Memo to Employers: Use of “Certified Medical Assistant,” “CMA”

In the days following my last post on the issues regarding the use of “Certified Medical Assistant” and “CMA” in New Hampshire, I have received a number of requests for a more generic version of the memorandum.

Below you will find such a document, which can be downloaded and distributed in your own state.

Remember, employers can immediately verify their employees’ CMA (AAMA) status on the AAMA website.

Thank you!

Generic Memo

About Donald A. Balasa

Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA, chief executive officer and legal counsel for the American Association of Medical Assistants, keeps his eye on what is happening in the profession.
This entry was posted in Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Memo to Employers: Use of “Certified Medical Assistant,” “CMA”

  1. Danette Shelton says:

    Why is this issue taking up so much time? I am not aCMA . however I did after 13 years become an RMA so does that make me less valuable? I THINK NOT!!!! AND NO WE ARE NOT NURSES HOWEVER PATIENTS DO NOT KNOW THE DIFFERENCE!!!

    • Janice A Young says:

      Patient’s think that anyone that wears scrubs is a nurse. It is up to us to politely educate them to the difference. I am a Medical Assisting Student looking forward to finishing school and becoming certified this fall.

    • I like you Danette am an RMA with 30 years of experience and find it disheartening as well that they don’t recognize RMAs. I got the RMA for the reason of being able to get a job anywhere and to now find out I can’t because of misuse of CMA and/or MA titles really frustrates me!!!! We are very valuable and we can explain who we are to patients and still do a great job at it!!!!

      • Cheri says:

        Is that the difference between RMA and CMA – you can work any state as an RMA?? I am both however was thinking of letting RMA lapse…I do not get recognized as a CMA as well..my employer feels the girls who have been there longer and some have never even been a CNA work just as hard as me – and that’s not what it’s about for RMA’s or CMA’s

      • Thank you for your question. The CMA (AAMA) and the RMA(AMT) are both national credentials. The RMA(AMT) is not a “higher” or “better” credential than the CMA (AAMA). You can also work in any state as a CMA (AAMA).

        I hope this is helpful.

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

        American Association of Medical Assistants
        Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org

        Visit us on Facebook! http://www.aama-ntl.org/facebook

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

  2. Ivellisse Woodson says:

    the issue isn’t the value of the medical assistant, the issue is the legal ramification of falsely utilizing the title. I’m a CMA and CPT and wouldn’t want anyone who hasn’t passed the proper examinations to share my titles.

    • Cheri says:

      Yes but you do want recognition as a CMA – financially being one way. Certain employers do not want to pay, higher girls that are not CMA’s, and then orders and escribes are all done and they should not be.

  3. Frances Vega says:

    Cma or RMA or plain MA is all the same- a good MA is just enough for me as an employer!

  4. Gail Devine says:

    The Association for Medical Technologist has been around since the late 1930’s. The Certification test they give for RMA is no different that the AAMA. Text books recognize both the AMT and AAMA. The state of Washington is changing the laws to let CMAs have more of a Scope of Practice than RMAs which is quite discouraging. Students in Washington State have also been told by the AAMA is the pay an extra $90.00 the could get the RMA certfication without taking the test. As an RMA and Instructor I find it very frustrating.

    • Gail, I have written a piece detailing the differences between the four major medical assisting credentials. It is available on the AAMA website: http://www.aama-ntl.org/CMAToday/archives/publicaffairs/details.aspx?ArticleID=846.
      In that article, I outlined the recertification requirements as defined by the AMT at the time. This article was published in our national magazine, and distributed to all AAMA members.

      The changing laws in Washington are indeed complicated, but they do not value the CMA (AAMA) over the RMA (AAMA). The legislature has recently created the state-recognized “medical assistant” profession through Engrossed Substitute Bill 6237. This bill will enact a transition from the “health care assistant” profession to the “medical assistant” profession statewide. All practicing medical assistants will be required to hold a state-issued credential, regardless of whether they possess a national credential through a professional association. (Source: http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MedicalAssistant.aspx)

      I imagine some of the confusion comes from the four different categories of licensure for medical assistants in Washington. Indeed, two of the categories consist of “Medical assistant-certified” and “Medical assistant-registered,” and the latter does have a narrower scope of practice. However, in this instance, the “certified” and “registered” do not refer to the Certified Medical Assistant (AAMA) and the Registered Medical Assistant (AMT), respectively. As defined by the Washington legislation, the medical assistant-registered credential is an endorsement tied to the employer. Any professionals seeking the medical assistant-certified credential—whether CMAs (AAMA), RMAs(AMT), or other—would be required to complete (or have completed) medical assisting training identified in rule. The Washington State Department of Health has compiled a number of useful FAQs at http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MedicalAssistant/FrequentlyAskedQuestions.aspx.

