In recent years an obstacle to the recognition and distinctiveness of Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs) has been the increasing number of certified medication aides (or assistants) in the health work force. At its 2005 annual meeting in Washington, DC, August 2–5, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) greatly helped the cause of CMAs and the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) by changing the title of this category of personnel from certified medication assistant to medication assistant-certified (MA-C).

In April, this author and AAMA Deputy Assistant Executive Director and Director of Accreditation Judy Jondahl, RN, MS, CLNC, met with the NCSBN Regulation and Delegation Subcommittee to discuss the draft position paper entitled Working with Others: Delegation, Other Healthcare Interfaces and the Regulation of Nursing Assistive Personnel. Appended to the draft were definitions and a proposed article for the NCSBN Model Nursing Practice Act and a proposed chapter for the Model Nursing Administrative Rules. A medication assistant was defined as “an individual who receives specialized training preparing for a role in administering oral and topical medications and who works under the supervision of a licensed nurse.”

This author and Deputy Assistant Executive Director Jondahl informed the subcommittee that certified medication assistants/aides were sometimes confused with Certified Medical Assistants. In a May 10 follow-up letter, this author stated the following: “Medication aide/assistant legislation is being introduced in an increasing number of state legislatures, so [the confusion between medication assistants and Certified Medical Assistants] is becoming a pervasive problem throughout the United States. Would it be possible for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to suggest to its member nursing boards that they urge legislators to not use the phrase “certified medication/medicine assistant/aide” in proposed legislation? This would avoid the confusion of having the initialism “CMA” applied to both Certified Medical Assistants and certified medication/medicine assistants/aides.”

In response to this request, the Nursing Regulation and Delegation Subcommittee proposed changes in the wording in its Model Nursing Practice Act and its Model Nursing Administrative Rules. The revised wording was approved by the NCSBN Delegate Assembly at the annual meeting, and is now official policy of the National Council.

The following are excerpts from the Model Practice Act and Administrative Rules [emphasis added]:

Nursing Assistive Personnel Registry. Each individual who successfully meets all requirements for certification shall be entitled to be listed on the Nursing Assistive Personnel Registry as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), certified nursing assistant II (CNA-II) or medication assistant-certified (MA-C).

Medication assistant-certified (MA-C) Range of Functions. A certified nursing assistant or certified nursing assistant II with additional education and training as set forth in rule, may administer medications as prescribed by an authorized provider within the parameters set forth in rule.

Medication Administration by Medication Assistants-Certified (MA-C)

a. A medication assistant-certified may perform a task involving the administration of medications if:

1. The medication assistant-certified’s assignment is to administer medications under the supervision of a licensed nurse in accordance with provisions of this act and rules; and

2. The delegation is not prohibited by any provision of this act and rules. (Medication assistants-certified may work under the supervision of another professional in some limited settings. Most, however, work in facilities where licensed nurses provide supervision.)

The American Association of Medical Assistants owes the National Council of State Boards of Nursing a debt of gratitude for its willingness to change its documents and lessen the likelihood of confusion between Certified Medical Assistants and medication assistants-certified. Any member who becomes aware of proposed state legislation or regulations about medication assistants/aides should immediately contact this author at dbalasa@aama-ntl.org or by calling 800/228-2262.