medication aide, medication assistant, medication technician, Uncategorized

Medical Assistants and Medication Aides/Assistants/Technicians: Differences and Clarifications

Although I have written about the difference between medical assistants and medication aides/assistants/technicians in Public Affairs articles in CMA Today, I continue to receive questions about the topic. Here are the basics:

Medical assistants work in outpatient settings under direct provider supervision, and may be delegated clinical and administrative tasks. Medication aides/assistants/technicians work in inpatient settings, usually under registered nurse supervision. A primary task of medication aides is to pass medications as directed by the RN supervisor.

Medication aides do not exist under the laws of some states. The laws of other states refer to these health workers by a designation other than medication aide. In some states an individual must first meet the requirements and register with the state as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in order to be eligible to receive additional training and become a medication aide.

Medical assistants do not work in a clinical capacity in inpatient settings as medical assistants per se. Medical assistants must meet the requirements and register with the state as a CNA and/or a medication aide in order to work in a clinical capacity in inpatient settings.

Some state laws refer to medication aides as “certified medication aides.” The initialism associated with this phrase can cause confusion between medical assistants and medication aides. To help minimize such confusion, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing refers to medication aides as “MA-Cs” and encourages states to use this initialism. This change was made at the request of the American Association of Medical Assistants.

delegation, On the Job, Professional Identity, Scope of Practice

Medical Assistants and Limited Scope Radiography

I receive fewer questions than I did seven or 10 years ago about the legalities of medical assistants performing limited scope radiography. However, in some states medical assistants are called upon to expose patients to ionizing radiation, as specifically directed by the overseeing/delegating provider.

The legality of this task is governed by state law. In some states unlicensed professionals such as medical assistants are forbidden from doing any limited scope radiography. Only licensed radiologic technologists are permitted to perform radiography. In other states medical assistants are required to complete a short course and pass a test in order to be delegated limited scope radiography. In other states limited scope radiography under direct/on-site provider supervision is not regulated. Physicians are permitted to delegate limited scope radiography to knowledgeable and competent employees.

medication administration, On the Job, Professional Identity, Scope of Practice

Preparation and Administration of Injections by Medical Assistants

In the current ambulatory care environment, medical assistants are being delegated the preparation of injectable substances, as well as the administration of injections. I often receive questions about legal restrictions on medical assistants preparing injectable substances. In some states, there are specific laws that address this question. In general, it is my legal opinion that, if there is a likelihood of significant harm to a patient if an injectable substance is prepared improperly, the delegating provider must verify the identity and the dosage of the injectable substance before it is administered by the medical assistant.

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, Professional Identity, Uncategorized

“Registered” vs. “Certified”: A Question of Terminology

A common source of confusion within medical assisting is the question of whether medical assisting credentials with “registered” in the name are superior to medical assisting credentials with “certified” in the name.

The answer to this question is no. National medical assisting credentials with the word “registered” as part of the credential name are not of a higher level status than medical assisting credentials with “certified” in their name.

This confusion may be engendered by the fact that “registered” indicates licensed status for credentials in fields other than medical assisting.  For example, in professional nursing, a “registered nurse” is a nurse who has met state educational and testing requirements, and is licensed to practice professional nursing.

However, this is not the case in medical assisting.  A medical assistant with a credential that has “registered” in its title is not in a different or higher legal category than a medical assistant with a credential that has “certified” in its title.

In fact, CMA (AAMA) certification has rigorous college-level education requirements, physician-quality exam standards, and is nationally and globally accredited, unlike other certifications and registrations.

medication aide, Scope of Practice

Scope of Practice in Correctional Facilities

The versatility of CMAs (AAMA) is being reflected in the questions I am starting to receive about the scope of practice for medical assistants working in correctional facilities.

If the CMAs (AAMA) are working under direct provider supervision in a clinic within a correctional facility, the standard laws for medical assisting scope of practice apply.  However, if a CMA (AAMA) is functioning as a medication aide and distributing medications under registered nurse supervision (similar to what occurs in a skilled nursing facility or an assisted living facility), the medical assistant would have to meet the state requirements and register with the appropriate state agency as a medication aide.