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Chapter 1 Introduction to Medical Assisting

Terms in this set (26)

In 1996, the AAMA formed a committee whose goal was to revise and update its standards for the accreditation of programs that teach medical assisting. The committee's findings were published in 1997 as the "AAMA Role Delineation Study: Occupational Analysis of the Medical Assistant Profession." The study included a new Role Delineation Chart that outlined the areas of competence to be mastered as an entry-level medical assistant. The Role Delineation Chart of the CMA (AAMA) was further updated in 2003 to include additional competencies. In 2009, it was updated again and was renamed the Occupational Analysis of the CMA (AAMA).

The Occupational Analysis provides the basis for medical assisting education and evaluation. Mastery of the areas of competence listed in the Occupational Analysis is required for all students in accredited medical assisting programs. The Occupational Analysis includes three areas of competence: administrative, clinical, and general. Each of these three areas is divided into two or more narrower areas, for a total of 10 specific areas of competence. Within each area, a bulleted list of statements describes the medical assistant's role.

According to the AAMA, the Occupational Analysis may be used to

Describe the field of medical assisting to other healthcare professionals.

Identify entry-level areas of competence for medical assistants.

Help practitioners assess their own current competence in the field.

Aid in the development of continuing education programs.

Prepare appropriate types of materials for home study.
confirmation by an organization that an individual is qualified to perform a job to professional standards. Registration is the granting of a title or license by a board that gives permission to practice in a chosen profession. Once credentialed, you earn the right to wear a pin that is obtained through the credentialing organization.

Medical assisting credentials such as certification and registration are not always required to practice as a medical assistant. However, employers today are aggressively recruiting medical assistants who are credentialed in their field. Small physician practices are being consolidated or merged into larger providers of healthcare, such as hospitals, to decrease operating expenses. Human resource directors of these larger organizations place great importance on professional credentials for their employees.

An accredited medical assisting program is competency based; this means that standards are set by an accrediting body for administrative and clinical competencies. Accrediting bodies are discussed later in this chapter. It is the educational institution's duty to ensure that medical assisting students learn all medical assisting competencies and that evidence is clearly documented for each student. Periodic evaluations are performed by the accrediting agencies to ensure the effectiveness of the program.

Competencies and proficiency assessments are parts of the CMA (AAMA) examination. For example, administering medications is a competency required of accredited medical assisting programs and is a component of the CMA (AAMA) examination. The CMA (AAMA) credential and the affiliation with a professional organization demonstrate competence and provide evidence of training. They also lessen the likelihood of a legal challenge to the quality of a medical assistant's work. Basically, there is less chance of malpractice if employees are credentialed through either AAMA or RMA. School accreditation and credentials will be discussed in more detail later in this chapter.
credential is awarded by the Certifying Board of the AAMA. The AAMA's certification examination evaluates mastery of medical assisting competencies based on the Occupational Analysis of the CMA (AAMA), which is available at The National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) also provides technical assistance in developing the tests.

CMAs (AAMA) must recertify the CMA (AAMA) credential every 5 years. To be recertified as a CMA (AAMA), 60 contact hours must be accumulated during the 5-year period: 10 in the administrative area, 10 in the clinical area, and 10 in the general area, with 30 additional hours in any of the three categories. In addition, 30 of these contact hours must be from an approved AAMA program. The AAMA also requires you to hold a current CPR card.

The recertification mandate requires you to learn about new medical developments through education courses or participation in an examination. Hundreds of continuing education courses are sponsored by local, state, and national AAMA groups. The AAMA also offers self-study courses through its continuing education department.

As of June 1998, only completing students of medical assisting programs accredited by CAAHEP and ABHES are eligible to take the certification examination. The AAMA offers the Candidate's Guide to the Certification Examination to help applicants prepare for the examination. This guide explains the test format and test-taking strategies. It also includes a sample examination with answers and information about study references. Some schools have also incorporated test preparation reviews into their programs. They do this because the credentialing agencies require a certain percentage of students to pass the program in order for the schools to keep their accreditation.

As of January 2009, the CMA (AAMA) examination is computerized. These computerized tests may be taken any time at a designated testing site in your area. You may search the Internet for an application and test review materials. Once you have successfully passed the CMA (AAMA) examination, you have earned the right to add that credential to your name, such as Miguel A. Perez, CMA (AAMA).
Accreditation is the process by which programs are officially authorized. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes two national entities that accredit medical assisting educational programs:

Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). CAAHEP works directly with the Medical Assisting Educational Review Board (MAERB) of Medical Assistants Endowments to ensure that all accredited schools provide a competency-based education. CAAHEP accredits medical assisting programs in both public and private postsecondary institutions throughout the United States that prepare individuals for entry into the medical assisting profession.

Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). ABHES accredits private postsecondary institutions and programs that prepare individuals for entry into the medical assisting profession.

Accredited programs must cover the following topics:

Anatomy and physiology

Medical terminology

Medical law and ethics


Oral and written communications

Laboratory procedures

Clinical and administrative procedures

High school students may prepare for these courses by studying mathematics, health, biology, keyboarding, office skills, bookkeeping, and information technology. You may obtain current information about accreditation standards for medical assisting programs from the AAMA.

Medical assisting programs must also include a practicum (externship) or work experience. This applied training is for a specified length of time in an ambulatory care setting, such as a physician's office, hospital, or other healthcare facility. Additionally, the AAMA lists its minimum standards for accredited programs. This list of standards ensures that all personnel—administrators and faculty alike—are qualified to perform their jobs. These standards also ensure that financial and physical resources are available at accredited programs.

Graduation from an accredited program helps your career in three ways. First, it shows that you have completed a program that meets nationally accepted standards. Second, it provides recognition of your education by professional peers. Third, it makes you eligible for registration or certification. Students who graduate from an ABHES- or CAAHEP-accredited medical assisting program are eligible to take the CMA (AAMA) or RMA (AMT) immediately.
Volunteering is a rewarding experience. Before you even begin a medical assisting program, you can gain experience in a healthcare profession through volunteer work. As a volunteer, you will get hands-on training and learn what it is like to assist patients who are ill, disabled, or frightened.

You may volunteer as an aide in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or doctor's office, or as a typist or filing clerk in a medical office or medical record room. Some visiting nurse associations and hospices (home-like medical settings that provide medical care and emotional support to terminally ill patients and their families) also offer volunteer opportunities. These experiences may help you decide if you want to pursue a career as a medical assistant.

The American Red Cross also offers volunteer opportunities for student medical assistants. The Red Cross needs volunteers for its disaster relief programs locally, statewide, nationally, and abroad. As part of a disaster relief team at the site of a hurricane, tornado, storm, flood, earthquake, or fire, volunteers learn first-aid and emergency triage skills. Red Cross volunteers gain valuable work experience that may help them obtain a job.

Because volunteers are not paid, it is usually easy to find work opportunities. Just because you are not paid for volunteer work, however, does not mean the experience is not useful for meeting your career goals.

Include information about any volunteer work on your résumé—a computer-generated document that summarizes your employment and educational history. Be sure to note specific duties, responsibilities, and skills you developed during the volunteer experience. Refer to the Preparing for the World of Work chapter for examples of résumés.
Continuing education and training are essential to your career as a medical assistant. As discussed earlier, continuing education is mandatory for maintaining your certification or registration. In addition, you may want to become multiskilled. Many hospitals and healthcare practices are embracing the idea of a multiskilled healthcare professional (MSHP). An MSHP is a cross-trained team member who is able to handle many different duties. Reducing Healthcare Costs As a result of healthcare reform and downsizing (a reduction in the number of staff members) to control the rising cost of healthcare, medical practices are eager to reduce personnel costs by hiring multiskilled health professionals. These individuals, who perform the functions of two or more people, are the most cost-efficient employees.

Expanding Your Career Opportunities Career opportunities are vast if you are self-motivated and willing to learn new skills. If you continue to learn about new administrative techniques and procedures, you will be an important part of the healthcare team.

Following are some examples of positions for medical assistants with additional experience and certifications:

Medical Office Manager

Medical Assisting Instructor (with a specified amount of experience and education)

ECG Technician

Patient Care Technician

Medical Biller and Coder

If you are multiskilled, you will have an advantage when job hunting. Employers are eager to hire multiskilled medical assistants and may even create positions for them.

You can gain multiskill training by showing initiative and a willingness to learn every aspect of the medical facility in which you are working. When you begin working in a medical facility, establish goals regarding your career path and discuss them with your immediate supervisor. Indicate to your supervisor that you would like cross-training in every aspect of the medical facility. Begin in the department in which you are currently working and branch out to other departments once you master the skills needed for your current position. This will demonstrate a commitment to your profession and a strong work ethic. Cross-training is a valuable marketing tool to include on your résumé.