Interview with Gloria Baker
Gloria Baker is a Medical Assistant and Phlebotomist based in the Greater Chicago Area. In 2012 she completed her training to become a Medical Assistant at Everest College and currently works as a Direct Support Professional at Little City Foundation. You can connect with Gloria on LinkedIn.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and why you decided you wanted to become a medical assistant?
When I first decided to become a medical assistant it was about 4 years ago. I was working in retail and I was looking for a change. I was looking into nursing, but I wasn’t sure if healthcare was the way I wanted to go. So then I decided to do more research into a medical assistant program.
Where did you study to become a medical assistant and was it an online or on a campus based program?
It was a campus based program at Everest College. That program was for 12 months with a 2 month externship.
How did you choose where to do your training and why did you choose a diploma program?
I actually chose to do the diploma program because at the time it was the closest program to me that was accepting students. Everywhere else wasn’t in the process of accepting students at the time.
Which courses did you especially enjoy and why?
I enjoyed the clinical labs and going to my externship because it was more hands on. It wasn’t just what we were learning in the class. It was more learning it and then putting it to use.
How would you assess the quality of the training you received?
I would give the quality of the training a 90%, but I believe what you put into it is what you get out of it.
What clinical and administrative skills did you learn on the program?
We went over vital skills, EKGs, phlebotomy skills, direct patient care, capillary punctures, injections, still trace setups and direct screenings. And then for administrative skills it included data entry, Microsoft Word, billing and coding and learning how to do the patients in and out, how to receive the labs when they come in and make referrals for the doctor.
What did you learn from the externship and how did this help you in getting future employment?
It was a 200 hour externship and it was done over a 2 month period of time. It prepared me a lot for the workforce. I learned the ins and outs from the beginning of your day until the end of your day and how it’s different from working with adults and children.
What advice would you give to people on choosing a medical assistant training program?
I would say make sure you do your research on the school, find out if they will help you prepare your resume, cover letters and help you with your interview skills. And then also make sure that you check the jobs that are available in your area before you start your program.
What do you think are the most respected medical assistant schools and do you think school choice makes a difference in landing a good job?
In my area, the two schools that are at the top right now are Robert Morris University and North Western College. However, when you are entering the job field I think that school choice doesn’t really matter. It’s how much you sell yourself and how confident you are in the skills that you have learned.
What was your career goal as a medical assistant when you started your training?
When I first started it was just that I wanted to help people. It changed as I grew in the field.
Are there any areas of medical assisting that you would like to specialize in?
I would like to specialize in OB or labor and delivery.
Did you find it hard to get your first medical assisting job and wow long did it take you?
When I first finished school, before I actually graduated I had a job lined up for me. So I would say my first job wasn’t hard to find because I had one before I finished. The job coach at the school had me go on interviews during my externship. So it was setting me up to be prepared for the workforce before I even finished school. We went over interview skills, how to market yourself and where to go to put in your resume before you even finish your program.
Where did you apply for jobs?
Starting off, I would say try the doctor’s offices or the small clinics. They will normally get you in right away so you can get your hands on experience. Also, don’t just focus on one particular area. Try to get training in all areas. If you can demonstrate a wide variety of skills, it makes it easier when you move on to your next job. The more skills you have the more marketable you are.
What is your current role at the moment and how would you describe your typical working week? What skills does the job demand and what are the key responsibilities?
Right now I do a lot of scheduling patient’s appointments and their lab work. I make sure their medication is up to date and make sure the pharmacist is bringing over the right medication. I also do a lot of front desk reception things, patient triage, urinalysis, drawing their labs. And we have a couple of other minor office procedures that we do.
What skills and personal qualities do you think are most important to be a medical assistant?
The most important skill is time management. Your day can be booked with 50 patients or even 100 patients a day sometimes, so you’ve got to be able to multi-task.
What tips would you give to recent graduates and what can they do to improve their chances of landing that first job?
I think it’s really important to make sure that your resume stands out. Don’t just do the basic resume that everyone in the class is doing.
What is the job market like for Medical Assistants in your local area at the moment?
Right now I think the job market is pretty good. We’re in between CNA work and LPN work so the outlook for the position is growing a lot. You see a lot of places; clinics, hospitals and doctors’ offices. Even dentists’ offices are starting to use medical assistants to help out. So it’s growing. We’re allowed to do more than the CNAs do and a little bit less than the LPNs do.
What contributions do you think Medical Assistants make to the healthcare field and to society as a whole?
I think that as a whole we come together. We are stepping into areas where there’s a shortage of nurses because we can pass medications and give injections. So we can step in and they don’t have to have as many nurses because they’re utilizing the medical assistants.
What are your career goals for the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years I want to be a nurse midwife. It will take me about 2½ more years, because I have already started the courses to get started into the program.
Do you think Medical Assisting leads into further career progression opportunities?
It does. Once you know that healthcare is the field that you want to go into, you can expand and you can do more than your job scope is as a medical assistant. You can go back and get further education and grow and develop from there.