Many schools offer a one or two year program for certification as a medical assistant. However, to complete a full associate or bachelors degree, you will need to fulfill your school's general education requirements and select a variety of electives to support your required courses. While you may have to choose some of your electives from pre-approved options, you will likely have one or two open slots in your schedule that you can fill with any courses you want. If you are looking for non-medical courses that can support your career as a medical assistant, you should consider one of the following five electives.
One of the major tasks of medical assistants is to interact with patients. You may find yourself explaining medical procedures, answering questions, and listening to patient concerns. It is important that you practice several styles of communication before you begin as a medical assistant. Increasing your knowledge of common communication styles and habits can help you communicate with greater empathy. It can also help you pick up on nonverbal cues that patients may give about their current medical state or medical history.
Introduction to Psychology
Psychological issues and physical issues often overlap. Chronic illness as well as acute trauma can create a variety of psychological responses, and as a member of the medical team that spends more time with patients, you may be in a unique position to recognize symptoms of psychological trauma, depression, and anxiety. Increasing your understanding of psychology can put you in a position to better help your patients by advocating for them to get not only the physical help they need but also any psychological assistance that may be required.
Even if you do not go into pediatrics, it is probable that you will work with children at some point during your career. Understanding the various developmental stages of children can help you to better communicate with young patients. It can also help you adjust how you deliver medication and take tests with patients of various ages. A solid understanding of how young patients think and act can increase their trust in you, making them more cooperative patients.
Issues in Aging
The United States has an aging population, meaning the percentage of the population that are over 65 is currently increasing. Just as children have unique medical issues, older patients can require unique interactions and awareness. Understanding the process of aging in the United States can help you connect with older patients. It can also help you anticipate issues that might make your patient refuse certain medications, such as concerns about paying for doctor's bills and medications or a desire to keep their dignity as they age. Anticipating these issues can help you encourage healthy choices in your patients.
Intercultural Issues or Intercultural Communication
Whether you work in a doctor's office, a clinic, or a hospital, you will likely meet a wide variety of patients. Patients will come from different economic, social, cultural, racial, and sexual backgrounds. In order to interact comfortable with the majority of your patients, you should take a few courses in intercultural issues and diversity studies. These types of courses will help you understand your own preconceptions about people and anticipate anxieties, fears, and misconceptions about medical treatment that your patients may experience. This can help you deal with the emotional dissonance you may feel when working with a wide variety of people in a short period of time.
It should be noted that most schools have unique names for their courses. For that reason, you should read your course catalog carefully and talk to your adviser to find comparable courses. If you're still deciding which schools you want to apply to, check out one like ASA College.