Medical assisting is not typically a state-licensed/certified profession. This means that medical assistants do not typically need specific credentials to practice in the field. This only includes medical assistants who perform specific duties, such as phlebotomy or x-rays, as state laws may require specific training and certification in these areas.
In today’s healthcare industry, the responsibility of assisting physicians is becoming a more complex role. In addition to performing administrative duties and making physician’s schedules easier to manage, medical assistants are now expected to perform the same tasks that registered nurses used to handle. Medical assistants can now be found in the capacity of performing specific lab tests and procedures, administering medications, passing specimens for laboratory analysis, drawing blood samples for testing purposes, and other duties. With this advancement into these new responsibilities within the medical field, there is a growing necessity for medical assistants to re-evaluate their role as members of the healthcare team. Certification offers a way for medical assistants to do just that.
In addition to professional recognition for medical assistants, employers often seek medical assistants with a national certification for a number of reasons. For example, the AAMA reports that a number of managed care organizations are now placing specific mandates on employers to employ certified medical assistants. Further, as of 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ruled that only credentialed medical assistants are allowed to enter the laboratory, radiology, and medical orders into their computerized system. Of course, employers’ interest in certification could have also arisen because the national certification can also benefit a medical assistant’s professional reputation and advancement. However, medical assistants can still set themselves apart as highly qualified professionals with a certain degree of knowledge and expertise in the profession through voluntary national certification. National certifications are typically earned after completing a comprehensive national exam, which automatically shows that the medical assistant has met specific, industry-recognized standards for competence.
What is a Medical Assistant Certification, and why should you get one?
Certification provides a means for both the employer and employee to validate required training. Minimum knowledge, skills and abilities are established by credentialing organizations that review their content annually based on input from industry experts. Changes in technology, new techniques or regulations are incorporated into exam content, and answers reflect changes in medical terminology, drug administration and abbreviations. This assures the candidate they will be prepared to begin work in a medical assisting career or take it to the next level.
Credentialing has become the standard in many industries, with associations setting certification standards for education and training. Professionals in fields such as accounting, nursing, engineering and law all have association associations that certify members based on their level of expertise. A professional who holds a national credential demonstrates to employers that they are committed to their profession.
It is the mark of a professional who has met specific standards set by an independent third party.
Medical assistants are not required to get certified, but it does show that they have taken the time to acquire knowledge and skills through training or continuing education programs. Employers look for certified medical assistants when applying for jobs, educational opportunities, or pursuing additional certifications. According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), many employers require medical assistants to obtain certification. Some financial aid for continuing education is available only to those who are certified. Job opportunities may be more scarce for those without certification or additional education. Certification can also raise a medical assistant’s salary by as much as $5,000 a year.
Credentialing distinguishes the medical assistant from the unregulated competition and is a recognized standard predetermined by a national association establishing an examination for certification. The AAMA reports that 99 per cent of employers require their assistants to be credentialed, with 38 per cent requiring national certification.
What are the different categories of medical assistant certification?
The two general categories of Medical Assistant Certification are:
1) Distance Learning – where content and exams are provided by an organization, usually over a period of time, all at home. This can vary from a series to a set number of lessons/modules that provide training in specific areas or a more general approach that prepares the candidate for a national certification exam (ex: Certified Medical Assistant – CMA).
2) Hands-On Training – the applicant must take an exam at a facility but is trained by someone with experience in various techniques and processes.
Which category should I choose?
Choosing one over the other is a matter of preference and where you feel most comfortable preparing for your career.
Distance Learning: This can be done at home, on your own time if you have it available, but don’t let this sway your decision; often, the training includes very professional content and videos to demonstrate proper techniques. Hands-On Training: This method forces you to get out of the house, work with others and gain experience while preparing for your career; many people feel this is a better way to prepare.
The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) Credential
One of the most widely recognized national certifications for medical assistants is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
Due to the litigious nature of the United States, many employers now seek medical assistants who possess the CMA as it provides evidence, says the AAMA, that the employer is exercising a high degree of care and diligence in its medical assisting employment procedures.
To become a CMA, medical assistants must be able to meet a certain number of requirements:
- Candidates must have graduated from a medical assisting program (maybe a one-year certificate or diploma program or a two-year associate degree program) that is accredited by either:
- The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
- Candidates must take and pass the CMA Certification Examination
Prometric provides computer-based testing services for the CMA Certification Examination. The CMA must be renewed every 5 years, and recertification depends on either the completion of the CMA Certification/Recertification Exam or the completion of continuing education.
A total of 60 recertification points are necessary to renew a CMA credential. At least 30 points must be accumulated as follows:
- 10 points in administrative
- 10 points in clinical
- 10 points in general
The remaining 30 points may be accumulated in any of the above content areas. Further, at least 30 of the 60 recertification points must be accumulated from AAMA-approved continuing education units. One continuing education unit, 1 contact hour, or 1 college credit hour equals one recertification point.
The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Credential
The Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential, through American Medical Technologists (AMT), is reserved for medical assistants who meet one of the following requirements and who take and pass the RMA exam:
- Education: Candidates must be recent graduates (within the last 4 years) from a medical assisting program approved by the U.S. Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or the AMT Board of Directors. The program must include at least 720 clock hours of medical assisting, including a clinical externship of at least 160 hours.
- Military: Candidates must be recent graduates (in the last 4 years) from a formal medical services training program within the United States Armed Forces.
- Work Experience: Candidates must be high school graduates and have been employed as full-time medical assistants in 5 out of the last 7 years. Work experience must include both clinical and administrative duties.
