What Qualities Make a Good Medical Assistant?


Medical assistants are in demand. It’s secure, rewarding work for people with the right stuff. Not everyone will enjoy working in healthcare, so it’s important to reflect on your reasons for wanting a career in medicine. What qualities make a good medical assistant, and why do they matter? Let’s find out.

Why Is Having the Right Qualities Essential for a Medical Assistant?

Employers know that having the right qualities makes employees more successful. But on a personal level, your qualities can also make or break your satisfaction with a job. While some character traits can be learned or nurtured through experience, it’s unreasonable to expect that you’ll thrive in an environment that doesn’t support your strengths and passions.

Healthcare is a highly regulated industry, and professional expectations are high. Offices run like clockwork and schedules are tight. If you believe rules were made to be broken, and the world shouldn’t turn until you’ve had your second cup of coffee, a different field might be a better fit. But if that sounds like you, and you’re ready to take the next step, a career in medical assisting could be just what the doctor ordered.

What Qualities Make a Good Medical Assistant?

Serving patients is what healthcare is all about. These qualities will help you be successful and love your job.

Quality #1: Good Communication Skills

As a medical assistant, you must have good communication skills. Relationships with patients, professionals and peers thrive on a delicate balance of listening, understanding, and responding.

Communication is both verbal and nonverbal. Behavioral scientists believe the majority of what we say or hear is conveyed through body language. Medical assistants work with physically and emotionally vulnerable people, so emotional intelligence, the ability to sense what people are feeling through observation is essential for good communication.

Practical skills are important, too. The ability to read, write and speak confidently is a must. At the heart of the healthcare team, you’ll serve as a liaison between doctors and patients and clinical and administrative staff. Medical assistants are the central hub through which high volumes of information flow.

Quality #2: Empathy

Empathy is the ability to see things from someone else’s perspective, to understand events from a different point of view. As a medical assistant, you’ll work with people of all ages and from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Empathy is what helps you understand that children are afraid of shots because they don’t know what to expect and that patients are sometimes irritable because they’re scared or in pain.

Quality #3: Compassion

Compassion is best defined as practical empathy. It’s more than being sensitive to the pain of others, it’s the drive to do something about it. Patients are more than their list of complaints. Each malady impacts their lives in unexpected and often devastating ways.

Empathy is how a medical assistant knows a patient with chest pain is scared. Compassion is why they offer emotional support.

Quality #4: Critical Thinking Skills

Medical assistants are problem-solvers. Critical thinking, the ability to gather facts and come to sensible conclusions, is how they prioritize tasks and make accurate decisions under pressure. It’s a type of common sense that helps medical assistants realize that a woman with difficulty breathing should see the doctor before the man with a skin rash. Applied to everything they do; critical thinking helps a medical assistant function effectively in a fast-paced environment.

Quality #5: Flexibility

No two days in a medical office are ever alike. Appointments are made and then canceled while an emergency lurks around every corner. As a medical assistant, the quiet day you had planned to clean out the supply room can quickly turn into a free-for-all with a waiting room full of flu patients. If you want to be happy working in healthcare, learn to go with the flow.

Quality #6: Time Management Skills

Busy days can be stressful but being punctual and making the most of every minute prevents them from becoming overwhelming. People born with good organizational skills recognize wasted time and have an inherent ability to manage a full schedule. Others aren’t so lucky and need guidance to keep the day on track. The good news is that with experience and the right tools, anyone can learn to be a good time manager. Practice makes perfect.

Quality #7: Team Spirit

Healthcare is a team effort. Everyone has a different job to do but they all share the mission to give patients the best care possible. Navigating relationships with co-workers and staying in your lane while not being afraid to lend others a hand is challenging. A sense of team spirit makes it easier to respect each person’s role and their professional opinions.

Quality #8: Dependability

Medical assistants are part of a close-knit team. Employers and peers trust them to do their jobs. Tasks in an office are interdependent, and when someone doesn’t pull their weight, the rest of the team suffers.

Dependability should also extend to patients. When you promise to call someone back, keep your word. Few things are more stressful than waiting for a test result or attention from your doctor when you’re having worrisome symptoms.

