medication aide, medication assistant, Scope of Practice

CMAs (AAMA), CNAs, and Medication Aides

I recently received the following question:

Does the law permit a CMA (AAMA) to work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in a nursing home without meeting the state requirements for registering as a CNA?

The answer is no. A medical assistant—even a CMA (AAMA) who has graduated from a programmatically accredited medical assisting program—must meet the state requirements for CNAs and register with the state as a CNA in order to perform clinical tasks in a skilled nursing facility or other inpatient settings.

Some states have a category of “medication aides (or assistants).” Medication aides are permitted to distribute medications to patients in an inpatient setting, usually under registered nurse authority and supervision. CMAs (AAMA) must also meet state requirements in order to work as a medication aide.

For more discussion on this topic, read my previous blog post “Medical Assistants and Medication Aides/Assistants/Technicians: Differences and Clarifications.”

4 thoughts on “CMAs (AAMA), CNAs, and Medication Aides”

  1. Can you challenge the CNA test if you just completed the Medical Assistant program. I’m working towards taking the LPN program.

    1. Thank you for your question. To my knowledge, no state permits a medical assistant—even a CMA (AAMA)—to challenge the certified nursing assistant examination without taking at least some education that is geared toward bedside care. To obtain a definitive answer, contact the agency in your state that oversees CNAs. This is usually the department of health or the board of nursing.

      I hope this proves to be helpful.

      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 |
      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

  2. Here in Washington State provisions are in place in our RCW for CMAs to become CNAs. Here’s the reference:

    RCW 18.88A.087
    Certification—Alternative training—Credentialing reciprocity—Report.
    (1) The commission shall adopt criteria for evaluating an applicant’s alternative training to determine the applicant’s eligibility to take the competency evaluation for nursing assistant certification. At least one option adopted by the commission must allow an applicant to take the competency evaluation if he or she:
    (a)(i) Is a certified home care aide pursuant to chapter 18.88B RCW; or
    (ii) Is a certified medical assistant pursuant to a certification program accredited by a national medical assistant accreditation organization and approved by the commission; and
    (b) Has successfully completed twenty-four hours of training that the commission determines is necessary to provide training equivalent to approved training on topics not addressed in the training specified for certification as a home care aide or medical assistant, as applicable. In the commission’s discretion, a portion of these hours may include clinical training.
    (2)(a) By July 1, 2011, the commission, in consultation with the secretary, the department of social and health services, and consumer, employer, and worker representatives, shall adopt rules to implement this section and to provide, beginning January 1, 2012, for a program of credentialing reciprocity to the extent required by this section between home care aide and medical assistant certification and nursing assistant certification. By July 1, 2011, the secretary shall also adopt such rules as may be necessary to implement this section and the credentialing reciprocity program.
    (b) Rules adopted under this section must be consistent with requirements under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1395i-3(e) and (f) of the federal social security act relating to state-approved competency evaluation programs for certified nurse aides.
    (3) Beginning December 1, 2012, the secretary, in consultation with the commission, shall report annually by December 1st to the governor and the appropriate committees of the legislature on the progress made in achieving career advancement for certified home care aides and medical assistants into nursing practice.

    1. Thank you, Tom. It is good to hear from you! I hope you are well.

      This is very helpful!

      Take care, Tom.


      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Chief Executive Officer, Legal Counsel
      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 |
      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional®

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