IBMC Articles

The Medical Assisting Student: Getting Through School

Ever wonder how other medical assistant students get through school? Did anyone tell you what to expect?

What should you expect as a Medical Assistant?

After many weeks in the classroom, hands on practicing, new friendships and externship, you begin to feel a rhythm as you go about your days interacting with other students and learning from your instructors. Toward the end of the program, you grasp an intuitive connection that assists you to be an efficient medical assistant for doctors and their patients. This is what you have to look forward to, but first consider the reality of what real students go through to finish the program.

Students from the program have often advised, “…show up to class and do the work, because it’s hard to play catch up!”

Honestly, most students would agree that life is unpredictable and that as a student you will encounter surprises you didn’t expect. Those surprises sometimes make it hard to complete homework, study for a test or even make it to class.

Yeah, the struggle is real.

If there is one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: There are ways to get through the struggle because students before you have done it. Read on to find out how they did it and how you can too.

One student, was surprised to learn that her daughter was rushed to the emergency room during her anatomy class. In the middle of this sudden news, she made sure to leave class knowing her assignments. The next day, she learned that her daughter was still not well enough to go home, but fortunately her daughter was stable. In that moment, the last thing she wanted to do was read her text books or course material. She also felt the added burden of having to catch up and read ahead for when she went back to school.

This was a moment of making a choice.

She felt overwhelmed and thought it best to put her education on-hold. After all, this was a stressful time.

How could she afford the hospital bill?

Who would help her with the well-being of her daughter?

Where would she find support if this happened again?

The questions just kept coming, but she kept herself together enough to realize a few things.

Even though she missed a couple days of class, the least she could do was read her books and try her best. Not for herself, but for her daughter. Suzie knew that in order to cover the cost of the hospital bill she had to get through her anatomy class. After that, she hoped to start working and could pay the bills and cover the costs with a better health insurance. Even though she was still a medical student, she found comfort in the fact that she could already understand her daughter’s doctors.

Suzie had good questions that enabled her become involved in the care the doctors were providing for her daughter. She became EMPOWERED.

It was not easy for Suzie to study in the hospital room. She needed a lot of breaks and had to remind herself to stay focused. She went back to school after a few days to continue with her anatomy class and complete her tests.

She passed! While her score wasn’t as high as she had hoped, she passed her tests. Her instructor reminded her that she should be proud of herself for her strength and focus through the struggle.

It took a lot for Suzie to realize her inner strength and to continue through school. She showed up, and did the work because it’s hard to play catchup.

As a Medical Assistant student, it’s hard to imagine yourself drawing blood, giving injections or actually finishing a medical terminology class.

Do not be afraid, gain comfort knowing that the purpose of going to college is to learn from the ground up to grow into a medical professional.

Nicolas, was excited about his next class, Pharmacology because he was close to finishing the program. Fearful of needles, Nicolas learned that the students would be performing injections on each other in class. This was a big problem because he could not imagine being able to give an injection, let alone allow someone else give him an injection. Unable to avoid injections, Nicolas became frustrated. He thought about reasoning with the campus president to bypass the class and still graduate. Nicolas decided he would leave the school if the campus president couldn’t see things his way.

This was a moment of making a choice.

Instead, Nicolas took a chance and admitted his fear of needles and talked with his instructor. It took him a few days to work up the courage, but he did it. After a few weeks of class, he realized that his fear came from a bad experience as a kid. The other part of his fear was from not really understanding how injections were helpful and necessary. His classmates helped him recognize the process of giving injections and all the different details related to administering an injection. The steady introduction to needles and supportive classmates that shared the same fears was exactly what he needed to get through this class.

As a medical assistant student, some classes will be easier than others. Instructors are aware of the discomfort and fears that students share in certain classes.

Don’t be afraid. Find comfort knowing that the purpose of going to college is to start from the beginning and grow into a medical professional. It really is true that the most important thing you can do is just show up and do the work because it’s hard to play catch up if you fall behind or miss things in class.

Towards the end of the Medical Assisting program, you and your classmates grow closer as you share some of the struggles together. Eventually you all find yourself looking forward to an externship where you get to experience a real clinic setting.

Jeremy was a student who had gone to college before but unfortunately had to drop out. This was his second time attending college. He felt good because he got through the program and was now looking at attending his externship site in a week.

Although he had a sense of being accomplished, he began to worry. Jeremy doubted that he did well enough in school to be on an externship. He feared that he wouldn’t know what to do.

Was he allowed to ask questions?

Would they get mad at him if he asked too many questions?

What if they ask him to wrap a wound and he forgets an important step in the procedure?

How embarrassing…

Doubt and fear gave Jeremy a feeling of an inevitable failure. He thought about dropping out of school and never looking back.

Besides, he lived on the other side of town. No one would find out, would they?

This was a moment of making a choice.

Jeremy showed up and did the work because he knew it was hard to catch up. He understood that the purpose of college was to learn from the ground up and allow himself to grow into a medical professional. Having learned these things the hard way, instead of turning away from them, Jeremy took a chance on himself this time.


At the end of his first day, Jeremy realized that externship really was the bridge for a real Medical Assistant job. He understood that all his time in the classroom, learning from books and practicing hands-on techniques was exactly what Medical Assistants actually do in the clinic.

Externship sites expect students to ask questions, be curious and involved. You don’t have to know the answers because the experience is a guide for new Medical Assistants.  The situation’s sole purpose is to ease you into practicing and working with real patients.

It can be a little difficult to keep up with the pace at first. However, you are never left alone until you feel confident enough to try a few things on your own. Not only do you have a mentor readily available, but the helping hands of all the people in the clinic.

Externship clinics want you to succeed because they are proud of the way they run their clinic and want to provide a good experience for students.

It’s hard to envision early on, but as the weeks pass you’ll find a rhythm as you interact with patients and learn from the doctors. You become in-tune with the clinic setting and develop an intuitive connection between the doctors and their patients.

Once the externship is over, you can feel pride because you realize that you’re ready for a real Medical Assistant job in the workforce. This success is what you have to look forward to as a Medical Assistant student. Most students encounter unexpected surprises that force them into a moment of making a choice. Much like what Suzie, Nicolas and Jeremy faced. Now you know that one can persevere through struggles because students just like you have accomplished it before you.



Brissa Childers is an IBMC College graduate, Medical Assisting Instructor, and a contributor to the IBMC blog. Come back often to read more about Brissa’s experiences!

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