- Instructor: Candidates must be current instructors in an accredited medical assisting program and have completed a course of instruction in a healthcare discipline related to medical assisting. Candidates must also have at least 5 years of teaching experience in a medical assisting discipline.
- Other Recognized Examination: Candidates must have passed another certification organization’s exam in medical assisting approved by the AMT Board of Directors.
The National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) Credential
The National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA), which is offered through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCTT), is reserved for medical assistants who meet one of the following requirements and can take and pass the NCMA examination:
- Must be a current student or recent graduate (in the past 10 years) from a medical assistant program from a school authorized by the NCCT
- Must be a foreign physician or RN with documented U.S. equivalency in the past 10 years
- Must have been a medical assistant instructor with 10 or more years of experience
- Must have completed a medical assistant training program in the U.S. military within the last 10 years
- Must possess at least two years of verifiable full-time experience as a medical assistant practitioner within the last 10 years
The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) Credential
The Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA), which is offered through the National Healthcare Association, is reserved for medical assistants who can meet the following eligibility requirements and take and pass the CCMA examination:
- Must possess a high school diploma or the equivalent
- Must have successfully completed a training program or one year of work experience as a medical assistant
Specialty Certifications for Medical Assistants
Medical assistants who work for specialty practitioners may choose to become certified through one of the following:
- The American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants: Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified (PMAC): Candidates must be a podiatric medical assistant who is a member in good standing of the American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants for at least 90 days and has been employed in a podiatry office.
- The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology: Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA): Candidates can become eligible for the COA credential through the Career Advancement Tool (JCAT). This packaged learning resource helps medical assistants be eligible to take the COA examination.
Medical Assistant Certification for the New Millennial Medical Assistant
If you are thinking of changing your medical assistant career, how do you know if certification is right for you?
What does it mean to be certified through the AAMA (American Association of Medical Assistants)? It means that as a medical assistant working towards national certification, you are demonstrating your commitment to the profession by voluntarily seeking objective confirmation of professional knowledge, skills, and abilities acquired through an accredited education program. This shows that you have not only graduated from a CAAHEP/JRCERT accredited program but have also successfully passed a national certification examination offered by one of the three credentialing organizations listed below. It is essential to understand that each of the three credentialing agencies offers different exams, most are offered at least twice a year, and some are offered online.
The credentialing agency you choose will also determine where you will be able to sit for your exam. Prometric offers the AAMA’s Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam to medical assistant’s throughout the U.S., while NHA offers their Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) and National Healthcareer Association (NHA) also provides two separate exams; one for the CNAs and other nursing professionals who were trained in a non-certified program. You need to know that each of these three credentialing agencies does have reciprocity, which means that if you are already certified by one of the above mentioned, it may be possible to transfer your certification to another agency. For example, CMAs who are NHA-certified may also sit for the AAMA CMA exam. Still, they will need to submit their NHA certification documents along with a $50.00 transfer fee and proof of current active employment as a medical assistant.
Certified Medical Assistant Job Responsibilities
Medical assistants perform many routine duties in medical and chiropractic offices and clinics under the supervision of physicians and other clinical staff. They serve both administrative and clinical tasks, including:
* Greeting patients and handling patient flow throughout appointments; answering telephone calls; providing information about scheduling future appointments; checking insurance coverage for procedures; filing records
* Taking medical histories, recording vital signs such as height, weight, blood pressure and temperature using techniques such as measuring heart rate with a stethoscope; taking pulse; testing reflexes; surveying skin colouration; observing breathing patterns.
* Preparing patients for examinations by washing, shaving or sanitizing areas to be examined.
* Answering questions from customers/patients regarding their medical status; explaining the procedures to be performed; obtaining patient consent for treatment.
* Administering medications, recording prescriptions.
* Assisting physician during examinations and recording observations; preparing patients for laboratory tests; performing routine clinical procedures such as sputum specimen collection, intravenous (IV) therapy, injections, vaccinations, and blood draws.
* Operating X-ray equipment.
* Preparing specimens for testing or other analysis in clinical laboratories or digital imaging machines.
* Maintaining inventory of supplies used in practice; maintaining records of all transactions carried out at workstation; completing administrative tasks such as filing documents and scheduling appointments.
Certification Creates More Opportunities
Certified medical assistants (CMAs) in Connecticut enjoy a wide range of employment opportunities and excellent salary potential. The demand for certified medical assistants is high because they are vital members of the healthcare team. They play an essential role in collecting data and performing basic procedures to assist physicians or other health care professionals with patient examinations. CMAs prepare patients for examinations, take blood pressure readings, remove stitches, apply dressings, set up equipment before examinations are performed, provide assistance during x-rays, assist with minor surgery procedures such as removing sutures following lacerations, or assist with minor surgery procedures cyst removals, and administer medications or arrange for their administration.
CMAs are often the liaison between patients, nurses, doctors, insurance companies, hospital administrations and other health professionals. They record medical histories in patient files, enter charges on billing statements and answer questions about treatment methods. CMAs also perform clerical duties such as ordering supplies, arranging schedules for doctors or technicians to see patients at certain day hours, keeping daily records of treatments performed in doctor’s offices or clinics, and informing staff when exams need to be rescheduled.
Why would you want to get certified?
Many job announcements list mandatory certifications required for employment. But the big question is why employers should need, or even want, their medical assistants to be certified? Well, there are three reasons.
First of all, it shows that you have taken an interest in your career and made a commitment to remaining well-informed in the ever-changing healthcare field.
Secondly, it demonstrates that you have gained the knowledge and skills essential for clinical practice in various settings through a formal education process.
Finally, certification protects the public from incompetent individuals who have not been adequately trained and educated in the medical field.