Scope of Practice

Speaking the Language of Medicine

Correcting errors is a fairly simple process when it involves a change to a website or some short literature. Language in government publications often proves to be a more time-consuming process.

I was contacted by Rusty Dowling, CMA (AAMA), on behalf of the Michigan State Society of Medical Assistants. Concern was expressed that the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth (DLEG) had classified medical assisting as a “high-growth occupation requiring at least moderate on-the-job training” in one of its publications. I pointed out that the United States Department of Labor (DOL) also classifies medical assisting in this manner, and forwarded to Ms. Dowling letters that I had written to the Department of Labor objecting to the fact that medical assisting is so classified, and is considered an “apprenticeable occupation” by the DOL. I suggested that Ms. Dowling inform the Michigan DLEG of the formal opposition of the AAMA to these classifications of medical assisting by the United States DOL, and further suggested that the Michigan State Society also express its disagreement with this classification to the Michigan DLEG.

Because the legislative landscapes in Michigan and Washington are similar, two public policy leaders of the Michigan State Society joined me in meeting with representatives of the Washington State legislative coalition during the AAMA Board of Trustees meeting in Seattle in early June.

Working against such language is a monumental task, but it is one we must approach with energy if we hope to fix it!

2 thoughts on “Speaking the Language of Medicine”

  1. Very interesting, Don, thanks for sharing. Could you expand on the classification issue, though, a bit more? What is the AAMA’s preferred classification for MAs? What are the implications of the current DOL classification on MAs and MA education?

    1. You are welcome, Andy, and thank you for your careful review and astute questions! Here is some of the language from the letters to the Department of Labor. This language should answer some of your questions:

      It is the position of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) that the profession of medical assisting is not “customarily learned in a practical way through a structured, systematic program of on-the-job supervised training.” Rather, the preferred mode of preparation for this profession is an accredited medical assisting program (including an externship) in a postsecondary academic institution.

      To support this position, I have enclosed the AAMA Role Delineation Study: Occupational Analysis of the Medical Assisting Profession, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs’ (CAAHEP) Standards and Guidelines for an Accredited Educational Program for the Medical Assistant, the Content Outline of the AAMA Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Certification Examination, and the AAMA Advanced Practice of Medical Assisting document. Also enclosed is a list of postsecondary medical assisting programs accredited by CAAHEP.

      Furthermore, the laws of some states require medical assistants to have formal academic training in medical assisting in order to be delegated certain procedures.

      I hope this information is helpful. The American Association of Medical Assistants reiterates its assertion that the profession of Medical Assisting does not possess the first characteristic set forth in Title 29 CFR Part 29.4, Criteria for Apprenticeable Occupations. Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of further assistance.

      This letter was sent in 2000, so some of the documents have different names today than they did at the time of the letter. Nevertheless, the principles and assertions are still valid.

      Andy, it is the position of the AAMA that, in order to protect the public and employers from substandard medical assisting services, medical assistants should be graduates of a postsecondary, programmatically-accredited medical assisting program. At present, the only programmatic accreditors of medical assisting programs are CAAHEP and ABHES.

      The Department of Labor’s classification of medical assisting as an apprenticeable occupation (which started in 2000 or earlier years) has not seemed to hinder the importance of medical assistants graduating from a postsecondary, programmatically-accredited medical assisting program. The number of medical assisting programs accredited by CAAHEP or ABHES has grown significantly since the year 2000.

      I hope this is helpful, Andy. Thank you again for your insightful questions!


      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Executive Director, Legal Counsel

      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 |

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      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional

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