Medical Assisting: Patient Challenges & Their Rewards

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Daymar College

Medical assisting can be challenging and rising to the occasion can be rewarding. Some of the challenges medical assistants encounter including supporting pre-surgical assessment, the effects of immobility, patients with communication difficulties, patients recovering from accidents, the support of physical therapy and sepsis in patients. Knowing about these situations will empower the medical assistant to be prepared when the time comes to accept the challenge.

Medical Assistant challenges in a Pre -Surgical Assessment Department

Pre- Surgical Assessment teams prepare patients for surgical procedures. This is generally done in a clinic setting and involves a number of investigations. It is the ideal environment for a medical assistant to support a busy clinical team. Here's how a medical assistant can work effectively in a pre-surgical Assessment Center.

Performing Investigations

Medical assistants are trained to do a wide range of investigations to support clinical teams. Examples include phlebotomy, taking a blood pressure and other vital signs, and recording an EKG. Most patients needing surgery require tests as part of the preoperative work up and the medical assistant is the ideal person to do this in the department.

Giving Lifestyle Advice

Some patients will need to modify their lifestyle as part of the preoperative preparation for surgery and this can be challenging. The patient will need to quit smoking and lose a little weight. Medical assistants are trained in motivational behavior techniques so having the ability to encourage people in a positive way helps them achieve their goal. Patients feel supported at a difficult time and the medical assistant supports them with their challenge.

Organizing Support

Older people preparing for surgical procedures may require additional support when they return home. If this is not organized promptly it leads to delays in leaving hospital. A medical assistant is able to help identify potential support needed by some of the patients and get it organized beforehand as part of the pre- surgical preparation. This means it is in place as quickly as possible after the surgery, so the patient can recover at home with support.


Most people having surgery experience a degree of anxiety. One of the most important interventions from a medical assistant is to reassure the patient and explain what is happening. This reduces anxiety and builds a positive relationship between the healthcare team and the patient.

The pre -surgical assessment department is an area where a medical assistant can make a real difference to patients, solve challenges and supporting the clinical team. From taking investigations to being well organized and reassuring people, the medical assistant is a vital role in this department.

How Medical Assistants Can Reduce the Effects of Immobility

Patients who are immobile have an increased risk of complications including pressure sores, muscle wasting, and development of chest infections. These can lead to a prolonged stay in hospital and even death. Medical assistants have a critical role in preventing the challenges of bed rest and immobility.

Educating Patients

One of the key roles of the medical assistant is to educate patients of the risks of immobility and what they can do to avoid problems. This includes encouraging patients to drink fluids to stay hydrated and reduce the risk of thrombosis. It involves patients doing deep breathing exercises and moving each hour to reduce the risk of problems. By enabling patients to understand the risks, a medical assistant helps in the process of reducing complications.

Encouraging People to Get Out of bed

Hospitals are notorious for institutional behavior. When patients come into hospitals they are traditionally encouraged to get into bed and stay there. These days a lot of older patients are encouraged to get up and get dressed where possible. This encourages independence and more movement, reducing the risk of problems. Medical assistants are vital in this role and can assist patients to move a lot more around the ward area.

Preventing Pressure Sores

Medical assistants are critical in the prevention of pressure sores. They work with other staff to check the skin integrity and to ensure people who are bed bound are moved regularly. Their role includes making sure there is nothing in the bed area that can lead to skin breakdown such as patients lying on hard surfaces.

Reducing Boredom

Patients who are in bed for prolonged episodes of care can get bored, feel frustrated, and have a low mood. The medical assistant can help by ensuring there are things to do such as access to the internet or a TV, visits from family and friends, and just talking to the patient. Organizing activities from therapists is another way to challenge the routine of a bed bound patient.

The medical assistant is a critical team member in preventing the complications of immobility. From preventing pressure sores to ensuring people are hydrated, these are all challenges that a competent medical assistant will face.

How Medical Assistants Can Help People with Communication Difficulties

Many people attending the hospital or doctors' office have difficulties with communication. Some are evident from the moment they arrive whereas other difficulties are more subtle and harder to spot. Medical assistants have a vital role in helping people who are challenge with difficulty communicating, and to anticipate their needs so the clinical experience is a positive one.

Being Proactive

One of the best ways of helping people with communication difficulties is to ask. This can be done in a pre-assessment setting such as an invitation for a clinic appointment. By asking the patient if they have any communication needs, the correct support can be in place when they attend. This not only saves time in a clinic or hospital but ensures the patient is supported. Medical assistants are ideal at identifying these issues when working with patients in offices and hospital departments.

