Highly in demand in the medical field, a medical secretary has plenty of administrative and office duties that keep a clinic or hospital running smoothly.
Looking for a career as a medical
professional? You’ll be part of a big team. One in eight Americans works in
healthcare. It’s the fastest-growing sector in the U.S. economy with women representing nearly
eighty percent of the workforce.
With so many patients and so many staff, it’s hardly surprising that administrative workers are in high demand. Becoming a medical secretary means job security and a rewarding career right on the front line. Read on to find out what the job involves.
The Main Duties of a Medical Secretary
Medical assistants and secretaries carry out clerical duties. That could be at
a doctor’s surgery or in another health professional’s office. It’s a
support role and it’s integral to the smooth running of any facility that
offers patient care.
The job will involve typing
correspondence and reports using a computer keyboard. There will be files to
organize, and payments to be made. Medical assistants will also manage
insurance forms and invoices to be paid by patients.
with the Public
You’ll need to show empathy when
interacting with the public. When patients are seeking help from a doctor
they may be worried and stressed. A medical secretary may be the first person
they come into contact with.
As well as operating the front desk,
medical secretaries will have to answer calls and emails. They’ll need to
schedule appointments and have a keen sense of when something is urgent.
There’ll be lots of
office equipment to get used to. That will include computers, scanners,
and complex telephone systems.
Medical secretaries also need to be
familiar with medical terminology. They’ll require an understanding of health
insurance rules, and billing procedures.
Education and Training
Medical secretaries do not need to
have advanced degrees. Executive medical secretaries are an exception. They do
have to have a bachelor’s degree. A high school or equivalency diploma
will always be required.
Additional coursework and
certifications can be very useful. That’s because they’ll assist you in
securing the position you’re looking for. They’ll also help you to do a better
Many colleges and vocational schools
offer educational programs designed to prepare you. Courses may help to improve
keyboard and computer skills. They’ll also give students an understanding
of office management.
There are also courses that are
specifically aimed at those who want to work in the medical sector. This
includes preparation for the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant
exam. You can even do this remotely by completing this online training.
If you want to embark on a career as
a medical assistant or secretary you need basic skills. This includes an
understanding of how an office works. You’ll also need knowledge of medical
terminology and clinic, hospital or laboratory procedures.
All of this can be obtained through
formal instruction and on-the-job training. Prior knowledge can help you to
stand out as an applicant and get you ahead of the crowd.
Computer Skills Required
If you want to be a great medical secretary,
you’ll need to hone up your computer skills. You should practice and do online
research in your spare time so that you’re familiar with all the basics.
This means sending and receiving
emails as well as knowing how to sort them. You should also be across some of
the basic commands and settings available. You’ll need to be able to make, read
and understand spreadsheets.
You should familiarize yourself with
the software used for recordkeeping and billing. The more you know, the more
invaluable you are going to be. If you can provide evidence of your knowledge
to a future employer then that’s even better.
Conduct Online Research
You should get to know some of the
major health websites. These can act as a resource to help you understand more
about health issues. That’s a great bonus for any healthcare facility.
A useful exercise is to pick ten
types of disease and conduct some online research about each of them. Check out
the main governmental sites that might help with your investigations into a virus such as shingles, for example.
The more you know about the types of
difficulties patients face the more you’ll be able to help them. Your job will
not be to offer them advice but you will be able to empathize and offer them a
level of understanding.
It might well be part of your job to
arrange hospital admissions for patients. If you understand why these may be
necessary it will help you to do a better job.
When you’re working in a busy
environment being able to communicate well is essential. Throw in patients who may be suffering
from acute illnesses and it’s easy to see why this is particularly important in
your chosen field.
You’ll need to be able to convey
information to all the other members of staff you’re working alongside. This
could be other support staff like yourself or physicians and nurses.
Ability to Listen
Crucially you’ll need to be able to
communicate well with patients. Communication is not just about you being able
to impart a piece of knowledge to another person. It also involves the ability
to listen carefully.
If you can do this, you’ll be well
on your way to success. Patients can arrive at a medical facility anxious and
fearful about a problem or medical process. If you can listen to these concerns
you’ll be able to reassure them and keep them calmer.
You don’t need to provide medical
solutions to their problems. That’s someone else’s job but you do need to be
able to show a degree of empathy and guide people in the right direction so
that they get the help they need.
If you enjoy socializing then your
interpersonal skills may already be well developed. Useful techniques include
the ability to understand body language. You may also have to draw on your
skills of persuasion and negotiation.
Think about what you might do if a
person arrives at a surgery demanding to see a doctor without an appointment.
How would you handle this? You may be sympathetic but you might also have to be
firm and stick to normal procedures.
Are you the type of person who likes
to keep your shoes and clothes neatly in order in the closet? Do bundles of
papers scattered over a desk bother you? If so, then working as a medical
assistant might be just the job for you.
You’ll need an ability to create and
use systems that work well. That means having records at your fingertips so
that you can pull them up fast.
You could well be called upon to
prepare correspondence. You might have to assist physicians in putting together
a report, speech, or conference agenda.
These professionals will be relying
on you to pull together pieces of information for them quickly and efficiently.
Their time is precious and they won’t want any hold-ups. You’ll need to be able
to work under pressure and to tight deadlines.
Other Clerical Duties
As a medical secretary, it’s also
likely that you’ll be called upon to transcribe recorded messages. This could
include diagnoses and recommendations made by physicians. These would need to
be added to the medical records of patients.
You’ll be required to perform
bookkeeping duties. This includes things like keeping a record of credits and
collections. You might have to prepare and send financial statements and bills.
You’ll have to keep files of all
financial records and complete insurance claim forms. It will likely fall on
you to ensure that there are sufficient stationery supplies.
You may also have to liaise with
those who maintain any office equipment such as printers and computers. You’ll
need to keep records of when appliances were serviced and sort out repairs.
The Right Personality
Medical secretaries do tend to have
distinct personalities. The best are conscientious individuals. They’ll take
pride in being logical, efficient and well-organized.
They will also be good with people.
That means being generous and kind as well as cooperative, patient, tactful,
and friendly. Whatever the institution, medical secretaries will spend a
good part of their workday in the front office area.
This is where there is a lot of interaction
with patients and other members of the public. Work hours are usually the
standard nine to five excluding weekends. Part-time positions are often
The Work Environment
Medical secretaries are key players
in any healthcare institution. These can range from hospitals and dental
offices to universities and nursing homes.
Where you choose to work will
definitely have an impact on the type of responsibilities you’ll be given.
Those who work in a research facility are unlikely to ever have to deal with
emergencies, for example.
Working in a hospital will be
totally different. Medical secretaries have the flexibility to be able to work
in an environment that interests them most. That could mean working with the
elderly or in a facility that specializes in sports injuries.
Varied and Interesting Career
You may well be looking for a
challenging job in which you’re unlikely to get bored. Becoming a medical
secretary could be the right career choice for you.
Continue reading the career section of
our blog and find out which are the top ten best medical institutes in the