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College Resource Center : Health Careers : Medical Assisting Study Aids : Building Procedural Competence

Building Procedural Competence

  • Read through the textbook procedure before the in-class demonstration. Being familiar with the procedure will help you understand the demonstration.
  • Watch a demonstration of the complete procedure. Discuss the procedure and ask questions about the parts you did not understand.
  • Focus on the steps critical to the procedure. Be sure you understand the answers to questions such as "Why is it done?" and "How well is it done?"
  • Group the difficult skills. If the procedure is made up of difficult skills, divide the procedure into parts and practice each part separately.
  • Make the practice real. Before being tested on a procedure, practice the procedure by actually doing all of the steps using a volunteer "patient" and/or appropriate medical equipment. Here you have an opportunity to shape the process by working through it and seeing what works best for you. Be sure to ask your teacher if a step or part of a procedure can be modified or done in a different way.
  • Perform the procedure in its entirety. Identify the steps that caused you difficulty to recall or execute and practice the procedure again starting at the steps immediately preceding the problem areas.
  • Learn from others. If you are having difficulty on any of the steps, ask other students and/or your instructor to demonstrate the steps while verbalizing their thoughts about the step.
  • Mentally rehearse the procedure.
  • Focus on patient teaching. Practice explaining the procedure to a patient. Anticipate the types of questions a patient might ask and practice answering those questions.
  • Automate the skill. Practice for speed and accuracy. Eventually, skill execution will take less conscious thought and become more of a muscle memory action. Of course, you always need to pay attention to the effect of your actions, but much of the procedure controls and self-monitoring will occur naturally.
  • Ask for specific feedback on how you are performing. Encourage your instructor and peer evaluators to point out any errors or pitfalls that are hampering your performance. Consider these questions when self-evaluating your performance.
    • Did you provide patient teaching? If yes, was the patient teaching appropriate for the patient’s needs?
    • Did you project confidence?
    • Did you demonstrate caring and concern?
    • Did you use active listening and empathetic listening skills?
    • Did you work effectively with other members of the health team?
    • Was the documentation clear, complete, and accurate?

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