How to Become a Medical Assistant in Tennessee

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To become a medical assistant in Tennessee you will need to become a qualified candidate. This includes meeting the minimum legal requirements as well as employer preferences. The following steps will take you through this process:

Develop Your Qualifications Through Education and Certification
Pursue a Medical Assistant Job in Tennessee
Maintain Your Tennessee Medical Assistant Qualifications

Tennessee’s regulations governing medical assistants are limited to ensuring candidates are of legal employment age, do not have a significant criminal background, and are legally able to work in the United States.

However a lack of specific government regulation does not mean Tennessee’s medical assistants are unqualified or unskilled – quite to the contrary. Physicians and other medical professionals have considerable freedom to choose the employment qualifications they are looking for when selecting a medical assistant for hire. Some of the most common minimum requirements for employment in Tennessee include:

  • Graduation from an accredited medical assistant training program (diploma or certificate)
  • Graduation with medical assistant degree at the associate’s of science level
  • Completion of a medical assistant certification program that confers credentials such as:
    • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
    • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
    • Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA)

Each individual employer sets requirements when hiring new medical assistants. These are some of the most commonly required or desired traits in Tennessee, however you will need to check with your individual employer for the exact requirements.



Step 1. Develop Your Qualifications Through Education and Certification

You can begin to qualify for any of the three common medical assistant certifications – the CMA, RMA, or NRCMA – by completing a certificate or associate degree program from one of Tennessee’s medical assistant schools that holds accreditation through one of the following organizations:

  • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)

You can expect to study the following subject areas as you complete a medical assisting academic program:

  • Medical assistant laboratory procedures
  • Pharmacology
  • Electronic medical assistant administrative procedures
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical or insurance billing and coding
  • Medical assistant clinical procedures
  • Electronic patient health record
  • Software applications and computer skills for medical assistants
  • Communications with health care professionals
  • Practicum or internship

Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

The CMA credential is sponsored by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). You can become a CMA by passing the Certified Medical Assistant Exam, which you will be eligible to take once you graduate from a medical assistant academic program (diploma, certificate or associate’s degree) accredited by either CAAHEP or ABHES.

You can apply online to take this exam, which is offered at Prometric testing centers across Tennessee:

  • In Nashville at 1410 Donelson Pike, Suite A-11
  • In Clarksville at at 220 Forbes Avenue, Suite B
  • In Chattanooga at 4295 Cromwell Road, Suite 309
  • In Knoxville at 215 Center Park Drive, Suite 700
  • In Cordova near Memphis at 8176 Old Dexter Road, Suite 101

The CMA Exam is made up of 200 multiple-choice questions for which you will have 160 minutes to complete. Subjects covered on the exam include:

  • General subjects
    • Psychology and communication
    • Professionalism and medical ethics
    • Medical law and regulatory guidelines
    • Quality assurance, safety, and risk management
    • Medical terminology
  • Administrative subjects
    • Medical reception and appointment scheduling
    • Patient advocate and navigator
    • Medical business practices and practice finances
    • Establishing a patient’s medical record
  • Clinical subjects
    • Anatomy and physiology
    • Documentation of care and patient intake
    • Infection control, nutrition, and pharmacology
    • Assisting the provider and patient preparation
    • Diagnostic testing
    • Processing and collecting specimens
    • Emergency management and first aid

Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)

The RMA credential is offered through the American Medical Technologists (AMT). If you have earned a CMA credential, you will also meet the eligibility standards for an RMA credential.

Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA)

The National Association by Health Professionals (NAHP) sponsors the NRCMA credential. If you are eligible for the CMA credential you will also be eligible for this NRCMA credential, which you can obtain by passing an examination. To do this you will need to fill out an application for the exam and follow the instructions you receive from the NAHP.



Step 2. Pursue a Medical Assistant Job in Tennessee

You can make yourself a more competitive candidate in the medical assisting field in several ways. One option is to obtain multiple certifications from nationally recognized associations. Another way is to increase your academic credentials.

Because completing college courses is often an acceptable way to earn continuing education or renewal credits for national credentials, earning a more advanced degree in the medical sciences field can be a strategic way to improve your qualifications. Having a bachelor’s degree in the medical sciences field with a focus in medical assisting can qualify you for higher-level positions.

As you research the medical assistant field in Tennessee, you may find helpful resources with professional organizations such as the Tennessee Society of Medical Assistants (TNSMA). This association can provide you with information regarding employment, national certification as a medical assistant, and opportunities for continuing education in Tennessee.

Currently there are 13,860 medical assistants working throughout the state, concentrated in the following areas:

  • 2,520 in the greater Memphis metropolitan area
  • 1,730 in the Chattanooga area
  • 1,700 in Knoxville
  • 630 in the Kingsport-Bristol area
  • 440 in Jackson
  • 390 in Johnson City
  • 230 in the Clarksville area
  • 230 in Cleveland
  • 210 in Morristown

A sampling of recent job announcements throughout Tennessee specified the following qualifications and preferences:

  • The Shelbyville Clinic recently posted a job announcement seeking a medical assistant with at least a high school diploma and a medical assistant certification.
  • Southwind Medical Specialists in Memphis recently posted an advertisement seeking a medical assistant who was either a graduate of a medical assistant school or had equivalent job experience. Preferred qualifications included an RMA or CMA credential.
  • A medical assistant job at the Chattanooga Memorial Hospital was recently posted seeking a candidate who could meet one of the following minimum qualifications:

    • Medical assistant associate’s degree from an accredited college
    • 5 years of work experience
    • Candidates with a CMA credential receive preferential consideration

  • The Maury County Clinic in Columbia was recently seeking a medical assistant who had at minimum a high school diploma, and who was preferred to be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).
  • American Family Care in Hendersonville was recently seeking a medical assistant who had an associate’s degree, at least six months of experience and training, or a combination of equivalent education and experience.



Step 3. Maintain Your Tennessee Medical Assistant Qualifications

Specific maintenance and continuing education requirements are determined by your employer and will be outlined in each individual medical assistant job description.

Maintaining common professional medical assistant certifications will require the following:

  • CMA – a CMA credential is valid for 60 months. To renew this you can either retake the CMA Exam or earn 60 re-certification points based on the following criteria:

    • A minimum of 10 points relating to administrative duties
    • A minimum of 10 points relating to clinical duties
    • A minimum of 10 points relating to general duties
    • A minimum of 30 points from AAMA-approved continuing education units

  • NRCMA – to maintain the NRCMA you must meet the following obligations starting after one year:

    • Maintain a current CPR card
    • Complete at least two A class Continuing Education Units (CEUs) each year
    • Pay a yearly membership fee to the NAHP

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