Every job has its good and bad moments. When I became a nurse, I wished that someone would have told me about the hard stuff. Unfortunately, no one did and I was forced to learn it all on my own, which left me tearful and upset on more occasions than I should probably share. I don’t think it’s fair to scare you, but I think you should understand the challenges that you might face as a medical assistant.
Certainly, more challenges come with more responsibility and the setting in which you work. But I want to be exceptionally clear when I tell you to always ensure that you are working within your scope of practice. Scope of practice is the guidelines or parameters that say what you can and can’t do. Some medical professionals have very clear-cut guidelines and working outside of those boundaries puts not only the patient at risk, but also your livelihood if you were sued.
Working in a medical office, clinic, or with another practitioner is fantastic—but remember that you are working under the direct supervision of that clinician. That supervising doctor or clinician must be present in the building while you provide care. If they aren’t, you can’t work. It’s as simple as that.
If a doctor is willing to train you on advanced practices within the office, that’s great but remember the risk involved is still yours. If you are ever asked to perform skills that you are not comfortable with or trained to do, contact your state medical board for clarification. You must protect your professional license and the patient’s life. Deciding to implement orders or procedures without the direct order of a supervising physician is dangerous to say the least and should never occur. Always know your chain of command should you ever need to go above your direct supervisor with an issue.
As if that isn’t scary enough, you must understand that all of us who work in health care are ultimately responsible for one thing—the patient’s best care and safety. For that reason, it is also important to be prepared to deal with sensitive issues that may arise. What if your employer seems to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while working? You see a co-worker take pills from your medication supplies, or take money from the office account?
All of these problems do occasionally occur and knowing how to handle them is essential. Instead of trying to confront someone, I would recommend making an anonymous report to the state medical board. The hardest part is that your co-workers aren’t just acquaintances, they are usually friends. It’s really hard to turn in people that you have become close to—but remember that professionally it is your responsibility to care for those around you.
I hope your career is full of great days and fantastic experiences. I hope you are trained and taught by the most caring physicians who build your skills and promote who you are as a professional. But remember, that you are the master of your career and sometimes that means making some hard choices.
Rachel Ballard, RNC, BSN is a registered nurse with almost a decade of clinical experience in both acute care and public health settings.