The distinction between “certified medical assistant” and its variations can be difficult for medical assisting programs to make. Trademark registrations and state law need to be taken into consideration.
Take this question for example:
Can a Washington-based medical assisting program that meets the requirements of the Washington State Department of Health (e.g., graduates can become a “medical assistant-certified” [MA-C]) but not the CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam use the phrase “certified medical assistant” in connection with their program?
The American Association of Medical Assistants® (AAMA) holds a trademark registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the phrase “certified medical assistant.” Any party’s use of the phrase that is likely to confuse or mislead the public is an infringement of the AAMA’s intellectual property rights in the phrase.
Medical assisting programs that are not accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) should not use the phrase because it could be misconstrued as their graduates being eligible for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam.
Washington State Legislature has established several categories for medical assistants (WAC
246-827-0010), but the medical
assistant-certified (MA-C) category is the one most likely to be confused with
“certified medical assistant” permissible usage. Note the requirements
for becoming an MA-C:
Medical assistant-certified—Training and examination.
An applicant for a medical assistant-certified credential must meet the following requirements:
(1) Successful completion of one of the following medical assistant training programs:
(a) Postsecondary school or college program accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or the Commission of [sic] Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP);
(b) Postsecondary school or college accredited by a regional or national accrediting organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, which includes a minimum of seven hundred twenty clock hours of training in medical assisting skills, including a clinical externship of no less than one hundred sixty hours;
(c) A registered apprenticeship program administered by a department of the state of Washington unless the secretary determines that the apprenticeship program training or experience is not substantially equivalent to the standards of this state. The apprenticeship program shall ensure a participant who successfully completes the program is eligible to take one or more examinations identified in subsection (2) of this section; or
(d) The secretary may approve an applicant who submits documentation that he or she completed postsecondary education with a minimum of seven hundred twenty clock hours of training in medical assisting skills. The documentation must include proof of training in all of the duties identified in RCW [Revised Code of Washington] 18.360.050(1) and a clinical externship of no less than one hundred sixty hours.
(2) Pass a medical assistant certification examination, approved by the secretary, within five years of submitting an initial application. A medical assistant certification examination approved by the secretary means an examination that:
(a) Is offered by a medical assistant program that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA); and
(b) Covers the clinical and administrative duties under RCW 18.360.050(1).
Consequently, if the medical assisting program meets (1)(a), (b), (c), or (d), it would be permissible for the program to state that graduates meet the educational portion of the MA-C requirements. It would also be permissible to state that graduates would be eligible for one or more of the NCCA-accredited medical assisting certification programs.
For more information on whether a Washington-based MA-C can write “CMA” after their name, see my blog post “Can Washington State Medical Assistants Use the ‘CMA’ Initialism?”