Temperance from Florida tells us that after successfully finishing the medical assistant training program she has a difficult time landing her first job. She says: “I’ve applied to as many positions I possibly could, but most employers here are looking for certified MAs. No one wants to give me a chance without it, so now I am seeking certification through a recognized provider.” Most employers set their standards high and specify that certification is preferred when they hire. Job applicants without it instantly drop to the bottom of the list. Unfortunately, many medical assistants don’t even realize that they might already qualify for certification based on their vocational or military training, years of experience, or other certifications they already have in their specific discipline.
Every day new medical assistant school graduates enter the job market that’s an endless stream of well-trained applicants for the same positions. How will you compete and prove to a potential employer that you are the most qualified candidate for the position? The key is to set yourself apart by earning certified credentials that attest to your knowledge in the field. A medical assistant certification exam covers a broad range of medical assisting areas of knowledge to assure proficiency and competency in all areas of general medical assisting, clinical and administrative. Those who are certified are more likely to advance to a higher position as well as receive more benefits and a better salary than those who are not certified.
Certification exams typically are timed and consist of multiple-choice questions taken either on paper (pencil and paper tests) or electronically through Prometric* testing services, which takes place in a computer-lab type cubicle. The questions appear on a screen and you use a keyboard to submit your answers. The results will be instantly logged.
*We were told that at a Prometric testing center you are given 40 minutes to answer 50 questions at a time. Once the time is up you are immediately taken to the next 50 questions. To practice you can request the certification sponsor’s practice exams, your own lecture notes, quizzes and tests from class, and a good medical assistant certification review textbook with a practice CD. We were told that medical assistant students can receive the AMT’s and AAMA’s 50-question anatomy and physiology practice exam and the medical terminology practice test from the AAMA website.
This information must be verified! Likely there will be multiple choice questions around topics such as urinalysis, where the urine sample is a certain color what medications the patient probably took and what to do next with the urine sample whether 90716 is a CPT or ICD-9 code basic pharmacology math and conversions, such as 6 kg = 6000g what type of medication is prescribed for pain (analgesics)which part of the prescription form gives specific directions for the pharmacist?
Know human anatomy, anatomical positions and landmarks and the medical terminology that goes with it, body planes and directions (e.g. lateral, distal, medical, and prone, supine, proctologic, Sims’, Fowler’s, Trendelenburg’s), normal vital signs and measurable values, EKG leads placement, common types of medications, basic pharmacology calculations and parts of a prescription, names of surgical instruments, asepsis and sterilization procedures, basic medical coding and billing principles, including the difference between CPT and ICD-9 codes and what they look like (CPT code 99214 may be used for a physical; 90658 indicates a flu shot), health insurance types, bookkeeping procedures and types of filing systems (alphabetic, numeric, alphanumeric, by name or chronologically). To practice try to simulate the testing environment by answering the practice questions in a quiet room, free of any distractions, and using a timer. Create your own mock tests and make it your goal to answer 50 questions in 40 minutes.
Once certified medical assistants are expected to keep their certification status current through a certain amount of approved annual continuing education units (CEU). Certified and/or registered medical assistants can participate in continuing education programs as a benefit of their professional memberships to maintain the status of their credentials. Once lapsed they will have to take the certification exam all over again to recertify their credentials.