It takes more than education to be a medical assistant. You have to have a compatible personality and mindset. In addition, you also need the right soft skills and clinical training to go with your education.

How do you know if medical assisting is the right career path for you? First, take a look at seven essential soft skills every medical assistant needs.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills is a buzz phrase you hear a lot these days, whether you are an employer looking to hire, a job seeker, or a student planning your future, but what does it mean? The job posting site Indeed describes soft skills as personality traits that help you do well in your chosen field. They are the things that make you uniquely qualified for a specific role. For example, a bookkeeper needs organizational skills and an eye for detail. A novelist needs creativity and a way with words.

Hard skills are the technical abilities that make you effective in a job. Soft skills are everything else, like empathy and a desire to help. So, what soft skills does a medical assistant need? 

Critical Soft Skills a Medical Assistant Needs

Today, medical assistants are becoming more important in healthcare environments as the industry tries to reduce costs while maintaining quality patient care. A medical assistant has direct contact with people who need a certain level of treatment understanding and care. That requires more skills than just those you learn from a book.

1. Communication

Communication is a two-way street in the world of medical assisting. Medical assistants must communicate well with patients who are often feeling sick, nervous, or embarrassed. They must also deal with colleagues on a patient's care team.

A good medical assistant knows the lingo used in healthcare and knows how to talk to patients to get information and help them understand treatments. They must be able to speak to family members who are worried about someone they love, as well.

2. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes and understand how they feel. It is probably one of the most essential soft skills for any healthcare professional, including a medical assistant.

Medical assistants must connect with patients and family members on a personal level. They must build trust in a way that makes patients want to listen to them and share information.

3. Teamwork

Being a medical assistant means you are part of an essential team of healthcare providers. The key term here is “team.” You must be able to work with others in the patient's best interest.

The medical assistant must collaborate with others, so developing this skill is important.

4. Work Ethic

Someone working in healthcare must have a strong work ethic. They must exhibit professionalism and respect the patient’s right to privacy. They must understand that what they do and say affects the people around them. They must also have the drive to help others.

5. Problem Solving

Problem-solving is a soft skill most people need in their jobs. However, a medical assistant needs finely tuned problem-solving abilities to handle situations as they arise. They need to be able to identify obstacles and find solutions in a way that best serves both the patient and the care team.

6. Active Listening

Active listening refers to hearing with all your senses. It is a skill that keeps you engaged in a conversation by giving the person you are listening to your full attention. You look at them, nod, listen, and don’t interrupt.

Being an active listener can help you fully comprehend what the patient is saying and ask the patient appropriate questions. It is a necessary skill to make the patient feel heard and provide accurate information to other care team members.

7. Adaptability

A medical assistant can fill many roles in a care team, so adaptability is essential. Medical assistants may not follow the same routine every day or even work with the same group of people. That flexibility is what makes them so indispensable in the healthcare environment.

Adaptability goes hand in hand with good organizational skills. A medical assistant must be able to work in any medical environment while minimizing the impact of stress. Stress can lead to mistakes that could negatively impact the patient.

Why Are Soft Skills Important in Medical Assisting?

Soft skills influence how you do your job and interact with others in the workplace. Training gives you the opportunity to learn technical skills you will need in the workplace, but soft skills make a medical assistant valuable to both patients and care providers.

It is soft skills that help a patient trust you. They also help your colleagues believe in your abilities. Technical skills are the impersonal side of medical assisting. Soft skills make you a caregiver.

Soft skills also look good on your medical assistant resume when looking for jobs.

Learning Soft Skills in Medical Assistant School

A combination of technical and soft skills will make you a better employee and caregiver. You can learn to be an active listener, for instance. It is more challenging to learn empathy, but not impossible.

Often the necessary soft skills are already there if you are interested in studying to be a medical assistant. However, you may need some training to bring them to the surface and use them effectively as you work with others.

As with most things, practice makes perfect. Going to school gives you a chance to practice soft skills like communication as you:

  • Take part in discussion groups

  • Ask questions

  • Listen to what others have to say

  • Help classmates with coursework or studying

  • Write down information as you listen to videos or webinars

Effective training can help you fine-tune your existing soft skills and make you better at your job. You work on projects and study in ways that enhance your problem-solving and critical thinking skills, for instance.

The trick is to find the right program that can foster your soft skills as a medical assistant. The College of Health Care Professions (CHCP) offers a variety of programs: online, on campus, and hybrid options that have a little of both.

CHCP programs are versatile enough to assist you in finding a career path that works well with your soft skills and motivates you. Our Medical Assistant Certificate Program is available on campus or online and can have you applying for jobs in the field in as few as 36 weeks.

Find out more about CHCP, the skills required of a medical assistant, and our other programs by checking out our website today!