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

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.

Scope of Practice

Misleading Advertisements

During the last three months several members have informed me of misleading advertising fliers from “St. Augustine School of Medical Assistants.” Some of these fliers include the following language:

Medical Assistant Program Online. Medical Assistant Home Study Program. Nationally Accredited and Certified Program. 24/7 Convenient Online Classes. St. Augustine School of Medical Assistants now offers a Nationally Accredited and Certified Medical Assistant Program completely online. Yes, Complete This Program in as little as 6-8 weeks! Register by ______ and the program cost is only $465. However, if you enroll 2 or more students together the fee is just $485 per student! Regular cost is $1215.

This “program” is not accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Therefore, those who complete this program are not eligible for the CMA (AAMA) Certification Examination. Furthermore, this “school” has been listed on some state and federal websites as being a “diploma mill.” According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, a diploma mill is defined as:

An institution of higher education operating without supervision of a state or professional agency and granting diplomas which are either fraudulent or because of the lack of proper standards worthless.

Approximately three years ago the AAMA reported St. Augustine School of Medical Assistants to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The AAMA will continue to report medical assisting diploma mills to the appropriate governmental authorities. You can also report diploma mills to the FTC by going to www.ftc.gov or calling 877/382-4357.