What Are NHA Certifications? Blog Feature
Chris Zook

By: Chris Zook on October 6th, 2017

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What Are NHA Certifications?

Health Science | National Healthcareer Association (NHA)

National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certifications are standardized, widely-accepted symbols of achievement for health science students who want to start a job in a specialized part of healthcare.

NHA currently offers eight industry certifications:

  1. Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
  2. Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
  3. Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
  4. Phlebotomy Technicia (CPT)
  5. EKG Technician (CET)
  6. Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS)
  7. Electronic Health Record Specialist (CEHRS)
  8. Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A)

On this page, we’ll take a closer look at each NHA certification, what it entails, and why it’s important.

You'll also learn how health science teachers like you prepare students for certification success.

1. Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)


The clinical medical assistant certification (CCMA) is one of the most popular NHA exams in the United States.

According to NHA, CCMA recipients must be able to:

  1. Assist physicians during patient examinations
  2. Interview and educate patients
  3. Measure and record vital signs
  4. Administer injections

These tasks are all crucial to the day-to-day operations of hospitals, urgent care centers, doctors’ offices, clinics, and more.

For that reason, CCMAs are in ultra-high demand.

Naturally, a good medical assistant needs a strong knowledge of medical information and terminology.

But this career path also requires empathy, sympathy, and emotional intelligence.

So even when someone goes through the CCMA exam, they’ll still have some parts of the job to learn if they want to do their job well.

Medical assistants are frequently the first point of contact for a patient with a medical experience.

A patient may be in for a checkup, follow-up, consultation, or other concern. But no matter what, it’s the medical assistant who will take care of standard procedures while a doctor prepares to see someone.

Sometimes, this job is performed by a nurse — especially at a private practice.

But at larger organizations (like hospitals and clinics), medical assistants are everywhere.

That’s because clinical tasks only take up part of a CCMA’s job.

The other part is administrative work — tracking patient information, equipment, supplies, and more.

While this part of the job doesn’t involve direct contact with patients, it’s still important to the ongoing success of a medical institution.

For this reason, CCMAs often act as the foundation of a medical office or hospital. It’s not always glamorous work, but it’s needed and appreciated. 

Related Article: How to Prepare Your Students for the NHA CCMA Exam

2. Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)


The medical administrative assistant certification (CMAA) tests recipients on their abilities to perform clercal duties within a medical facility.

According to the NHA, CMAA recipients must be able to:

  1. Review and answer correspondence
  2. Operate computer systems
  3. Answer calls, schedule appointments, and maintain files
  4. Update patient- and practice-specific information
  5. Coordinate times, attendance, and schedules

This means CMAA recipients won’t actually work with patients.

Instead, they’ll record all of the essential information that a medical institution needs throughout the day.

While it’s true that CMAA positions are mostly support roles in medicine, they’re still essential to the continued success of an institution.

They provide the records for every patient who steps foot in a medical business. They ensure the day-to-day operations run smoothly with minimal downtime. They maintain schedules for medical specialists and other personnel in the building.

CMAA recipients may not save someone’s life every day — but their clerical skills form the cornerstone of a successful business from a doctor’s office to a hospital.

Related Article: How to Prepare Students for NHA CMAA Certification

3. Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)


Pharmacy technician certifications (CPhT) cover all of the information someone needs to know to properly locate, allocate, and fill prescription requirements.

According to the NHA, CPhT recipients must be able to:

  1. Measure medication amounts
  2. Package and label prescriptions
  3. Establish and maintain patient records
  4. Accept payment for prescriptions and insurance claims
  5. Manage prescription inventory

Today, CPhT recipients are all over the place.

They could work in hospitals, private pharmacies, chain pharmacies, and even grocery stores.

Regardless, they earn a fine living by ensuring patients can get the medicine they need to rebound from an ailment.

There’s also a tremendous amount of regulation and inventory-tracking that goes into this profession. Many medicines — namely painkillers — have addictive qualities that make them lucrative products in the illegal drug trade.

For this reason, inventory-tracking and quantity-control are two of the most important jobs of a CPhT recipient.

Pharmacies around the country have to match their actual inventory to their statements. Discrepancies are cause for investigation, termination, and even closing whole businesses.

That’s why the CPhT exam focuses so much on procedures, record-keeping, and inventory.

By following those protocols, CPhT recipients can lead long, fulfilling careers are pharmacy technicians.

This means CPhT recipients require a strong sense of responsibility.

Their duties extend far beyond the walls of their place of work — they extend all the way to the American public.

Related Article: How to Prepare Students for the NHA CPhT Exam

4. Phlebotomy Technician (CPT)


Phlebotomy concerns drawing the blood of a patient for analysis.

