Overcoming the CMA Shortage

Doctor holding stethoscope


COVID-19 came two years ago to remind us how crucial it is to have Certified Medical Assistants in our medical communities.


The US Department of Labor predicted back in 2014 that employment for medical assistants would grow more than 138,900 jobs from 2014 to 2024. It hasn’t been easy to fill out those spots with qualified and experienced CMAs. The healthcare industry has been a consistently booming field for many years now, and it won’t stop. 


It is expected that health care facilities will keep facing a persistent shortage of trained workers like lab technicians, nurses, and CMAs during the following years.


If you are a healthcare organization, we highly recommend turning to the pros like VISAYA to help you land qualified staff. They  can staff PH RNs, US RNs, medical doctors, licensed pharmacists, and  certified medical coders.


In this article, we’ll talk about the job duties of CMAs, the impending hiring crisis, and the problems that come about from not having enough qualified and experienced CMAs. 


What is a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)?


For short, a certified medical assistant or a CMA is a professional who works most commonly at a doctor’s office. However, other clinical settings they work at are dentists, ophthalmologists, pediatric, gynecology, chiropractic, and more. Duties include:

  • Schedule lab tests
  • Process results 
  • Completing insurance forms.
  • Answer phones and emails
  • Maintaining patient files
  • Managing correspondence
  • Booking appointments
  • Ensure the surgery room is well-stocked for every procedure.


Related: Healthcare Information Management Today


CMAs also have some patient care duties, including collecting samples and specimens, changing dressings, and taking vital signs. A CMA will also conduct patient interviews before procedures, explain treatment plans, and prepare patients for tests. A CMA’s duties may also include:

  • Keeping the medical team sterile equipment.
  • Preparing treatment rooms.
  • Disposing of contaminated waste to maintain a safe and sanitary environment.


How Do they receive their certification?


The CMA receives its certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). The AAMA has been educating and testing in a broad scope of general, clinical, and administrative responsibilities since the 1950s


The CMA AAMA says that they respond to more than 100 employer requests for CMA (AAMA) certification verification for current and potential employees. This trend is not giving indications that it is going to decrease. 

: Doctors doing an operation


How CMAs are the Glue that Holds Medical Facilities Together

Generally, certified medical assistants work a standard 40 hour week, although some work part-time, evenings or weekends. It depends on the healthcare facility and the job description, but the day-to-day work is varied.


Without their help, medical institutions would not be able to function. Doctors would have to do everything themselves, which would mean attention to the patients would decrease. 


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Additional duties of CMAs at clerical, clinical, and laboratory facilities include:


  • Greeting patients over the phone and answering inquires. 
  • Prepare patients for the health care visit.
  • Assist them in positioning themselves for the examination.
  • Making sure all tools, supplies, and equipment is clean and ready.
  • Verify the patient’s information by interviewing them.
  • Review and record medical history.
  • Confirm the purpose of the visit or treatment.
  • Support patient care delivery by helping health care providers during examinations.
  • Perform basic laboratory tests on the premises.
  • Dispose of unclean supplies.
  • Sterilize medical instruments.
  • Administer medications on the premises.
  • Authorize drug refills as directed.
  • Call pharmacies for prescriptions.
  • Draw blood.
  • Prepare patients for x-rays.
  • Take electrocardiograms
  • Remove sutures
  • And more

As you can see, there are many functions that CMAs do. Without them, medical institutions would have too much workload, and CMAs can help alleviate some of that load while medical professionals can focus on doing what they do best. 


Related: Managing Health Information


Job Outlook and Impending Hiring Crisis


The job outlook for medical assistants is anticipated to grow 18 percent from 2020 to 2030. About 104,400 openings for medical assistants open each year, and most of those job openings result from the necessity to replace workers moving from different occupations or exit the labor force.


Nursing homes are the most affected in this manner. The American Health Care Association reports that approximately 94% of facilities that respond to recent surveys say a shortage of staff and that almost 75% report this shortage has gotten worse since 2020


As proposed by AHCA, more reimbursement is needed in their jointly-released Care For Our Seniors Act. 81% of AHCA’s survey respondents agree that higher reimbursement would enable them to offer better wages and compensations to their workers.

Doctor filling up a syringe


The Bigger Problem with Medical Industry Staffing Shortages


One of the things often overlooked is how having more CMAs can help reduce mortality rates. An investigation team directed by Dr. Ann E. Tourangeau from the University of Toronto and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario, Canada, studied 46,993 patients admitted to hospital with pneumonia, heart attacks, blood poisoning, and strokes. The results were that “hospitals with higher proportions of [skilled] nurses tended to have lower 30-day mortality rates.


What Hospital Administration Should Consider About Attracting and Retaining CMAs

To attract more qualified candidates, it is essential to implement specific strategies that directly impact things that matter to most nurses. Use good marketing outlets that communicate your personalized message while emphasizing your differentiators to stand out from the thousands of job posts. You will connect with quality nurses to fulfill available positions and receive a continuous flow of candidates through your doors.


It’s crucial not to forget the significance of being flexible with potential hires’ expectations and qualifications. If you are a medical organization, please consider hiring a recent graduate and hire based on potential. It is often the case that hiring based on an individual’s potential almost always pays off and often lands you an ideal employee!



Related: Healthcare Recruiting: Finding Good Talent


The Takeaway on the CMA Staffing Crisis

The pandemic came to show us that it is more crucial than ever to be adaptive and creative to recruit or hire more nurses and be responsive to the valuable human capital needs. 


Focusing on the candidate’s needs, sense of community combined with a robust brand environment, supportive work with incentives, a solid marketing message will significantly impact the quantity and quality of nurses you recruit.


Are you a healthcare institution looking for professional guidance to improve your current facilities? Contact our team of experts at VISAYA to get more information about Business Process Services