Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, On the Job, Professional Identity

“Medical Office Assistant” vs. “Medical Assistant”

Inconsistency in the usage of similar-sounding terms related to medical assisting is bound to cause confusion. The following question demonstrates one such instance:

Is there a difference between a medical assistant and a medical office assistant? Health systems in our region seem to use these terms to describe the same category of allied health professional.

Medical office assistant and medical assistant were used interchangeably to describe allied health professionals who are knowledgeable and competent in both clinical and administrative tasks and responsibilities in outpatient delivery settings. This meaning of medical office assistant has become less frequent in recent years, and the vast majority of federal and state statutes and regulations employ the phrase medical assistant.

In certain contexts, medical office assistant describes an individual who performs only administrative tasks in an ambulatory-care setting. Even this usage has become less frequent. Individuals who perform only administrative tasks in an outpatient environment are now more commonly referred to as administrative medical assistants or administrative assistants.

Schools continue to offer educational programs that address only the administrative aspects of medical assisting. Keep in mind that graduates of these programs are not eligible for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. Only graduates of medical assisting programs accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) that teach both clinical and administrative knowledge, skills, and professional attributes and behaviors—and thus meet the CAAHEP- and ABHES-accreditation standards for medical assisting programs—are eligible for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination.

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, medication assistant, On the Job, Professional Identity

Levels of Medical Assisting

Here is an interesting question about “levels” of medical assisting:

I work for a very large cardiology practice in North Carolina. Is it permissible to establish tiers of medical assistants based on their skill sets? For example, are we permitted under North Carolina law to have categories such as Medical Assistant I, Medical Assistant II, Medical Assistant III based on the medical assistant’s education, credentialing, and skill sets?

North Carolina law does not forbid employers from establishing tiers or levels of medical assistants. An employer is allowed to determine what elements of knowledge and skill are required for each category of medical assistants and what tasks should be assigned to medical assistants in the respective categories.

However, these levels should not have “CMA” in their titles. The American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) has intellectual property rights to the phrase “certified medical assistant” and the initialisms “CMA (AAMA)” and “CMA.”

Titling these classifications as Medical Assistant I, II, III is permitted under North Carolina law and does not infringe on the trademark and intellectual property rights of the AAMA. See the State Scope of Practice Laws webpage on the AAMA website to access key state legislative materials pertaining to medical assisting.

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.”

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential

Can LPNs Take the CMA (AAMA) Exam?

I field many questions from health professionals with a variety of educational and professional backgrounds about the eligibility requirements for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. Many wonder, If I have this knowledge and experience, am I eligible to take the CMA (AAMA) Exam? If you are one such person, consider this question and response:

I am a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Would it be possible for me to take the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination? Some employers in my area prefer to hire CMAs (AAMA) rather than LPNs.

This is my response:

Only graduates of CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited medical assisting programs are eligible for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. I suggest that you contact CAAHEP- and ABHES-accredited medical assisting programs in your areas and see whether they would accept some of the courses you took in your LPN program in lieu of similar courses in the medical assisting program.

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/.