Advice for a successful medical assistant externship

Get the most out of your medical assisting externship.Most medical assisting programs require students to complete externships, which can provide valuable job experience prior to beginning their careers. Externships are the portion of your medical assisting education that you spend working in a medical office while you are still in school.1 While your experience will vary depending upon the office in which you are placed, it’s up to you to get the most out of your externship experience and make it a success.

Look for opportunities to use your skills

You’ve spent your time in school learning the technical skills necessary to be a medical assistant, and now is your chance to put them into practice. Nothing beats real-world experience, so actively seek out opportunities to put your skills to the test. Whenever you get a chance, observe health care professionals performing procedures and make note of the techniques they use so you can use their expertise to perfect your own skills.2

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

While externships do provide the opportunity to use your technical skills, they are also still a valuable part of the learning process, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. If you are ever unsure of how to complete a task that has been asked of you or find it to be too challenging, ask the medical professionals you are working with to guide you and provide some tips for success. If you never ask questions when you don’t understand something, it’s unlikely that you will receive much benefit from the completion of an externship.3

Discuss expectations

Before you even begin your externship, discussing expectations with your supervisor, mentor or sponsor will set you up for success. While it’s important that you take the initiative every day to get the most you can out of your externship experience, having a clear understanding of what the medical professionals you are working with hope to achieve will put you on the same page and create a more cohesive working environment.4

Practice your ‘soft skills’

While medical assisting externships certainly present you with the opportunity to cultivate your technical expertise, they also allow you to practice ‘soft skills’ like customer service and communication. Medical assistants are partially responsible for patient care, so be aware of your body language and demeanor whenever you are in the medical office or interacting with patients.5

1 Marshall, Jackie, ‘Medical Assisting Made Incredibly Easy,’ 2008 – http://downloads.lww.com/wolterskluwer_vitalstream_com/sample-content/9780781772105_Marshall/samples/10828_Marshall_Ch05.pdf
2 Marshall, Jackie, ‘Medical Assisting Made Incredibly Easy,’ 2008 – http://downloads.lww.com/wolterskluwer_vitalstream_com/sample-content/9780781772105_Marshall/samples/10828_Marshall_Ch05.pdf
3 MedicalAssisting-EDU, ‘What to Expect From Your Medical Assisting Externship,’ 2012 – http://medicalassisting-edu.com/what-to-expect-from-your-medical-assisting-externship/
4 MIT Alumni Association, ‘Tips For a Successful Externship,’ 2011 – http://alum.mit.edu/sites/default/files/migrated/students/docs/11.2.1.1.2_externship_tips.pdf
5 Marshall, Jackie, ‘Medical Assisting Made Incredibly Easy,’ 2008 – http://downloads.lww.com/wolterskluwer_vitalstream_com/sample-content/9780781772105_Marshall/samples/10828_Marshall_Ch05.pdf