Quality #9: Open-mindedness

It’s a small world. Today’s medical assistants will see patients from diverse cultures, many of whom may not share the same beliefs in medicine. A patient’s right to make their own healthcare decisions is set in stone, even if they don’t agree with their doctor’s recommendations. A medical assistant should be supportive and open-minded, remembering that life is more than the sum of medical interventions.

Quality #10: Discretion

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA, forever changed the way medical information is handled. Gone are the days of keeping charts at the foot of the bed. By law, data can only be accessible to those who need to know it to do their jobs and with the patient’s permission.

Not only can employers be fined, and employees fired for violating HIPPA, but patients expect better. They deserve the utmost discretion.

Quality #11: Professionalism

Medical assistants are the ambassadors of first impressions. As a representative of the healthcare team, their appearance, demeanor, and behavior reflect on the entire practice. By approaching clients with a courteous and thoughtful demeanor, they promote the team’s goals, enhance their reputation, and inspire patient confidence in the care they receive.

Quality #12: A Commitment to Learning

Graduating from a medical assisting program is just the beginning of your learning process. No program can possibly cover every skill you’ll need or every case you’ll encounter. Medicine is a technologically advanced, ever-changing field, there’s always something new to learn. A commitment to ongoing education helps medical assistants maintain relevant skills.

Quality #13: A Sense of Ethics

Ethics are the moral principles that guide someone’s behavior. Closely linked to your sense of responsibility, it’s the ability to differentiate between what’s right and wrong in complex situations.

For example, if a medical assistant in a hurry to leave work on a Friday afternoon botches a laboratory test, ethics is what drives them to stay and do it over rather than submit questionable results that could harm a patient.

Quality #14: Optimism

No one, least of all patients, want to work with glass-half-empty people. They want to spend time with positive, optimistic staff who enjoy and see value in what they do. The healthcare field is emotionally charged, but even when the chips are down, a positive attitude can move mountains.

Quality #15: Teachability

Medical assisting programs empower students with the skills they need to be successful. But the classroom and the real world are two different places. You’ll often run into situations that don’t fit neatly in a box, problems for which there are no protocols or official guidance. In those moments, it’s essential to be teachable, allowing your supervisors to walk you through complicated situations without a rule book.

Knowing what you don’t know is important for patient safety, but the willingness to listen and learn from more experienced voices means as much to the development of your practice as what you learned in school.

What If I Don’t Have All of These Qualities?

It’s crucial to do some soul-searching before embarking on any new career. Life is too short to be miserable forty hours a week. It’s possible to be good at something and still be unhappy doing it, so if you don’t have many of these qualities, an honest self-appraisal might reveal it’s not a good choice for you. Education is an investment, and it’s important to go into it with your eyes open.

Still, it’s a rare person who has all the qualities necessary for any job. And thankfully, you don’t have to be perfect to be satisfied or successful as a medical assistant. There’s plenty of room for growth. It’s an exciting and meaningful career, what you do makes a difference.

Benefits include:

  • A short training program
  • A supportive environment
  • Regular hours
  • Exciting work settings
  • Opportunities for professional growth

If you don’t have all these qualities, don’t be too hard on yourself. Time is often the best teacher. A vocational school medical assisting program helps you cultivate your best qualities and experience does the rest.

Final Thoughts

Having these qualities is helpful for medical assistants, but for students, one attribute that didn’t make the list is perhaps the most important, enthusiasm. With the right blend of passion, self-awareness and commitment, success could be right around the corner.

Do you want to build the qualities that make a good medical assistant? Gwinnett Colleges & Institute offers medical assisting courses to gain essential skills and training at multiple campuses from Lilburn, Sandy Springs and Atlanta/Marietta to Orlando, FL and Raleigh, NC. The core curriculum at these campuses focuses on the medical assisting skills and training you will need to seek entry-level employment in physicians’ offices, clinics, hospitals, and other medical settings needing the services of associates trained in both front and back office medical assisting skills. These medical assisting courses will be the first step in starting a rewarding career.

Contact us to learn more about how you can become a medical assistant today.