Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, Professional Identity

No Application Deadline for Qualifying CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam Applicants

Although the following is not a legal question, it is one that I and other AAMA staff are asked frequently by graduates of programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES):

I graduated from a CAAHEP-accredited medical assisting program seven years ago and have been working as a medical assistant since that time. However, I have never taken the CMA (AAMA)® Certification Exam. Am I too late to do so?

Anyone in this position is not too late to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam. An individual who graduated from a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited medical assisting program is permitted to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam regardless of when the individual graduated. Please click on “CMA (AAMA) Exam” from any webpage on the AAMA website as well as the Exam Eligibility Requirements webpage for information about eligibility requirements for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam.

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, Professional Identity

Can Washington State Medical Assistants Use the “CMA” Initialism?

With a variety of certifications associated with the medical assisting profession, confusion runs rampant regarding who is permitted to write “CMA” after their name, thereby using the CMACM initialism. For instance, I received the following question:

I have been a CMA (AAMA) for many years and recently moved to Washington state. Washington law requires a medical assistant to register with the Washington Department of Health as a medical assistant-certified (MA-C) or a medical assistant-registered (MA-R) to be delegated certain clinical tasks. My question is this: Is an MA-C allowed to use the CMA initialism?

As you have stated, the MA-C and the MA-R are medical assisting credentials established by the Washington legislature and administered by the Washington Department of Health. They do not have a “legal existence” outside of the provisions of Washington law. The CMA (AAMA)® is a national medical assisting credential. The CMA (AAMA) Certification Program and the Certifying Board of the AAMA are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, the National Certification Commission, and under International Standard ISO:IEC 17024, Conformity Assessment—General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons. The CMA (AAMA) has a national and international existence as a medical assisting credential.

Only medical assistants who have passed the CMA (AAMA) Certification Exam have been awarded the CMA (AAMA) credential by the Certifying Board of the AAMA and who have kept their CMA (AAMA) current by continuing education or testing are permitted to use the CMA (AAMA) designation. Not all Washington MA-Cs have a current CMA (AAMA). Only those MA-Cs who have a current CMA (AAMA) are permitted to use the CMA (AAMA) or CMACM initialisms after their names.

On the Job, Professional Identity

Misuse of “CMA (AAMA)” and “CMA” Can Have Legal Consequences

Some medical assistants who do not hold the CMA (AAMA) credential awarded by the Certifying Board (CB) of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) incorrectly use the initialisms “CMA (AAMA)®” or “CMA” after their names. The AAMA has also received reports that some employers are permitting their medical assisting employees to misuse the “CMA (AAMA)” or “CMA” designations.

The AAMA owns Registration Number 4,510,101 issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the certification mark “CMA (AAMA).”

The predecessor credential to the CMA (AAMA) was the CMA. Because of the decades of use of the CMA initialism in interstate commerce, the AAMA has common law rights in the “CMA” designation.

Consequently, using the initialisms “CMA (AAMA)®” or “CMA” or the phrase “Certified Medical Assistant” to describe a medical assistant who has not been awarded or has not maintained currency of the CMA (AAMA) credential from the Certifying Board of the AAMA is both incorrect and a matter of intellectual property law. Anyone who does so may be in jeopardy of legal sanctions.

The AAMA urges all medical assistants who are misusing the CMA (AAMA) or CMA initialisms, and all employers who are permitting their medical assisting employees to do so, to cease and desist immediately. The AAMA also requests that any instances of such misuse be brought to our attention.

I further explain the legality behind the AAMA’s claim to “CMA (AAMA)” variations in “Letters and the Law.”

The CMA (AAMA) Logo and Branding Usage Guide describes who has permission by the Certifying Board of the AAMA to use the CMA (AAMA) designation, initialism, and/or logo and lists common misunderstandings.

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, Scope of Practice

Can CMAs (AAMA) Be Ophthalmic Technicians, and Vice Versa?

Often the questions I receive from CMAs (AAMA) are as versatile as the health professionals asking them. Although some questions focus on an individual’s specific circumstance, they present a situation all CMAs (AAMA) with certification questions can learn something from. The following question is one such case:

I would like to know if a CMA (AAMA) is permitted to work at the office of an ophthalmologist as an ophthalmic technician and be able to continue to hold and recertify the CMA (AAMA) credential.

The answer to your question is yes. One of the many advantages of the CMA (AAMA) is the variety of professional opportunities that are available. CMAs (AAMA) work in the offices of ophthalmologists in various capacities.

The Certifying Board of the AAMA places no restrictions on the types of positions CMAs (AAMA) must hold in order to be eligible to recertify. You are permitted to work as an ophthalmic technician and recertify your CMA (AAMA) by continuing education or retesting.

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, IAS Accreditation, Professional Identity

Certifying Board of the AAMA Achieves IAS Accreditation

The AAMA touts the merits of the CMA (AAMA) credential, the highest standard for certification in the medical assisting profession. Those merits have recently been recognized by the International Accreditation Service (IAS), which has granted accreditation for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons to the Certifying Board of the AAMA. The full copy of the press release can be found below.

The Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants Achieves International Accreditation as a Personnel Certifying Body

CHICAGO—April 20, 2016—The Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants, Inc. (AAMA) has received independent recognition that its criteria and processes for earning the CMA (AAMA) credential meet ISO/IEC Standard 17024:2012, the global benchmark for personnel certification bodies, distinguishing it from other medical assisting certifications. The Certifying Board of the AAMA has earned accreditation for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons (AC474) from the International Accreditation Service (IAS).

“This recognition demonstrates AAMA’s commitment to ensuring that medical assistants with the CMA (AAMA) credential meet the highest standards,” says Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA, chief executive officer and legal counsel of the AAMA. “It also further ensures the integrity of the CMA (AAMA) credential for medical assistants, their employers and patients.”

In order to receive accreditation the Certifying Board had to demonstrate that it operates in full compliance with the exacting requirements of ISO/IEC Standard 17024:2012. In so doing, the AAMA has established itself as the most respected and credible personnel certification organization for the medical assisting profession.

A rigorous credential, the CMA (AAMA) is the only certification that requires postsecondary education. Only candidates who graduate from an accredited postsecondary medical assisting program are eligible to sit for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. The CMA (AAMA) must recertify every five years. In addition to ensuring the CMA (AAMA) represents a world class certification, IAS accreditation also validates the credential as an internationally recognized certification, enabling CMAs (AAMA) to obtain similar positions outside of the United States.

Medical assisting is one of the nation’s careers growing much faster than average for all occupations, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical assistants work in outpatient health care settings and perform both clinical and administrative patient-centered duties. They have knowledge of medical law and regulatory guidelines including HIPAA compliance. Clinical duties vary according to state law and may include taking medical histories, taking and recording vital signs, explaining treatment procedures to patients, preparing patients for examination and assisting the physician during the examination. The administrative duties may include maintaining medical records, including entering the provider’s orders into the electronic health record, managing insurance processes, scheduling appointments, arranging for hospital admission and laboratory services, and billing and coding.

The CMA (AAMA) Certification Program is also accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), a body that reviews and accredits certification programs that meet its Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs. The NCCA is an accrediting arm of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), formerly called the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA).

For more information about CMA (AAMA) certification or to verify CMA (AAMA) credentials, visit http://www.aama-ntl.org/.