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Faculty of Humanities and Education

Department of History and Philosophy


Rashida Tull  (Barbados)



Job Title: Medical Office Manager and Medical Assistant
Qualifications: BA History (First Class Hon.)
Graduation Year:


“History? Why History?” This is the resounding question I hear whenever I tell someone that I majored in history for my Bachelors degree. I must admit that initially, I too was forced to ask myself the same thing. “ Why did I choose history? What kind of career opportunities are there in a field like this and in a place like Barbados where vacancies are often very limited or almost non- existent in these areas”. For a time it felt like I pursued an education that served no significant purpose in a professional world dominated by careers in accounting, medicine, engineering, and business.
Ultimately my quest for work and exposure to the working world taught me that the skills I gained through my history degree gave me versatility where I could tailor my skill set to accommodate  any professional or academic pursuit. Strong research skills, communications skills, time management, organisational skills, and the ability to think critically and analytically are just some  of the aspects of my degree programme that essentially helped me to grow from a student to an employee.
Having strong research skills was imperative to forming the basis of knowledge and  understanding for any subject, course or programme and ultimately any line of work. History teaches you to always go a step further by looking deeper and using any and every medium that was available to you, as a good researcher/ historian never leaves any stone unturned. The key to successful research is to be comprehensive in your approach.
It must also be noted that being able to adequately document and record information found is  also a major part of the research process as this is important for citing, being able to recall information if additional research or clarification is needed, and to possibly serve as a future point of sourcing references for fellow researchers.
Communication skills, primarily written, verbal, non-verbal and listening, were developed through the constant engagement in essay writing, tutorial presentations and class discussions. Effective communication was not only important to the delivery and receipt of information but it also helped in the development of interpersonal skills that extended beyond engagements as a student.
Good time management and organisational skills were essential to being able to efficiently and effectively manage assignments, tasks, studying and life all at once. They allow you to be more flexible, less stressed and afford you the ability to adequately plan and execute your tasks. Mismanaging time and being disorganised can make the world of difference to the type of work you are forced to produced while under pressure and the type of work you could potentially produce when you are relaxed and able to function optimally.
Thinking analytically and critically were important in relation to one's ability to analyse questions, dissect information, evaluate evidence and determine the validity of facts. These methods of thinking ultimately help you to develop the ability to solve problems, make better decisions and in the instance of critical thinking, the ability to be objective.
Additionally, I must admit that the social, economic and political awareness I would have gained has encouraged me to be a more disciplined and conscious individual. Having that knowledge of the past, knowing where your people have come from, and the journey it has taken to get us where we are encourages you to always do your best and press on in spite of the adversities. It essentially matures you and helps you to become a better person and citizen.
Naturally, upon leaving university I thought it was necessary to pursue a career in the exact field I studied in for me to be able to put the things I learned to use. I had hopes of getting into teaching but things did not go as planned and so that left me feeling unsure about what I could possibly do with my degree. I eventually accepted the first working opportunity that I was presented with and that was a position as a medical records clerk at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). This entailed the outsourcing of patient files for daily clinics, locating “missing notes” on a given day, working in various outpatient clinics, preparing statistics, liaising with clinical staff with regard to patient records and appointments.
It was at first a bit discouraging as persons had very little respect for the position and the work that was associated with it. But as I got into it, I came to realise that I could use the skills I would have gained through my degree program to be better at my job and hopefully help to change some of the negative perceptions of medical records clerks.
My research skills were often very useful in tracking patient records and locating missing notes. Persistently searching, looking in places where the information being sought after was least expected to be found, and by learning to sometimes ask the patients the right questions in the right way were the primary reasons for me being able to successfully locate records that were sometimes considered as permanently misplaced.
Documentation and good records keeping was also another set of skills that I found useful. Keeping documentation of the usual locations of particularly troublesome records made it easier   to locate those files when they were needed and that information could be shared with other   clerks who may also be searching for that particular record as well. By stressing the importance of documenting where notes were taken and by whom, we could hold particular parties accountable for the safe keeping and return of those records.
Time management allowed me to produce and search for files at least two days in advance to be able to do comprehensive search and avoid unnecessary delays in clinics on a given day.
By openly communicating with the patients and other clinical staff as it related to the functions of the records department, persons were more understanding to the systems and the inconveniences that may have been caused because of the limitations that existed within. By simply having that channel of communication, we could collaboratively make informed decisions about what alternate arrangements could be made to avoid inconveniencing the patient and the doctors.
Taking the initiative to have a basic knowledge about the specific clinics I was assigned to also made a major difference to how I was able to interact with the patients, the doctors and other clinical staff. Quite often patients mistook me for a doctor or nurse because of the way I was able     to speak with them and my ability to answer certain questions they would have. Many of the clinicians and nurses I worked with encouraged me to pursue some training as an allied healthcare professional and it was this that initially inspired me to think outside the box.
Though I was not directly using my degree to be a historian, I was relying heavily on the skills I learned, to do my job effectively. So I felt like I had the foundation I needed to build any career path I chose. Following that I took the step to enroll in the Medical Assistant programme being offered by the Allied Health Institute and before just before starting the programme I was offered an opportunity to work as a Medical Assistant in a private clinical setting with an ophthalmologist.
That experience exposed me to another element of the healthcare system. The requirements for that job differed greatly from those of the hospital setting and the adjustment was a bit more difficult than I anticipated but it was a significant learning experience to my journey in training as an allied healthcare professional.
My current job is more multifaceted than both positions I would have held before as I am now solely responsible for the administration of the clinic which includes the day to day operations, inventory, dealing with suppliers, dealing with patients and establishing office procedures. I am responsible for our health information data management and that relates to our patient records, both physical and electronic. I am also now directly involved in patient care and treatment where I provide clinical assistance to the doctor, triage where necessary, research and preparing information for patients as it relates to certain treatments and procedures. I am also expected to train as much as possible in our specialty area which is aesthetics and that involves skincare procedures, using and maintaining equipment and product knowledge.
I can now confidently say that my degree in history has been the best investment I could have made to my academic and professional development. The skills I would have gained have played a pivotal role in my ability to function effectively in the working environments I have been exposed  to and have ultimately made it possible for me to move outside the regular scope of a historian and ultimately pursue a career in healthcare.