August 2008
A Q&A session with Michelle, a medical assistant, who works at a local hospital in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Michelle has worked as a CNA for 3 years and has worked as a medical assistant for 5 years.

Q: What type of education or training did you need in order to become a medical assistant?

A: I first became a CNA through the Certified Nursing Assistant class at Lakeshore Technical in Cleveland, Wisconsin. I learned about taking care of people as well as how to perform my duties. I did this for three years before the hospital needed medical assistants. I applied for the class at Lakeshore Technical. The class was the next step up for me. I plan to continue my education and become a nurse.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: I like being able to work as both a CNA and a medical assistant. It gives me more flexibility. I am scheduled for medical assistant three days a week and as a CNA two days a week. I like the freedom to work anywhere in the hospital or at other places such as nursing homes and retirement homes.

Q: What do you dislike most about your job?

A: The one thing I dislike is that we are always short-handed it seems. They need more healthcare workers. I work long hours sometimes. It does take its toll on you mentally and physically.

Q: How would you describe your typical day on the job?

A: A typical day starts at 5 AM. I pass out medications to my patients. This usually takes me two hours to do. Then I do blood pressure checks and see how the patients are doing. If they need something, I get it for them. I answer call buttons and help with moving patients to the bathroom when the CNAs are running short. By the time this is all done, it is time to go home. The day goes by fast.

Q: What is your next career step?

A: I want to start my classes in the fall to become a registered nurse. It will take me some time, but I plan to work full time and continue my education. The only time I will have to take leave from work is when I do my clinicals, unless I can do them at my hospital. The hospital pays for the continuing education, so it is well worth it for me.

Q: What previous job history prepared you for your job?

A: My CNA training helped me prepare for the medical assistant job. You do not need previous job history to become a medical assistant but it helps. It was my motivation to further my career.

Q: What kind of traits does a person need to have in order to be successful at this job?

A: You need dedication. The medical field can be demanding and leaves little time for family. You need to be able to separate yourself from your patients. Being polite and friendly is needed, but you cannot let yourself get emotionally involved. You need to be strong. Many people are demanding so having a strong personality that can take things with a grain of salt is needed.

Q: Would you recommend this job to someone else? Why or why not?

A: I would recommend this job to someone that wants to make a difference. If the person is emotional, this is not the job for them. You have to accept death almost every day. That can burn you out. You need to find a place inside of you that you can go to get away from your job sometimes.

Take a look at a list of medical assisting programs in California to take the next step towards becoming a medical assistant.