Medical assistants (MA) fill a unique role in a healthcare setting. As unlicensed professionals, there is no universally accepted scope of practice governing their work like there is for physicians, nurses, and physician assistants. Instead, individual states make their own rules about what MAs can and cannot do.
This arrangement sometimes leaves physicians wondering what tasks they can safely assign their MAs. Fortunately, certifying organizations like the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) offer guidance for the scope of practice laws in all fifty states. Here's an overview of how MAs can work in some of the states where Med-X Staffing Services operates.
California has a relatively permissive attitude towards MA scope of practice. According to the Medical Board of California, MAs may "perform non-invasive routine technical support services under the supervision of a licensed physician and surgeon, podiatrist, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife in a medical office or clinic setting without the need of receiving a certification. The supervisor must be on the premises in order for the medical assistant to perform non-invasive technical support services."
A person may become a MA in California through on-the-job training under the supervision of a licensed physician or podiatrist or in an accredited secondary, postsecondary, or adult education program. You can consult this FAQ for more information on California's scope of practice guidelines.
According to the Illinois Medical Practice Act, "a physician may delegate patient care tasks or duties to an unlicensed person who possesses appropriate training and experience provided a healthcare professional, who is practicing within the scope of such licensed professional's individual licensing Act, is on site to provide assistance." As a result, physicians enjoy broad authority to assign their MAs patient-care tasks.
An important caveat to Illinois law is that any patient-care duties delegated to an unlicensed person must be in the scope of practice of the delegating physician.
Florida defines a medical assistant as “a professional multiskilled person dedicated to assisting in all aspects of medical practice under the direct supervision and responsibility of a physician.” Unlike other states, Florida outlines specific duties MAs can lawfully perform, including:
Florida doesn't require medical assistants to obtain certification. However, the certification must be issued by a program accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies if they do.
“It is my legal opinion that this language permits physicians to delegate a reasonable scope of clinical and administrative tasks (including venipuncture/phlebotomy and administering intramuscular, intradermal, and subcutaneous injections [including vaccinations/immunizations]) to knowledgeable and competent unlicensed professionals such as medical assistants working under their direct authority in outpatient settings.”
Washing is a bit of an outlier in the MA scope of practice arena. The state provides very specific guidance over the acceptable tasks MAs can perform, which include:
However, what makes Washington requirements so unique is that they require MAs to be state-certified. According to state law, the “secretary shall issue a certification as a medical assistant-certified to any person who has satisfactorily completed a medical assistant training program approved by the secretary, passed an examination approved by the secretary,” and met any other requirements under the Washington law. While Washington does not consider MAs to be licensed healthcare professionals, many experts believe this requirement is a de facto licensure requirement.
Physicians who use MAs understand the difference these professionals can make within a practice. Unfortunately, some clinics don't get the most from their MAs because they don't understand their state's scope of practice rules. Fortunately, Med-X Staffing Services can help. We're MA experts who stay on the cutting edge of the industry. We can also provide ideas on ways to use your MAs to increase practice efficiency.
If you have questions, feel free to call us at 503-922-1393 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If we can't answer your question, we can put you in touch with the resources that can.