In her 20th year as a medical assistant, Crystal Henson, CMA (AAMA), spends her days managing the practice of one of the busiest pediatric ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeons in the Southeast.

“Even though we’re in Georgia, we have patients who come from out of state to see Dr. Whitley for certain ear surgeries, cochlear implants, and reconstructive surgeries. I scheduled 55 surgeries this week alone,” says Henson.

As the practice manager and surgical coordinator, she schedules surgeries with hospitals and surgical centers, manages insurance authorizations, and connects with patients’ parents and guardians to keep them informed.

“I have a strong focus on providing world-class customer service and prioritize public outreach and treating patients and their families like they’re a part of our family,” she says. “Parents are really appreciative; they bring us cupcakes and cookies all the time.”

She fine-tuned these interpersonal skills at her previous job with a large gastroenterology practice. During her 14 years with the practice, her role expanded from medical assisting to managing three to four practices at a time and traveling between them to ensure each practice ran smoothly and prioritized patient care.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Henson accepted a position as senior operations manager at a pathology and COVID-19 laboratory, which led her to her current employer—Whitley Pediatric ENT, a part of ENT of Georgia North. In her second year with the practice, she continues to find ways to enhance communication and patient care. When the chief operating officer of the practice noticed how well-run the practice was, she tasked Henson with training staff—including the nurse practitioner, audiologist, medical assistants, and front office coordinators—on customer service. Henson accepted the challenge and took it upon herself to put in extra effort outside work hours. She completed online courses to become a certified business coach.

“It’s always been something that I wanted to do. Now I have a guide to follow when we implement a structured training program on customer service soon,” she says.

Training others fits into her passion for leadership and mentoring. “I enjoy inspiring others to believe in themselves and motivating them in their careers and lives,” notes Henson.

However, she still has a soft spot for connecting with patients. In addition to her practice manager role, she often fills in when the front-office staff and medical assistants are out sick or busy caring for other patients by performing administrative tasks, rooming patients, and assisting the physician with minor surgeries like frenectomies.

“The best part of my job is interacting with the kids,” she says. “We give them all stickers, lollipops, and coupons for a local ice cream shop for being good patients, and some of the things they say are hilarious. They make us laugh every day.”

The feedback and appreciation she receives from patients motivate her to keep going. She dedicates a workplace bulletin board to displaying postcards and drawings from patients.

“It’s heartwarming to see how much of a difference you can make in others’ lives,” says Henson. “Helping kids requires a group effort, and parents [trust] us with the most special gift they have—their children—so I truly take that to heart, as I am a mother myself.”