffle, you have the patient with the laceration be seen more quickly. To me, the medical administrative assistant position functions the same way. When something comes up on the medical side, it affects the clerical side as well.

Could you explain the triage process in more detail as it relates to the medical administrative assistant?

For instance, you have a patient who is in distress. The patient isn’t sure what could be wrong, and it could be an emergency. In addition, you have a critical piece of equipment malfunctioning. You must decide about what is more relevant at that time. Obviously, patient care is going to be a primary focus, especially if you know that patient could be dealing with something life threatening. So, you are going to make that patient a priority over the piece of equipment. Another example might be an irate patient that is disturbing people in the waiting area. As a clinical medical assistant, you address the patient’s behavior over an important business call.

What are some career advancement opportunities for medical administrative assistants? 

I’ve seen people advance into management because they have a solid foundation of business practices. As a medical administrative assistant, you are the person who is knowledgeable about everything that goes on in the practice. Although it is primary clerical, you must have clinical knowledge as well. I have been able to advance my career to be on the executive leadership management side that oversees all the practices.

Why should someone pursue a career as a medical administrative assistant?

I believe that if you enjoy working in the medical environment, but you do not necessarily want to serve in a clinical capacity, such as a nurse, this career path is a good fit for you. You still get to work in a medical environment without performing clinical care. Also, the healthcare industry has stability. People will always need healthcare.

What is the medical administrative assistant course like, and what are participants learning during the course?  

So far, we have started with a little bit of medical history. We talked about medical terminology and the basic office functions such as writing correspondence that a physician might send out to a patient or to another medical practice. We have also delved into a little bit about legal and ethics. Clinical medical admins have to understand malpractice and the legalities.

We will also cover medical billing and coding. Not that a medical admin assistant will necessarily be doing the coding, but he or she needs to be aware of it and how it is important to the practice. It affects how physicians and the practice get paid. We will even touch on marketing. Sometimes, the medical admin helps write press releases and ads. For instance, if the practice has a new physician joining, the medical admin might assist with the press release.

What do you hope that participants gain after it is all said and done?

I hope this course helps them advance their careers quicker. I’d like to see them become a team lead or go into management. There are so many opportunities for them, and I think this course will help them land in a higher role.

How would you describe your teaching style?  

I try to bring real life examples into each class. I want to make the content relevant and applicable. Some of the concepts we discuss in class are foreign to the students, so if I can bring in a real-life example, it helps them understand it a little better.

There are several certifications one can obtain as a medical administrative assistant. Can you talk about the benefits of certifications? 

Most large companies and hospitals don’t even look at resumes until they’ve been processed electronically. Having the certification can place the individual under more consideration.  It helps HR see that you are committed to your career and that you have put time and energy into getting certified.

Switching gears a little bit. We are going to dive into your own professional life. Do you have a daily habit that you believe is key to a successful day?

It’s funny, but the first thing that came to mind was to start the day with a good attitude. A good attitude is key, especially in the medical field where the demands are high. Having a positive attitude can impact others in ways we often can’t see.

How do you get in that mindset?

Sometimes I might read a devotion or some type of positive affirmation. It helps me get in that positive head space.

What is a professional development book that has helped you professionally?

I have a hard time, especially in the role, with telling people no. I always want to help everyone. I was reading Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It really helped me develop professional boundaries and how to define them.  I now have a better understanding of what I can say, when to say yes, and when to say no.

Is there a quote that you live by?  

I don’t know how official this one is, but it is one that I really like, “Treat others as you would have them treat you.” My belief is that if you treat others with kindness, respect, and you are courteous, then generally you will receive that same treatment. When working in a medical clinic or medical facility, you are dealing people when they aren’t at their best physically.  You  also have staff that is under stress. Everybody is spread thin. Being empathetic is important, and it can completely change an interaction in the healthcare industry. I tell the students in the class that we have to realize why we are in these roles. We are there to help others whether it be patients, physicians, or additional staff. We are a team.

How do you stay up to date and relevant in your industry?

Most of the employers that I have worked for all have continuing education courses that they offer internally. We have courses over HIPAA and compliance. I have seen some departments starting to offer courses on stress management and new software.  There is a ton of educational opportunities that keep you current in your role and also in your job duties. There is no shortage of that to help with professional development.

What is your favorite professional development course that you have been through?

I did one recently about stress management.  We all have a lot of stress. Going into the course, I didn’t think I would enjoy it, but it was definitely helpful. I learned various calming techniques. For example, one is a deep-breathing technique. Of course, I don’t want to embarrass myself so I will do it when nobody is home or sometimes go for a quick break and just walk. I have found when I take five minutes to de-stress I feel that I can manage my day better.

Final question, what is one piece of advice you would give people on their career journey?

I would tell them to be dependable. Being dependable and being present, especially in the health care environment, is vital. So many people are counting on us in the healthcare industry–from the patients to other staff members.

If you are not dependable, not showing up to work, not showing up for work on time, or if you are at work, but not staying on task, I think when an opportunity arises for advancement, you won’t be considered for advancement. You need to establish trust. As you move up, your responsibilities grow, and people need to trust that you will get it done.