Know Where to Get Help

One of the most important things a medical assistant can do in a clinical situation is to problem solve. Knowing where to get help when someone has difficulty communicating is vital. This includes knowing how to access an interpreter when someone does not speak English, being able to find someone who can use sign language, and getting a pen and paper are just a few examples where a simple act can make a big difference to the patient.

Listening and Having Patience

Medical assistants need excellent listening skills and be able to use good eye contact when communicating. Taking time to listen to someone who has dysphasia following a stroke is vital when helping them get a message across about how they are feeling. Being alert for less subtle signs that someone is unable to communicate is a challenge. Spotting a patient who cannot read, or someone who is avoiding the issue of deteriorating sight are all important issues that impact communication, and a medical assistant needs to be able to deal with in an appropriate way.

Using Specific Techniques

Medical assistant training equips patients with the skills to communication in clinical settings effectively. Using techniques to ensure someone has understood an instruction is an example. By getting the patient to repeat back a simple instruction, medical assistants can get an idea of how much someone has understood. Avoiding acronyms is vital as they are not always apparent to patient with good communication skills, let alone someone who has difficulties.

Go One Step Beyond

Medical assistants are constantly learning new skills and updating their knowledge. If they are working in an area where there are common issues with communication, then there are opportunities beyond training to learn a new skill to help a patient as part of professional development. This could involve learning sign language to support deaf patients, or advanced skills in helping patients after a stroke. It could even involve learning some basic words of a foreign language if there are lots of non-English speakers.

Communication skills are a fundamental part of the abilities of a competent medical assistant. From being proactive to knowing how to listen and get a message across to someone who has difficulties with communicating are all part of the job for medical assistants. These skills help the medical assistant make the patient experience all the more positive.

How Medical Assistants Support People Recovering from Accidents

Accidents occur every day and can be life changing for many people. One moment a person is going about their daily life and the next minute a traumatic event leaves them with a devastating injury and a long road to recovery. Falls in older patients are a very common way of leaving them unable to cope independently at home. Medical assistants play a vital role in helping patients to recover from accidents.

Direct Care

One of the core skills of a medical assistant is to give direct care to a patient. They can meet the basic needs of the patient by helping with hygiene, assisting with feeding, and with avoiding complications of immobility. Depending on the patient's injuries there may be other specific needs to support such as helping the patient get to the bathroom or support them getting dressed. The skills of the medical assistant in the clinical team means they can support the specialist clinicians with treatments too.


An accident is a traumatic event for any patient, especially when faced with the fact that they need to adjust to a new lifestyle. The impact of life changing injuries can be devastating. Many older patients need assisted living after a fall, and for someone who has previously lived independently this can be frightening. Medical assistants can offer a lot of support at this time, mainly by listening and looking for those non-verbal communications. With the support of the specialist clinical staff they can help patients work through their psychological trauma in a meaningful way and where they start to recover both physically and psychologically from the accident.


Rehabilitation begins almost as soon as the accident occurs in that treatments are aimed at recovery. A medical assistant works with the medical team to ensure the treatment and rehabilitation plan is carried out. This includes setting goals with the patient, so they have a sense of achievement. Typically, a medical assistant supports the patient to do their exercises and to practice using aids that will help them do activities of daily living. Some of the patients will be older, so helping them adjust to using new aids such as frames and sticks is also important. Each patient will have different challenges, needs and goals depending on their injuries and the level of independence they had before the accident.


One of the major things people recovering from accidents want to do is to get home and live life as normally as possible. In some cases, adjustments will need to be made. A medical assistant can work with the therapy team to plan these changes and to ensure the patient's home is adapted. Examples include ensuring patients know how to prepare meals using the microwave, using a remote assistance device that can turn on the television or close the blinds, and demonstrating new techniques of getting in and out of bed. This helps the patient get home sooner and to live as independently as possible.

Medical assistants have a vital and very rewarding role in helping people recover from accidents. From giving direct care to helping with psychological support and rehabilitation, the training a medical assistant receives is crucial to getting people on the road to recovery.

Medical Assistant Challenges in Supporting Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is critical for rehabilitation and for prevention complications of illnesses such as chest infections. The medical assistant has a vital role in supporting physical therapy and enabling patients to recover faster. Their role as part of a wider medical team is a major asset when it comes to helping people with rehabilitation and preparing for a new life after an accident. Here are just a few of the ways in which medical assistants support physical therapy and make a difference to patients.

Helping Patients with Exercises

One of the most important things for physical therapy to be successful is that patients carry out the exercises and therapies that have been ordered or recommended. A medical assistant can work with the physical therapists to support patients doing their exercises once their session is over. Breathing exercises in those patients who are bed bound is an important example. The medical assistant can encourage patients and help prevent complications of immobility such as pneumonia. This ensures people continue to do their therapy to help them recover sooner.

