Working as a Medical Office Assistant
Our Medical Office Assistant diploma program prepares students for a career in medical administration. As the Canadian population ages, the medical field is experiencing rapid growth, creating demand for a huge range of careers in medical administration.
Our graduates find well-paying jobs in offices, clinics, and hospitals as:
- Administrative assistants
- Office managers
- Medical transcriptionists
- Medical billing clerks
- Unit/ward clerks
- Patient registration clerks
But what does a typical day in the life of a medical office assistant look like? Given the scope of job options, there are many possibilities. Our example graduate, Laura, can fill in the details of what an average workday for her looks like. Although some of the details might change, any job as a medical office assistant will include similar tasks and responsibilities.
A Day in the Life: Laura Smith, Clinic Office Manager
Laura is a 29-year-old graduate who works full-time as Dr. Greene’s office manager. Dr. Greene is a busy cardiologist who splits her time between her private office, where Laura has worked for three years, and the local hospital. Laura’s role is to care for all clerical aspects of Dr. Greene’s practice, while Dr. Greene’s nurse looks after clinical aspects.
8:00 am: Laura arrives at office, ahead of other staff. She unlocks the door, turns off the alarm and turns on all the computers and tablets. She records a new voicemail stating today’s availability. Laura listens to voicemail messages and checks office e-mail, taking note of any cancellations or urgent messages. She calls patients from her waiting list to fill any same-day cancellation slots.
8:30 am: Greets Doctor Greene and the office nurse as they arrive, updating them on the day’s schedule and any urgent patient messages.
9:00 am: Laura greets the first patient as he arrives. She confirms his demographics and OHIP information is up-to-date in medical record software. After discovering the patient had recent blood work done that is not on his file, she calls the lab to have it sent over immediately before the doctor sees him.
9:30 am: Laura continues registering patients as they arrive. In between patient arrivals, she processes all documents that have arrived since the last work day. She files lab work electronically in patients’ electronic medical records, prints off prescription renewals for the doctor to sign, and sets aside referral requests to deal with later in the day.
10:00 am: The phone is ringing off the hook. Calls include ones from a pharmacist who needs a Limited Use code for a prescription the doctor just sent in, an Emergency Room nurse who is caring for one of Dr. Greene’s patients, and another doctor who wants to speak with Dr. Greene about a mutual patient.
11:00 am: Laura registers a first-time patient and creates electronic medical record for her. She helps the patient fill out basic paperwork and enter her demographics and allergies into her medical record. The new patient forgot her lengthy list of medications at home, so Laura calls her pharmacy to get a list sent over right away for the doctor’s review.
12:00 pm: Lunchtime.
12:30 pm: Laura calls tomorrow’s patients to remind them of their appointments. She leaves messages for any who do not answer, reminding them to bring their health card and list of medications.
1:30 pm: Processes referrals. Laura sorts referrals by urgency, according to office guidelines. She finds appointments for each patient, sending their appointment times and instructions to their referring doctor.
2:30 pm: After finding out that Dr. Greene is attending a conference next Friday that she forgot to mention, Laura begins rescheduling all of that day’s patients. There are few openings in the doctor’s schedule, so this task requires patience and problem-solving.
3:30 pm: A patient arrives without an appointment, explaining that he urgently needs to see the doctor. After asking the patient questions and discussing the situation discreetly with the office nurse, Laura adds him to the day’s schedule.
4:30 pm: Although the patients should all be gone by now, there are still a few patients to be seen. The doctor is running overtime and patients are restless in the waiting room. Laura stays until all patients are seen, making their follow-up appointments and booking any tests the doctor ordered for them.
5:30 pm: After recording a new voicemail stating that the office is now closed and checking the office e-mail one last time, Laura finishes her workday by turning off the computers and lights, setting the alarm and locking the door.
After reading what a typical day for Laura looks like, it’s clear that working as a medical office assistant is a demanding profession that requires:
- Attention to detail
- Problem-solving skills
- Excellent people skills
A career as a medical office assistant can be immensely rewarding. Medical office assistants act as a liaison between patients who need help and the practitioners who can offer that help. They assist people in their most vulnerable moments and help them navigate the healthcare system. Medical office assistants often make the difference between a patient falling through the cracks or getting the help they need, when they need it.