On-the-Job Training for Medical Assistants

Updated July 17, 2023

Medical assistants work under the supervision of qualified medical specialists, like physicians and nurse practitioners. Understanding how you can gain on-the-job training in this role can help you advance in your career.

In this article, we discuss what medical assistant on-the-job training is, where to find it and the skills and technical knowledge it can help you develop.

What is medical assistant on-the-job training?

On-the-job training refers to the experience and education you gain while working as a medical assistant in a professional setting. You might work in a physician's office, hospital or healthcare facility. On-the-job training allows you to perform technical tasks, including sterilizing equipment, preparing patients for medical examinations (like x-rays), and checking vital signs, such as breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. 

While some people apply for on-the-job training after high school, others apply after completing additional education, such as a medical assistant associate's degree. While you may develop fundamental medical skills like anatomy, terminology and medication administration throughout your education, physically performing tasks strengthen your technical abilities in your preferred field.

Read more: Types of Medical Assistant Jobs, Opportunities and Salary

Where to find medical assistant on-the-job training

If you're looking for a medical assistant position with on-the-job training, there are several places where you can seek employment, including:

Local medical facilities, such as clinics and hospitals

If you're looking for a medical assistant program that offers on-the-job training, make sure to contact local medical facilities, including hospitals and clinics. Smaller clinics and private practices may hire medical assistants with limited professional experience and provide them with role-specific training. When contacting these facilities, try visiting them in person or calling them to learn about employment opportunities.

Related: Registered Medical Assistant vs. Certified Medical Assistant

Job boards and professional platforms

When you're trying to find a medical assistant position that provides candidates with on-the-job training after hiring them, make sure to check job boards and professional platforms. Employers use these sites to post open position and their job descriptions. They may even allow you to apply for the role online. You may be able to review a job description to determine whether the medical facility or office offers employees on-the-job training. 

Related: What Is a Job Board? (Plus How To Use One)

Externship opportunities

If you're unable to find a full-time position that offers on-the-job training, consider pursuing an externship that can provide you with similar hands-on learning opportunities.

Related: What Is an Externship? (How To Get One and What to Expect)

Certifications to qualify for on-the-job training

While employers rarely require these certifications to qualify for a medical assistant position, earning them may help you qualify for a paid position that allows you to gain on-the-job training. Consider earning one of these credentials before pursuing a medical assistant role:

Basic Life Support certification

To become a medical assistant who gains on-the-job training, you may want to become Basic Life Support (BLS) certified. A BLS certification includes a variety of practical skills and tasks for medical assistants, including CPR for various types of patients and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). 

Related: 9 Jobs with Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification Requirements

Phlebotomy certification

Medical assistants who receive on-the-job training may learn how to draw blood and gain hands-on experience under the advisory of more experienced individuals. This makes it important for them to have completed a phlebotomy certification.

Related: 13 Types of Phlebotomy Certifications

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification ensures medical assistants feel prepared to handle a variety of emergency medical situations. Although employers may not require this certification, it can help medical assistants ensure they're prepared for on-the-job training opportunities as they arise.

Related: How To Earn a CPR Certification in 6 Steps (Plus Benefits)

Medical assistant skills and qualifications from on-the-job training

Medical assistants rely on hard skills and technical knowledge that allow them to perform specific medical tasks and soft skills that help them interact with others and manage their time. Here are five skills you may develop while gaining on-the-job training as a medical assistant:

Medical terminology expertise

As you operate in a clinical facility or office, you may hear specialists like consultants, registered nurses and medical office managers use medical terminology naturally in sentences to each other and yourself. Hearing medical terminology in this environment can help you contextualize the terms and identify when to use them. You might also learn which terms suit patient discussions and how to break down technical terms to aid understanding. Some words you may hear relate to anatomical areas, specific conditions, pharmacology and medicine applications, such as via cannula.

Read more: Medical Terminology: 71 Terms To Learn

Patient care experience

Patient care involves listening to the concerns of nervous individuals, showing empathy, providing information on conditions and treatment, checking vital signs and dressing wounds. While training, you may find unique ways to approach specific scenarios, such as displaying compassion towards distressed individuals. You may also adapt some processes to your work style to improve efficiency, such as sterilizing equipment or giving injections. 

Related: Patient Care Technician vs. Medical Assistant

Procedures such as checking vital signs

You may learn how to check the vital signs of real patients during your training. While developing this skill, you might work on how you verbally communicate your actions to patients and practice recognizing issues with heart rate, identifying breathing obstructions and monitoring blood pressure. You may gain confidence using tools like stethoscopes, thermometers, blood pressure meters and pulse oximetry monitors.

Related: The Most Important Medical Assistant Skills To Include on Your Resume

Interpersonal communication skills

Interpersonal qualities refer to how you approach and communicate with people and sustain relationships. While gaining on-the-job training, you may develop a calm and confident approach to patients to make them feel safe in your care. You may also recognize what it takes to build a good rapport with patients, easing the efficiency of a ward or clinic, as there are fewer complaints. 

For example, you may use active listening to identify key details about patients and ask them about them later in conversations to make them feel valued. Similarly, your interpersonal qualities support your collaboration, helping you maintain motivation and commitment to team tasks. 

Related: Interpersonal Intelligence: Meaning and Why It's Important

Problem-solving skills

Throughout your training, you may face problems related to new patient symptoms, issues with computer systems and scheduling clashes. Your problem-solving skills help you approach situations logically and with patience. You might remain calm and offer reassurance when applicable, such as consoling a patient before receiving an injection. 

As your confidence improves, you might find it easier to recall medical knowledge, linking certain symptoms to causes, which improves response time. In an administrative setting, you might combine problem-solving with computer literacy to prioritize tasks, such as data restoration during computer downtime and work methodically to solve the issue.


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