      I hope this is helpful, Gail.

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

      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org

      Visit us on Facebook! http://www.aama-ntl.org/facebook

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

    • Rhonda Blackman, CMA (AAMA) says:

      This reply is aimed at Gail Devine, but applies to all WA state medical assistants, and the information is good to know for all medical assistants nationwide. The information below is provided based on multiple seminars and information available to all interested parties. For medical assistants in other states, check your individual state laws for scope of practice specifics.

      All nationally certified medical assistants, RMA, CMA or medical assistants with formal education (college certificate or degree) in the state of Washington will be considered Medical Assistant – CM, regardless. The Medical Assistant – RM for the state is reserved for those who have on-the-job training without formal education in the field. Those individuals will be required to maintain a list of duties performed that are specific to the employer, and will not be able to carry that credential with them should they change employers. This is identical to the HCA system that WA has used. The new rules and regulations take effect on July 1st.

      That being said, the state certifications have changed due to a specific scope of practice that did not exist before now. Those who are currently employed and meet the education requirements will be “grandfathered in” and receive the Medical Assistant – CM, which is a portable certification. This means that those individuals will not have to re-apply for the state certification if they change employers. It does mean, however, that the individuals are responsible for the registration fees.

      For more information, please visit the Washington State Society of Medical Assistants at http://www.wssma.org. You can sign up for the quarterly newsletter, Statline, and get updates on the laws and other information, such as state conferences and local chapter meetings.

      You can find the specific of the new laws in the WAC’s and RCW’s at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/ and http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/. The specific sections are as follows: for WAC’s, 246-827, proposed; and for RCW’s, 18.360.

      • Thank you for your comment, Rhonda.

        Nationally certified medical assistants will not, in fact, automatically be considered “Medical Assistants-Certified” by Washington Law, as the state’s Department of Health indicates (link: http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MedicalAssistant/FrequentlyAskedQuestions.aspx ):

        “I am a nationally certified or registered medical assistant through my professional association. Do I still need a Washington State credential?”

        Yes. If you are performing the duties outlined in RCW 18.360.050 or calling yourself a medical assistant-certified, medical assistant-registered, medical assistant-phlebotomist or medical assistant-hemodialysis technician in the state of Washington after July 1, 2013, you must have a Department of Health-issued medical assistant credential.”

        Regarding individuals who will be “grandfathered in,” only those who possess a current health care assistant credential (as issued by Washington State) in good standing will automatically transition to the appropriate category of medical assistants. It is possible that some CMAs (AAMA) or RMAs(AMT) possess this state-issued credential, and will thus be “grandfathered in” with the new credential, but the process is not tied to their national certification(s).

        The duties for the different categories of medical assistants are broken down in RCW 18.360.050, which is available at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=18.360.050.

        I hope this is helpful.

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

        American Association of Medical Assistants
        Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org

        Visit us on Facebook! http://www.aama-ntl.org/facebook

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

      • Rhonda Blackman, CMA (AAMA) says:

        Mr. Balasa,

        I apologize, I forgot to state that the nationally certified Medical Assistants would have to apply for the state certification, and request that a copy of their transcripts from their formal Medical Assistant training be forwarded to the Washington State Department of Health and pay the certification fee. However, if they are approved, they will be considered Medical Assistant – Certified, or MA-C. This is for those who are not currently HCA certified.

        Those nationally certified Medical Assistants who have current HCA certification for Washington State and fall under the “grandfather” section of the new laws will considered certified based on the HCA categories that they currently hold. Those Medical Assistants with on-the-job training only will be considered Medical Assistant – Registered, or MA-R.

        In the case of Ms. Devine, if she is currently HCA certified, she will be able to be “grandfathered in” based on her categories. If she is not currently HCA certified, applies for the new state certifications, pays the fee, and requests a copy of her transcript be sent to the state DOH, and is approved for the state Medical Assistant certification, she would not fall under the Medical Assistant – Registered, or MA-R, category.

        I did not intend to give a false impression that simply because a Medical Assistant is nationally certified they would automatically become MA-C without current state HCA certification in the proper certification categories, or without applying for certification with proof of education an accredited Medical Assisting program.

      • Thank you very much, Rhonda.

