Certification is Critical for Medical Assistants

July 8, 2020 9:27 AM

Except for physicians, the Med-X team has experience staffing every type of clinic position. However, our team has specialized expertise in the area of medical assistants (MAs). Paula Purdy CMA (AAMA), our director of clinic services, has spent years working in the local and national MA community, developing educational and certification standards. This experience gives her a unique insight into the vital role these healthcare professionals play in a clinic setting. 


While these professionals offer undisputed value, there is some confusion in the industry between an MA and MAs who have earned some kind of certification. This critical difference could be an important factor when making your next hiring decision.

What is a Medical Assistant?

An MA typically works alongside physicians in medical offices and clinics. While MAs aren’t licensed like doctors, nurses, or physician assistants, they usually complete a post-secondary education program at a community college or technical school. In some cases, people are hired as MAs with only a high school diploma or GED and then receive on-the-job training.


During a typical day, MAs perform many critical job functions that help clinics run more efficiently, including administrative duties like answering phones and welcoming patients, updating medical records, filling out insurance forms, and scheduling appointments. MAs also have many patient-facing responsibilities, like taking medical histories, drawing blood, and performing basic lab tests. MAs are your clinic’s jack-of-all-trades who can free up licensed staff to spend more time on direct patient care. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why these employees are so valuable. 

Credentialing Sets a Higher Standard?

Credentialed MAs perform all the functions of an MA but have also met the standards of a credentialing organization. A few of the most common credentialing organizations in the Portland area are:

American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)

MAs who earn the CMA (AAMA)® or Certified Medical Assistant® credential are certified through the AAMA. All candidates must be a graduate from a post-secondary MA program, demonstrate their proficiency in venipuncture and injections, and pass a rigorous examination administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners. For recertification, MAs must demonstrate 60 hours of continuing education every five years, or retake the certifying exam.

American Medical Technologist (AMT)

These medical professionals earn an RMA (AMT) or Registered Medical Assistant credential after passing a test of knowledge. To be eligible to take the test, candidates must be a graduate of specific post-secondary medical programs. Candidates can also qualify for the test with a minimum of five years of MA experience. Recertification requires 30 hours of continuing education every three years.

National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)

These credentialed MAs earn an NCMA or National Certified Medical Assistant status. To qualify for this test, candidates must be a graduate of an approved medical assistant course or have at least two years of work experience in the field. Recertification for this credential requires 14 hours of continuing education every year.

Credentialing Matters for Clinics

A growing number of clinics are choosing to hire credentialed MAs for several complicated reasons. Because MAs are unlicensed professionals in most states, some lawyers have seized on this fact during malpractice suits to attack the quality of care their patients received. By using credentialed MAs, clinics can help protect themselves from litigation. Also, the growth of managed care in our industry has placed greater importance on credentialing for medical assistants, which will likely continue into the future. 


Finally, recent changes to state and federal law make credentialed employees much more flexible than their non credentialed colleagues. Only credentialed employees can enter medication, laboratory, and diagnostic orders into the computerized provider order entry (CPOE) system. If non credentialed employees enter those orders, they won’t count towards meeting the meaningful use threshold under the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.


After considering these factors, it’s clear that credential MAs will bring the most value to your day-to-day clinic operations.

We Do the Screening for You

If you’re interested in learning more about how MAs can help your clinic run more efficiently, or learning about the differences between MA credentialing programs, we’d love to talk. Over the years we’ve placed MAs in clinics throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, and we’re recognized as experts in the field. We can also help fill other key positions in your clinic. Contact us today to get the process started.


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