Culture & Criticism Since 2003
Michelle Blesi is the lead author of Medical Assisting, one of the authoritative undergraduate textbooks in the discipline reviewed here. Blesi, who currently teaches at Century College in Minnesota, has over 3 decades experience in the field attained via both academic and clinical settings. In the following interview, she shares her insights into the intricate process of writing for the student reader.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Community Psychology. When I graduated from high school I originally took courses in medical assisting at the Medical Institute of Minnesota. And after graduation I went to work at HealthEast. I worked for one of the satellite clinics there for 14 years, with about ten years of that time spent in the family practice area which emphasized my clinical and laboratory skills. After that my role changed, and I worked as a lead in the Nursing/Lab department and later as a Clinical Manager. In 2001, I was recruited by Century College to serve as Program Director and Unlimited Full Time Faculty member in the Medical Assistant Department.
That’s an interesting question. In high school, I had zero interest in medicine. I actually thought I would go to law school. But a friend of mine who had gone into medical assisting told me to explore the field seriously – she thought I would enjoy it. With a last-minute decision I changed my mind and enrolled in the medical assisting program. And I have loved it. The field has opened a million doors for me.
Yes, at HealthEast. I worked in clinical and lab positions in both entry level and management capacities. Later I also worked in the administration area as a Clinical Manager.
Yes I do – I have a current certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants. This is considered one of the gold-standards in the field credentialing the skills of medical assistants.
Once you graduate from an accredited program you are eligible to take the national certification examination for medical assisting. If you pass you this test you will be certified for work in all 50 states. Medical assistants usually start at entry level positions in healthcare, working in clinics, hospitals or specialty units after having been trained in three basic areas. These areas include clinical skills – things like measuring patient vitals and administering medications; administration – things like billing, coding and referrals; and the trans-disciplinary area – things like teamwork, empathy, communication and professionalism. In a nutshell, medical assistants perform a variety of clinical and administrative duties under the direct supervision of a licensed healthcare professional.
The first topic I would discuss with such a high school student is the need to interact with people – students thinking about this field need to like working directly with people. In terms of technical and cognitive skills, they should have a basic understanding of human biology, medical terminology, as well as computer skills. Computer skills are a must now given the electronic medical records requirements. The thing I hear most from clinicians is that students need to have sound professional skills – they need to communicate effectively and be able to work on a team and exhibit professionalism at all times.
I came onto the project in 2009 when it was going into its 7th edition [currently in its 8th edition], and the skeleton of the book was already in place. I started with 20 chapters that needed to be updated and revised. In 2012, I took on the role of lead author in the 8th edition. The lead role entails content development for the entire text. I worked with co-author Virginia Ferrari on it. The current edition took about 3 years once we started the restructuring. We initially reached out to many people in the industry for practical feedback to make sure we were providing the necessary information.
The main reason is that I’d been working in education for a long time and had real difficulty finding a text that met the needs of both the students and instructors. I really wanted to give students more bang for their buck and take away the need for multiple course texts. I wanted to give them all the information they needed in one text plus a workbook. As a secondary consideration, accredited programs have standards that must be met and protocols that must be followed. And it’s always a challenge to keep current with accreditation requirements. And that became another primary goal – to deliver a book that assessed accreditation standards while meeting the over-all needs of the student population.
As I said, the skeleton for the book was in place when I came aboard. But one thing that you have to realize is that any time you are working with medical content you have to be perfectly accurate and the material always has to be updated. So the majority of time was spent researching material to insure the accuracy of our content. Basically, we started with outlines and then worked to create content. After we had a draft, we looked for feedback. We have people throughout the country – from students to providers – from whom we solicit feedback. And these comments were invaluable, since they came from the population for whom we’re writing. These reviewers told us from the get-go if we were giving them the information they needed in a direct way. But the creation of the book started from a basic outline. You will note that this edition of Medical Assisting is also in electronic form. With any textbook, there will be a wide-range of users with varying skill levels, and the electronic format helps address this, providing an alternative for students who don’t want a big heavy textbook to lug around and who instead want to read it on their computers or phones.