Making a Difference: Why I Love Being a Medical Assistant
Why I Love Being a Medical Assistant
–Tracey Stoeckel, Medical Assisting program instructor
I decided to become a medical assistant later in life; I think some people call it a “second career”. I had already tried my hand at a myriad of things including corporate accounting, property management, retail management, benefits administration, and even car sales. While there were things I enjoyed about every job, I never found myself looking forward to going to work. I always felt that life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy or have fun doing. I wanted a career. I decided to go back to school for a diploma in medical assisting.
First: A Confession
I have to admit something before we go any further. Working with people was not the reason I was attracted to medical assisting as a career. I liked the science. Working beside a physician or other healthcare provider and learning about diseases, assisting with minor surgical procedures, and drawing blood and conducting lab tests; that was the stuff I was looking for. So, the people part came as somewhat of a surprise.
From my first day working in the clinic, I found that the people I came in contact with made an impact on me. I arrived early my first day and there was already a patient waiting for the clinic to open. He assumed that I had a key and when I let him know that I was new, he sat me down and while we waited he told me how lucky I was to be working there. Let’s call him Max. Three years later, Max still greeted me warmly and called me “newbie”. By then we were old friends. Max lived alone, had no family, and was an uncontrolled diabetic. He visited the clinic once or twice a month for labs and always arrived an hour or two early or stayed an hour or two late. He liked the magazines we had, and said we had good coffee. The truth was, he had nowhere else to be. When one of his appointments fell on his birthday, we threw him a little party and sang happy birthday to him in the lab chair. It was the only celebration he had. And he cried.
Snuggles with Abby
Max wasn’t the only patient who impacted me. There was a little girl named Abby, who was autistic and completely nonverbal. She was 7 years old and would become very agitated. On this occasion her mother brought her in because she feared that Abby might be in pain because she would not calm down. The only thing that soothed Abby was to wash her hands in the sink. I could hear Abby moaning and crying in the room, the water running, and knew that the provider and Mom were trying to talk. I slipped quietly into the room and picked Abby up in my arms, not really knowing what her response would be. She locked her legs and arms around me and immediately quieted. She started stroking my hair and would lean back to peer at my face through her crossed and somewhat clouded blue eyes. Abby remained silent and content in my arms, and I refused to put her down, even though at one point my arms were trembling. When I plopped her safely in her car seat more than a half an hour later, her mother squeezed my arm tightly and said, “thank you.” I thanked her back.
Making a Difference
Now you might be thinking, those are good stories about a couple people that I met as a medical assistant, but I literally have a hundred of those stories. These aren’t even the big ones. The big ones make me cry. There are a hundred little moments: a hug after a cancer diagnosis, a blood draw on a very fearful teen, a scared and irate patient screaming profanities at me while I smiled and waited for him to realize that I could help with his problem. These weren’t the exceptional days, these are every day in healthcare. Every single day someone that I cared for made an impact on me in one way or another. Over the years, those people and experiences changed me. I no longer prefer the science. No, I didn’t go into this career to make a difference in the lives of others but that was a beautiful byproduct of my choice. The big surprise to me was how much those patients made a difference in my life and what a gift that truly has been to me.
You might wonder then why I would leave the clinic to become an instructor and lead the RCC Medical Assisting Program. That is another story. Come back soon to find out.
The names of patients have been changed to observe HIPAA privacy laws.
Author: Tracey Stoeckel
Tracey Stoeckel is a certified medical assistant and Lead Instructor for the Medical Assistant and Medical Office Coding and Billing Programs at Rockford Career College in Edina, Minnesota. She has five years of experience working in family practice, pediatrics, and mental health. Tracey resides in the Twin Cities area with her two teen-aged children, two dogs, a tortoise, and a rabbit.
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