"The medical assisting discipline opens doors and offers MANY career advancement opportunities."
Lorraine On Licensure For Medical Assistants:
It doesn't take much more than a quick look around to see that although medical assistants may be well aware of their proficiency, skill levels and scope of practice, we are among the minority. Our patients may have an inkling that we're not all nurses but they don't quite know what our title or training is.
A glance at any nursing forum shows that aside from the nurses who work in outpatient or ambulatory care centers, most nurses don't have a clue. Comments like “ MAs can give injections???” are commonplace due simply to lack of knowledge of the MA’s role and scope of practice on the part of the posters.
Add to this confusion the commercials for MA schools that depict the medical assistant racing down the hospital corridor beside a gurney, as if she’s rushing someone into the ER, and it’s no wonder there’s so much confusion. Since there are no “hard and fast” requirements for becoming a MA, there is naturally a huge disparity in regards to MA education and skill levels.
Yes, one CAN have absolutely no medical education what-so-ever and be hired as a MA with “on the job training”. While most of us would agree that this is not the ideal scenario, there are in most states no regulations to prevent this from happening. I wouldn't take my computer to be repaired by someone who wasn't certified in that field but we expect the public and medical community to accept our capabilities without question? I believe this is a major stumbling block for MA's in their quest to being considered part of the professional medical field. How can we get the respect we deserve if there are no “standards” in our profession?
I work in a very busy family practice. Out of six medical assistants, I am the only one certified in any way. This is not to say that I am any more qualified than anyone else that I work with. In fact, the girls I work with have been in the field for many years and I seek their advice daily. Most of them HAVE been certified by some organization and have simply let that certification
lapse. In reality, what’s the point of keeping a certification up if it...
a.) is not required
b.) has no relevant bearing on your status or income
In an updated version of an article originally published in 1996, (see article),it is noted that only seven states (Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, Maryland,South Dakota and Washington) have specific regulations pertaining the scope of practice of MA's. In most instances, the MA is permitted to perform any technical procedure not prohibited elsewhere by law as long as the supervising physician deems the MA qualified and properly trained to perform.
There also seems to be no standard as far as medical assisting schools goes. Unless a school wants to be accredited by a certain agency (ABHES, CAAHEP, etc.) there are no guidelines required as to curriculum, classroom hours and so on.
This creates quite a conundrum for medical assistants. If we decide we want a specific scope of practice, it may actually narrow a pretty broad scope of practice that many of us now have. Also, if we decide we want specific standards by the way of licensure, we will open ourselves up to the liability issues that go along with that. Instead of working under a physicians license as we do now, we'll be working under our own. As it stands, we have no one to be accountable to. You can't take away something (certification) that’s voluntary to start with. Well, you can, but what does it matter if you don't really need it to work in the field?
Despite the above reservations, I still feel that mandatory licensure, along with standardized educational requirements is the only way for the medical assistant to gain widespread acceptance and respect. Perhaps then, medical assistants would be welcomed by the rest of the medical community as the highly valued professionals we know we are.
Lorraine CMA, CNA
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