How to Become a Certified Medication Aide in Your State

Certified Medication Aides are an integral part of any functioning hospital. With the way the industry is trending, these CMAs will only increase in demand as time goes on. 

You may know about the profession in a broad sense, but do you know the specific tasks assigned to medication assistants? Perhaps you are interested in becoming one yourself, but you do not know where to start. That different states have different CMA requirements complicates things further. 

 For anyone interested in making the transition to a CMA role, this guide will tell you everything you need to know. Below, we will go over med tech requirements, salaries, and the steps needed to gain certification, among other things.

What does a CMA do? 

The full scope of a medication aide’s authority greatly depends on state legislation. Regardless, you will generally be expected to carry out the following duties. 

Put simply, a certified medication aide is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) responsible for administering oral or topical medications to patients in the hospital. Unlike other nurse assistants, CMAs have the certification and training to administer said medications safely, at the right time and in proper doses. If not administered properly, many hospital medications can have potentially disastrous side effects. Because of this, CMAs have to thoroughly document the dosage and time that the medication was administered. Additionally, they have to properly teach patients how to consume their medicine safely, on their own. 

What qualities are expected of a CMA? 

CMAs are expected to monitor a patient’s reaction to the medications, as time passes. If any sudden changes or adverse effects appear, they have to report them as soon as possible to their supervising nurse, physician and medical provider. If needed, they can be tasked to collect biological samples for further analysis. Outside the clinic, CMAs are expected to collaborate closely with pharmacies to ensure that the necessary medications are always available. Since medications can run out or expire, they also have to perform medication audits to ensure that the supply is fresh enough to use and properly stocked. 

What is the outlook for the CMA? 

The future of the profession is exceedingly bright. From 2021 to 2031, The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that CMAs are expected to grow by about 16% percent. For reference, this translates to 117,800 new job openings within that time and is considerably faster than average. A number of factors will contribute to the steady demand for these kinds of healthcare workers. Older patients are expected to need more detailed medical tests for conditions like type 2 diabetes. Prenatal tests for genetic conditions have also risen in prominence, thus raising the demand for such nurses even further. Finally, veteran CMAs are expected to leave the industry en masse in the future. This leaves hospitals with vacancies they are in a rush to fill. 

CMA salaries do lag behind their contemporaries, relatively speaking. Currently, the BLS pins the average medical technician salary at around $37,190. Thankfully, per diem, CMAs will have the opportunity to earn even higher than this. With the help of VitaWerks, they can secure the best-paying shifts from the finest facilities in their area. This is all while working at their own pace and dictating their own hours.

How can I become a CMA? 

As we mentioned earlier, different states have specific requirements for becoming a CMA. That being said, the step-by-step process is generally the same, in the broad strokes. 

Step 1: Fulfill educational requirements

Before anything else, aspiring med tech nurses need to obtain their high school diplomas. Certain Med Tech programs will require a number of prerequisite courses, such as Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics and English. Even if they do not, completing such courses will look extremely favorable on your resume. 

Step 2: Acquire your CNA certification

Once you fulfil the entry-level educational requirements, you can start applying for postsecondary CMA programs. To qualify for the certification test, you need to enroll in a course that is accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). While most programs are 9 to 12 months long, you can optionally opt for a 2-year CMA program that will reward you with an associate’s degree. 

Step 3: Acquire CNA certification

As we mentioned earlier, a CMA is essentially a CNA with the authority to administer medicine. Before you can become the former, you need to acquire the credentials of the latter. You can find a number of good quality CNA programs at community colleges, Red Cross branches, medical educational institutions and even some hospitals. Regardless of where you live, you want to make sure that the lessons you are taking are state-approved. If not, then you will not be eligible for a CNA, and you would have wasted your time and hard-earned money. 

Step 4: Earn your CMA certification

Once you graduate from your CMA lessons, you can start applying for CMA certification training. To qualify for such programs, you usually need to complete a minimum amount of hours of clinical practice as a CNA beforehand. 140 hours is a common benchmark, but the exact requirements will depend on the state you live in. In a majority of states, you will have to pass a Medication Aide test right after graduation. To make sure your program is preparing you sufficiently for the test, you want to check if they provide a complete curriculum. Good CA training programs will cover the following 

  • The legal, ethical and regulatory dimensions of medicine administration 
  • Record-keeping and communicating in a healthcare setting.
  • The side-effects, interactions and variants of medications.
  • How to safely administer and handle medicines.

Apply for CMA jobs 

If you passed your respective Medication Aide examination, then congratulations! You are officially a CMA. Your work has only begun, however, as now it is time to start looking for CMA jobs. Certified Medication Aides can usually find work in (among other places) hospitals, long-term care facilities, care homes, rehabilitation facilities and occasionally even home healthcare services. If you were already working in a facility beforehand as a CNA, you can inquire about whether or not you can shift into a CMA role. 

To increase your hire ability, you want to gain at least one year of relevant CMA experience. In the middle of your training program, you can expect to carry out a certain amount of clinical rotation hours. Take advantage of this, along with any opportunities that arise in your regular facility of employment. Facilities are looking for knowledgeable and skilled CMAs who have comprehensive knowledge of relevant pharmacological and medical terminology, complete with the skills necessary to adapt quickly and contribute as soon as possible.

Continue your education

When you are a CMA (or any kind of HCP for that matter) learning becomes a continuous process. You have to continuously study and take in information in order to stay on top of healthcare best practices that are always changing. As healthcare continues to digitize and modernize, this only becomes more important. This constant learning is also vital if you want to continue practising. Both your CMA and CNA degrees will need to be renewed after a certain period of time. 

While the requirements and renewal period both vary depending on which state your practice is in, you will typically be required to complete a certain number of Contact Hours. A number of these can be fulfilled with clinical bedside work, while the rest has to be fulfilled through lectures and refresher classes. If you are trying to reactivate an expired license, there is a good chance you could end up repeating entire courses. In order to avoid stress, contact your State Board of Nursing as soon as possible, and inquire about the CMA and CNA renewal requirements 

What are the state-specific requirements? 

As was previously mentioned, the process for becoming a CMA will differ greatly from state to state. The process in Colorado will not be the same as the process in Nevada, California, Ohio and a number of other states. For your convenience, this is a list of official state resources that contain the step-by-step procedure and requirements necessary in order to become a CMA. If your state is not listed here, you can contact your State Board of Nursing or access their official website for more information. 

Is CMA work worth it? 

There is no denying that CMA work is as physically and mentally demanding as any other HCP role. In addition, CMAs are typically paid less than their other counterparts. If you are prepared for its unique rigors and challenges, however, then there is a lot to gain from the CMA route. If you are a CNA looking to take an extra role or someone who wants to get into HCP work as early as possible, then it is worth considering at least. The work experience will look incredible when you start applying for further education, whether at an Associate’s or Bachelor’s level. 

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