Medical Assistant Programs and Certification in Alaska
Alaska medical assistants (MAs) carry out both clinical and administrative duties. The Alaska Center for Rural Health and Health Workforce states that the main work settings are clinics, offices, and other ambulatory settings. The organization further notes that medical assistants are the allied health workers most commonly employed by practicing physicians.
Medical assistants work under direct supervision when carrying out physician-delegated duties. The physician has the responsibility of making sure that the medical assistants that he or she delegates to are competent. Regulations adopted in 2019 add clarity to the delegation process. The physician is expected to document his or her MA’s training.
Role-specific education and certification have long been hiring considerations. Basic medical assisting education takes about one academic year. Some programs are significantly longer. They include more courses that are directly related to the job role as well as more general and supportive coursework. This can have a bearing on job prospects. There are multiple Alaska schools that offer both certificate and associate’s options. Programmatic differences exist from school to school.
Foundations: Alaska Medical Assistant Education and Certification
Some Alaska employers note “Certified Medical Assistant” or “CMA” in their job postings. Some reference multiple acceptable certifications. The Alaska Center for Rural Health and Health Workforce includes contact information for three certification agencies in its medical assistant career information page. The CMA (AAMA) is issued by the American Association of Medical Assistants. Other certifications noted include the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) and the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA).
Certification as a medical assistant is by examination. In order to be certified, a person will need to meet eligibility requirements. Individuals new to medical assisting will need formal education. Alternative pathways (work experience or military training) exist for some certifications.
A person will need an accredited education for CMA (AAMA) certification. For some time, the American Association of Medical Assistants has based CMA eligibility on accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau for Health Education Schools (ABHES). AAMA began a pilot program in 2019, conferring eligibility to individuals who complete acceptable academic programs at schools that hold institutional accreditation. Acceptable agencies are those recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the United States Department of Education (USDE).
Alaska Medical Assistant Programs
The University of Alaska-Anchorage offers a CAAHEP-accredited 40-credit CMA preparation program and a 60-credit Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assisting program. Students who opt for the AAS program will take 8 to 9 additional credits in the major. The following are among the coursework options listed: Radiation Protection and Biology for Limited Radiography Professionals, Advanced Case Studies in Medical Coding, Phlebotomy Procedures, and Phlebotomy Practicum.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks Community and Technical College offers a CAAHEP-accredited 36-credit certificate program to develop entry-level competencies. The program includes a 180-hour externship. The school also offers an associate’s completion program. The associate’s degree requires a minimum of 60 credits.
The University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka also offers a CAAHEP-accredited medical assisting program. Coursework can be accessed online, but students will need to carry out clinical tasks in a healthcare setting. Some courses require instructor observation.
Charter College holds institutional ABHES accreditation. The Wasilla and Anchorage campuses both offer a certificate in medical assisting; course delivery is described as blended. Degree completion is available online through the Anchorage location.
Medical Assistant Employers
Medical assistants are found in many clinic and office settings. The Alaska Center for Rural Health and Health Workforce states that rural Alaska medical assistants most often work for regional health corporations, governmental agencies, or community organizations.
The following are among the health organizations and systems that hire Alaska medical assistants:
- Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
- Providence Health & Services
- Southcentral Foundation
- Tahana Valley Clinic
- Mat-Su Regional Medical Center
- Kenaitze Indian Tribe Health Systems
Alaska Medical Assistant Scope of Practice
The American Association of Medical Assistants has provided links to scope of practice and guidance documents from the Alaska State Medical Board and the Board of Nursing.
According to Alaska guidelines, physicians may only delegate routine duties. A number of duties are explicitly listed as being non-delegable.
Advanced practice nurses are permitted to delegate injectable medication administration to nationally certified medical assistants in some healthcare settings.
New medical board regulations address the issue of MA’s giving injections and authorize physician delegation when stated conditions are met. Podiatrists, osteopaths, and physician assistants are also explicitly authorized.
Medical Assistant Advancement Opportunities
Some organizations have career ladders in place and/ or make formal distinctions between medical assistants with differing levels of expertise. They may use titles like Medical Assistant I and Medical Assistant II. Southcentral Foundation, for example, has a Medical II classification based on demonstrated ability (as determined by meeting competencies in the organization’s job progression checklist).
Alaska Medical Assistant Salary
Alaska medical assistants earned a mean annual wage of $45,490 in 2018; this makes Alaska the highest paying state in the nation. Most Alaska medical assistants made between $34,360 (10th percentile) and $57,410 (90th percentile).
Location quotient (based on MA jobs as a percentage of total jobs) was higher in the Anchorage area than in other parts of the state. Wages were, on average, slightly higher in the nonmetropolitan areas of Alaska. The mean was $42,350 in Fairbanks, $45,110 in Anchorage, and $47,520 in nonmetropolitan Alaska.
The Alaska Medical Assistant Society is the state professional association (http://alaskamedicalassistants.org/).
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