Delivering High-Quality Primary Care Requires Work That Is Worthwhile for Medical Assistants

J Am Board Fam Med. 2023 Feb 8;36(1):193-199. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2022.220249R1. Epub 2022 Dec 2.


Medical assistants are core members of the primary care team, but health care organizations struggle to hire and retain them amid the ongoing exodus of health care workers as part of the "Great Resignation." To sustain a stable and engaged workforce of medical assistants, we argue that efforts to hire and retain them should focus on making their work worthwhile. Work that is worthwhile includes adequate pay, benefits, and job security, but additionally enables employees to experience a sense of contribution, growth, social connectedness, and autonomy. We highlight opportunities during team huddles, the rooming of patients, and career development where the work of medical assistants can be made worthwhile. We also connect these components to the work design literature to show how clinic managers and supervising clinicians can promote worthwhile work through decision-making and organizational climate. Going beyond financial compensation, these components target the latent occupational needs of medical assistants and are likely to forge employee-employer relationships that are mutually valued and sustained over time.

Keywords: Delivery of Health Care; Health Personnel; Leadership; Medical Assistants; Primary Health Care; Workforce.

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Workforce