How to Succeed in a Medical Office Environment

What to Expect Working at a Busy Medical Practice

Medical waiting room and reception desk
Henglein and Steets / Cultura / Getty Images

What is it like to work in a busy medical office? A former nurse and current manager of a busy pediatric medical office discusses the environment, the staff, what she looks for in an interview, and what people can do to succeed in this hectic environment.

The manager works in a pediatric office with 10 physicians and three office locations. They see kids up to 18 years of age but most are much younger.

They are in a small manufacturing/industrial town which has a lot of migrant workers and uninsured patients. The manager hires nurses, CMA’s (certified medical assistants)medical receptionists, and medical interpreters. They have  nurse practitioners on staff.

What is a typical day like for a medical office worker?

It’s very very fast-paced. Dealing with people of other cultures is important. You will typically see a waiting room full of patients, including many who don’t speak English. Also, they are scared or tense because their baby might be sick. You have to be able to move fast, but also be sensitive to what these parents are dealing with. The phone is also ringing off the hook so people typically have to multi-task.

What are the typical shifts and hours?

The shift hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Everyone rotates the 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift for equality.

The office is also open on weekends, so the staff rotates a weekend shift, and usually, each employee works about one weekend per month when the office is fully staffed.

What qualities do your most successful employees have?

They’re efficient. They can talk to the patients and make them feel comfortable while giving them important information.

Also, they aren’t too easily distracted. There are screaming kids and stressed out moms all around sometimes, and you just have to stay focused. Employees can’t be high-maintenance or high-drama. They need to be pretty self-sufficient but also know when to ask for help. Also being task-oriented and not getting caught up in gossip and extraneous stuff is key.

What advice would you give to others who are seeking a career in health care?

Be on time, be honest, do your best, and the rest will fall into place. Being on time is very important because that can slow down the entire operation in a medical office. Even if you don’t like your job, do it well until you find something else.

What do you look for when you’re interviewing someone to work in your office?

Previous work experience is very telling. If they have moved around [changed jobs] a lot, you want to know why, and did they leave on good terms? Their references are checked to make sure the stories match. Also, their energy level is important; they can’t be half asleep and work in a fast-paced medical office. At the interview, they are asked questions about how they’ve handled difficult situations in the past and to give examples.

The interviewer notices how confidently they answer the questions and whether or not they make eye contact.

They can’t have any background issues, criminal or financial. The office deals with sensitive patient information and financial information, so it’s a must that a potential employee has a clean record.