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

        American Association of Medical Assistants
        Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org

        Visit us on Facebook! http://www.aama-ntl.org/facebook

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

  5. Lena, CMA(AAMA) says:

    There is a big difference in my opinion. I have been a CMA (AAMA) for over 5 years, and I have worked very hard to keep credentials current. I understand that on a basis of what we do RMAs and CMAs do the same but its a national certification that we have and that means a lot. We work hard for that title, just like any LPN or RN does for their title. If you wanna use the title of a CMA then take the test and become one, its a simple as that.

    • S DianneKummer CMA AAMA says:

      I totally agree with you I have been.a CMA since 1989 and I am proud and worked hard to keep my creditials but where I worked they hired girls off the street to work with physcians and called them MAs. I never thought this was right but they. Could pay them less.. But legally if anything happened I would think they would be in trouble.

  6. I am a CMA and I feel like I fight for my title every day!! I am the only CMA in the clinic. I do everything the RN and LPN’s do under the watchful eye of the physician of course. Every day I feel like I am being pushed out of my job. Every day I feel I have to “prove” to them I can stand my own ground. It is the most frustrating position to be in. Do I continue as CMA or do I give it up totally knowing i really loved my job? Let’s get up to speed cause times are changing. If I need to go back to school to further my CMA lets get going. What is RMA compared to CMA? Do I have a fighting chance in a nurse’s world? Do I continue fighting for my CMA role? Maybe bigger cities or bigger companies need to talk to smaller communities about what we are good for. They gave my job description. They know how I have worked for the past 9 years!! Need some guidance!!

    • Thank you for your e-mail. The AAMA continues to advocate for the medical assisting profession and the CMA (AAMA) credential, and we are seeing progress. The CMS rule about only “credentialed medical assistants” being able to enter orders in the electronic health record for purposes of having such entry count toward meeting the meaningful use measure in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program is a case in point.

      Please go to the AAMA website and see my article comparing the CMA (AAMA), the RMA(AMT), and two other medical assisting credentials.

      I hope this is helpful.

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

      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 | http://www.aama-ntl.org

      Visit us on Facebook! http://www.aama-ntl.org/facebook

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

      • ALLISON MULLEN says:

        ARE THESE REGs FOR ALL STATES OR JUST WASHINGTON? I LIVE IN OHIO. i TOO FIGHT EVERYDAY FOR MY TITLE–IT SEEMS LIKE THE NEW STUDENTS ARE GETTING PAID MORE FOR DOING LESS…i AGREE IF THEY WANT THE CERTS GO TO SCHOOL & GET IT!!!!! DONT RIDE ON OUR COAT TAILS WE HAVE WORKED VERY HARD FOR OUR TITLES!

      • Rhonda Blackman, CMA (AAMA) says:

        The regulations that you’re asking about apply only to the state of Washington. If you have any questions about the rules and regulations for the state of Ohio, I suggest looking at your Department of Health website for any information concerning requirements and scope of practice. If you can’t find the information, contact the Department of Health and ask for information.

      • allison says:

        OK I will do that thank you:)

    • Shannan says:

      lundgren – I totally relate to your situation! I do everything the LPN’s do yet I am treated differently and certainly paid differently. It is VERY frustrating! And it is true, the patients don’t know the difference, in fact, I have been told by some patients that I do a better job, am more thorough and efficient. But, the truth is, no matter how good you are at it, without the title and credentials you will hit a ceiling as far as pay and respect goes. I guess I need to go back to school and earn those if I am ever to get ahead!

  7. Loretta says:

    Here’s a “monkey wrench” for everyone: recently my practice has been aquired by a huge corporation and they require all the medical assistants to be “certified”. However, they require the we certified with the NCCT and will not reconize any other national certification, including the AAMA! So, I will be required to take their test, pass and of course pay another fee$$$$$$. so, how’s that work for you?

    • Rhonda Blackman, CMA (AAMA) says:

      Works like a bad brain cell for me. Apparently the corporation has no real clue, but there again, have they ever? I would ask for reimbursement for the cost of the test, since they are requiring it. I would also enlist the help of the AAMA to appeal to the corporation and try to get the CMA (AAMA) accepted as an acceptable certification. One thing that might help is that Medicare and Medicaid recognize the AAMA and have authorized them to perform duties that other MA’s are not able to do in order for the clinic/corporation to be reimbursed.

      I hope the certification situation will move to your favor in the future.

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  9. Marci says:

    I am applying for both the Medical Assistant-Certified and Medical Assitant-phlebotmist. Is there a different application packet for Medical Assistant-phlebotomist?

  10. I don’t think that it is fair that all of the jobs for Medical Assisting in Minnesota only require the AAMA when there are other Certifications.

  11. Not everyone can pass the AAMA so then we have to look at a different Certification because the AAMA will only let you take the exam 3 times.

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