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What Are the Duties of a Medical Secretary?

Highly in demand in the medical field, a medical secretary has plenty of administrative and office duties that keep a clinic or hospital running smoothly.

Looking for a career as a medical professional? You’ll be part of a big team. One in eight Americans works in healthcare. It’s the fastest-growing sector in the U.S. economy with women representing nearly eighty percent of the workforce.

With so many patients and so many staff, it’s hardly surprising that administrative workers are in high demand. Becoming a medical secretary means job security and a rewarding career right on the front line. Read on to find out what the job involves.

1. The Main Duties of a Medical Secretary

Medical assistants and secretaries carry out clerical duties. That could be at a doctor’s surgery or in another health professional’s office. It’s a support role and it’s integral to the smooth running of any facility that offers patient care.

The job will involve typing correspondence and reports using a computer keyboard. There will be files to organize, and payments to be made. Medical assistants will also manage insurance forms and invoices to be paid by patients.

Working with the Public

You’ll need to show empathy when interacting with the public. When patients are seeking help from a doctor they may be worried and stressed. A medical secretary may be the first person they come into contact with.

As well as operating the front desk, medical secretaries will have to answer calls and emails. They’ll need to schedule appointments and have a keen sense of when something is urgent.

There’ll be lots of office equipment to get used to. That will include computers, scanners, and complex telephone systems. 

Medical secretaries also need to be familiar with medical terminology. They’ll require an understanding of health insurance rules, and billing procedures.

2. Education and Training

Medical secretaries do not need to have advanced degrees. Executive medical secretaries are an exception. They do have to have a bachelor’s degree. A high school or equivalency diploma will always be required.

Additional coursework and certifications can be very useful. That’s because they’ll assist you in securing the position you’re looking for. They’ll also help you to do a better job.

Many colleges and vocational schools offer educational programs designed to prepare you. Courses may help to improve keyboard and computer skills. They’ll also give students an understanding of office management. 

Special Certifications

There are also courses that are specifically aimed at those who want to work in the medical sector. This includes preparation for the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant exam. You can even do this remotely by completing this online training.

If you want to embark on a career as a medical assistant or secretary you need basic skills. This includes an understanding of how an office works. You’ll also need knowledge of medical terminology and clinic, hospital or laboratory procedures.

All of this can be obtained through formal instruction and on-the-job training. Prior knowledge can help you to stand out as an applicant and get you ahead of the crowd.

3. Computer Skills Required

If you want to be a great medical secretary, you’ll need to hone up your computer skills. You should practice and do online research in your spare time so that you’re familiar with all the basics.

This means sending and receiving emails as well as knowing how to sort them. You should also be across some of the basic commands and settings available. You’ll need to be able to make, read and understand spreadsheets. 

You should familiarize yourself with the software used for recordkeeping and billing. The more you know, the more invaluable you are going to be. If you can provide evidence of your knowledge to a future employer then that’s even better. 

4. Conduct Online Research

You should get to know some of the major health websites. These can act as a resource to help you understand more about health issues. That’s a great bonus for any healthcare facility.

A useful exercise is to pick ten types of disease and conduct some online research about each of them. Check out the main governmental sites that might help with your investigations into a virus such as shingles, for example.

The more you know about the types of difficulties patients face the more you’ll be able to help them. Your job will not be to offer them advice but you will be able to empathize and offer them a level of understanding.

It might well be part of your job to arrange hospital admissions for patients. If you understand why these may be necessary it will help you to do a better job.

5. Communication Skills 

When you’re working in a busy environment being able to communicate well is essential. Throw in patients who may be suffering from acute illnesses and it’s easy to see why this is particularly important in your chosen field.

You’ll need to be able to convey information to all the other members of staff you’re working alongside. This could be other support staff like yourself or physicians and nurses. 

The Ability to Listen

Crucially you’ll need to be able to communicate well with patients. Communication is not just about you being able to impart a piece of knowledge to another person. It also involves the ability to listen carefully. 

If you can do this, you’ll be well on your way to success. Patients can arrive at a medical facility anxious and fearful about a problem or medical process. If you can listen to these concerns you’ll be able to reassure them and keep them calmer.

You don’t need to provide medical solutions to their problems. That’s someone else’s job but you do need to be able to show a degree of empathy and guide people in the right direction so that they get the help they need.

6. Interpersonal Skills

If you enjoy socializing then your interpersonal skills may already be well developed. Useful techniques include the ability to understand body language. You may also have to draw on your skills of persuasion and negotiation.

Think about what you might do if a person arrives at a surgery demanding to see a doctor without an appointment. How would you handle this? You may be sympathetic but you might also have to be firm and stick to normal procedures.

7. Organizational Skills

Are you the type of person who likes to keep your shoes and clothes neatly in order in the closet? Do bundles of papers scattered over a desk bother you? If so, then working as a medical assistant might be just the job for you.

You’ll need an ability to create and use systems that work well. That means having records at your fingertips so that you can pull them up fast. 

You could well be called upon to prepare correspondence. You might have to assist physicians in putting together a report, speech, or conference agenda.

These professionals will be relying on you to pull together pieces of information for them quickly and efficiently. Their time is precious and they won’t want any hold-ups. You’ll need to be able to work under pressure and to tight deadlines.

8. Other Clerical Duties

As a medical secretary, it’s also likely that you’ll be called upon to transcribe recorded messages. This could include diagnoses and recommendations made by physicians. These would need to be added to the medical records of patients.

You’ll be required to perform bookkeeping duties. This includes things like keeping a record of credits and collections. You might have to prepare and send financial statements and bills.

You’ll have to keep files of all financial records and complete insurance claim forms. It will likely fall on you to ensure that there are sufficient stationery supplies.

You may also have to liaise with those who maintain any office equipment such as printers and computers. You’ll need to keep records of when appliances were serviced and sort out repairs.

9. The Right Personality

Medical secretaries do tend to have distinct personalities. The best are conscientious individuals. They’ll take pride in being logical, efficient and well-organized.

They will also be good with people. That means being generous and kind as well as cooperative, patient, tactful, and friendly. Whatever the institution, medical secretaries will spend a good part of their workday in the front office area.

This is where there is a lot of interaction with patients and other members of the public. Work hours are usually the standard nine to five excluding weekends. Part-time positions are often available. 

10. The Work Environment

Medical secretaries are key players in any healthcare institution. These can range from hospitals and dental offices to universities and nursing homes.

Where you choose to work will definitely have an impact on the type of responsibilities you’ll be given. Those who work in a research facility are unlikely to ever have to deal with emergencies, for example.

Working in a hospital will be totally different. Medical secretaries have the flexibility to be able to work in an environment that interests them most. That could mean working with the elderly or in a facility that specializes in sports injuries. 

A Varied and Interesting Career

You may well be looking for a challenging job in which you’re unlikely to get bored. Becoming a medical secretary could be the right career choice for you.

Continue reading the career section of our blog and find out which are the top ten best medical institutes in the world.