Staff Spotlight: Cerica Phelps, CMA, AMT

By William Alexander

The day’s work of a provider depends on frequent support. Appointments are constantly being scheduled and rescheduled, orders for medication refills and procedures need to be maintained, and providers need instant access to records, images and other information. Cerica Phelps, CMA, AMT, provides these duties and more to more than a dozen providers within the Duke Neurology Department--while also acting in an advisory and supervisory role to nine staff assistants. In this week’s Spotlight interview, Phelps talks to us about this work, how she took the initiative to expand her responsibilities and get a promotion, and enjoying traveling and sports with her family when she’s not at work.                  

What are your current responsibilities in the Neurology Department? What does a typical workday look like for you?

My current responsibilities include supporting nine providers, four fellows, and managing nine staff assistants. My typical workday is very busy and varies according to what arises during the day. I ensure provider clinics are prepped with records, images, etc; tee up medication refills and enter EMG orders for our new patients; assess and prioritize messages and correspondences between patients, providers, and other healthcare personnel; schedule and reschedule appointments or clinics when providers are out of office and expedite delays and provide optimal patient care for patients. 

I sort faxes, onboard and train new hires, assess employee performance and advise on concerns; conduct monthly staff meetings and coordinate staff coverages for time off and vacations; problem solve when issues arise and compile, prepare, maintain accurate and complex records and expense reports.

Before coming to the Neurology Department, you worked both for private practice and for the PDC. How did each of those experiences compare to what you’re doing now?
Actually, the experience I received while working for private practice really set up me up for the things that I am currently doing now (especially the business aspect). I was able to learn the valuable skills needed to become the leader I am now from both PDC and private practice.

Three years ago, you earned a promotion from a staff assistant to an administrative assistant, bringing a pay raise as well as additional responsibilities. How did you begin that process?

October of 2019 is when my title effectively changed from staff assistant to administrative assistant on paper but I was already doing some of those additional responsibilities a few years prior to the promotion. 

I was always asking my manager (mentor) if she needed help with anything (projects, etc) and was always transparent with her on what my goals were and how I wanted to grow in regards to my career path.

What advice do you have for others who are interested in advancing their careers?

I encourage you to talk with your manager, mentor or other people in leadership and ask how did they get to that position, what steps did they take, what skill sets are needed. Always offer help and when the opportunity presents, seize it and perform the task efficiently. Also make sure that your work ethic (in your current position) proves you are able to handle more tasks.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

It’s never a dull or boring moment. There is always something to do, fix, or solve. I also enjoy conversing with patients, providers, and staff.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is not being able to help, fix or control the things that are out of my scope (league).

What other passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?

My hobbies and passions are supporting my hubby (little league Coach) and my children in their academic and sports endeavors and traveling.

C Phelps
Phelps enjoys a night out with her husband.