Using Motivational Behavior Techniques

One of the core skills of a medical assistant is to empower patients to make decisions to adapt their lifestyle. By using motivational behavior techniques, the approach is one where clients are given the information to make changes themselves. This technique can be applied to the physical therapy world and getting patients to set goals, making small changes on the road to recovery. A typical example is a medical assistant working with physical therapy to help a stroke patient with exercises and using motivational behavior to encourage them with goal setting at a challenging time in their life.

Support with Rehabilitation

Some patients experiencing accidents or illness will need to spend time in a rehabilitation setting as part of their recovery. This includes schemes like cardiac rehabilitation programs following a heart attack, and specific spinal injury care. Medical assistants can explain to patients the importance of attending a rehabilitation program and help reinforce some of the learning. Examples include encouraging patients to attend a rehabilitation program for COPD as it gives the patient more confidence and enables them to manage their condition more effectively. Medical assistants can also direct patients to places where they can get help and support.

Getting People Home

One of the most important roles of physical therapy is to get patients to a level that they can go home. A medical assistant can support physical therapy by helping with home assessments and finding practical solutions such as adjustments to appliances to help people live as independently as possible. They can also help patients get used to operating new mobility aids, so they are prepared for using them once back home. Sometimes patients are unable to go to their homes as a consequence of their injury. A medical assistant can work with physical therapy and the wider medical team to ensure people are supported.

Medical assistants can work with physical therapy in a number of ways to help patients recover from illness. From supporting the patient with exercises, to preventing the complications of immobility and helping patients get home and live independently, these are all ways in which medical assistants are effective.

Medical Assistant Challenges with Sepsis

Sepsis is an invasion of infection into the bloodstream. It causes an overwhelming infection which can be fatal. Medical assistants have a critical role in the sepsis pathway particularly in the prevention and early recognition stages. Treatment needs to be given as soon as possible, so speed and early detection is vital. Here's how medical assistants can contribute to the recognition and treatment of sepsis and work in partnership with the clinical team.


Medical assistants have a vital role in preventing sepsis which starts with basic hand hygiene. Everyone should wash their hands before giving care to a patient and between patients. Hands should also be washed after treatments. Where gloves are worn they also need to be changed between patients. This basic rule is vital to prevent infections which can lead to sepsis. Special attention is needed with those who are at a higher risk of infection such as cancer patients, older people, and children. Medical assistants can help with ensuring people are hydrated as one of the common causes of sepsis is a urine tract infection. When medical assistants are working with patients that are at a higher risk of developing flu they can recommend getting an influenza vaccination. Many sepsis cases stem from pneumonia and getting a flu shot can prevent chest infections which can lead to bigger problems.


One of the most important things for clinical staff to do when caring for patients is to spot the early signs of sepsis. Medical assistants can help with spotting signs early as they help with assessments and perform tests on sick patients, many of who will have infections or be vulnerable to sepsis. Early signs include changes in mental ability, patches of discolored skin, breathing difficulties, a low temperature, and low urine output. Slurred speech and a feeling of extreme illness are also signs reported by patients with sepsis. By reporting signs to a doctor early, treatment can start promptly, increasing the likelihood of survival. Most cases of sepsis actually begin in the community so those medical assistants working outside hospitals need to be very sepsis aware to spot signs early.


When a patient is suspected of having sepsis they need assessment to diagnose the problem. Medical assistants can support the clinical staff by recording vital signs frequently and testing urine. They can take blood samples to test for infection, electrolyte imbalance and a platelet count as this is likely to be low in sepsis. People who have sepsis need to be monitored closely so a medical assistant can help with attaching monitoring equipment, oxygen saturation monitors, and to catheterize the patient to measure urine output. Medical assistants can help specialist teams with transfers of patients to critical care and with monitoring their condition in the hospital.

Sepsis is a serious problem in the healthcare setting today. Medical assistants have a variety of skills that are critical in sepsis treatment including the ability to recognize common signs and symptoms. They can also use their skills to assist the medical team with diagnosing the problem and monitoring the patient. Prevention is a core element of sepsis avoidance, so those basic skills can turn out to be lifesaving.

Did learning about patient challenges and their rewards interest you in becoming a medical assistant? The Medical Assisting program at Daymar College is designed to prepare current and future employees for the fast-paced changes encountered in the health care industry, and to help develop training, skills and attitudes necessary to excel in medical assisting. 

Contact us to learn more about a great opportunity to become a medical assistant.