The phlebotomy technician certification (CPT) requires the use of needles every day. Some students may become more comfortable with syringes over time, and others may be comfortable with them right off the bat.

But many patients are terrified of needles. They could sweat, hyperventilate, faint, and more.

That means phlebotomy — just like CCMA — has both clinical and emotional components to it.

The clinical components revolve around the proper use of syringes, locating healthy veins, drawing blood, storing blood, and transporting blood.

The emotional components revolve around socializing with patients, reassuring them, and keeping them comfortable as they get blood drawn.

It’s true that the process of drawing blood takes a matter of seconds.

But for a nervous patient, it can feel like a lifetime.

That’s why it’s so helpful for CPT recipients to be friendly, conversational, and considerate. Once they nail down those soft skills, they can make a world of difference to a patient. 

Related Article: How to Prepare Students for NHA CPT Certification Success

5. EKG Technician (CET)


EKG technician certification (CET) ensures students know how to properly attach an electrocardiogram to a patient and monitor their vital signs.

According to the NHA, CET recipients must be able to:

  1. Set up and administer EKGs
  2. Set up and administer stress tests
  3. Prepare patients for Holter / ambulatory monitoring
  4. Edit and deliver test results
  5. Schedule appointments
  6. Transcribe physician interpretations

The meat-and-potatoes of a CET recipient is working with EKGs to ensure patients are properly monitored at all times.

This is especially important for patients who are unconscious or at risk for heart attacks.

Professional EKG technicians are also crucial when a patient has a heart ailment. At times, an EKG may show signs of an upcoming problem that a patient may not even know is about to happen.

Those extra seconds make a huge difference in life-or-death scenarios often found in hospitals. They’re supplied by properly-used and well-maintained EKGs.

Holter monitoring — recording a patient’s heart activity over several days — is also a major task for EKG technicians.

CET recipients have to attach the device properly, monitor its results, and organize the data for a physician.

They also take care of all the technical aspects of stress tests and record their results.

These tests help physicians understand how a patient’s heart works under physical strain — like jogging — before moving forward with a diagnosis.

All in all, CET recipients are masters of data-gathering equipment in hospitals, ambulances, laboratories, and private practices.

Related Article: How to Prepare Students for the NHA CET Exam

6. Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS)


The billing and coding specialist certification (CBCS) is designed to make sure medical professionals know how to properly code illnesses, procedures, and costs according to insurance standards.

According to the NHA, CBCS recipients must be able to:

  1. Gather and review patient information
  2. Assign codes for diagnoses and procedures
  3. Verify documentation
  4. Submit claims reimbursements
  5. Prevent fraud
  6. Support coding and billing company-wide
  7. Educate health care providers

CBCS recipients are found in dozens of different areas in the health care industry, ranging from private practices to nationwide insurance providers.

They’re required both in medical offices and insurance companies because there needs to be consistent, normalized communication between medical companies and insurance corporations.

That makes it easier for both companies to fulfill their jobs to their clients and prevent fraud.

More importantly, it streamlines communications and minimizes the amount of billing errors by using specific codes instead of subjective wording.

That makes every message clear, concise, and actionable.

7. Electronic Health Record Specialist (CEHRS)


The electronic health record specialist certification (CEHRS) is concerned entirely with patient data.

This includes accuracy, confidentiality, security, finances, credit, demographics, insurance, and much more.

According to the NHA, CEHRS recipients must be able to:

  1. Audit patient records for legal compliance
  2. Locate and use clinical information for reports
  3. Use insurance codes for claim reimbursements
  4. Process release of information (ROI) requests
  5. Review patient records for completeness and accuracy
  6. Collect patient demographic and insurance data
  7. Discuss patient information with physicians and insurance representatives

This is a huge range of responsibilities, but they’re all based on maintaining the integrity of patient information.

That means every CEHRS recipient must know about their state’s medical laws in addition to federal laws.

That requires a strong understanding of HIPAA laws, especially when dealing with third-party sources requesting patient histories.

In today’s fast-paced, Internet-based world, compliance is a major deal.

It means protecting against hacking, intrusion, theft, identity fraud, insurance fraud, and more.

Not only does it protect patients, but it also protects medical businesses.

That’s because businesses that lose this private information are subject to fines, lawsuits, and other penalties.

In that regard, CEHRS professionals keep their patients and employers safe.

Related Article: How to Prepare Students for the NHA CEHRS Exam

8. Patient Care Technician / Assistant (CPCT/A)


Patient care technician / assistant certifications (CPCT/A) prepares professionals to provide regular care to patients who are unable to care for themselves in one capacity or another.

According to the NHA, CPCT/A recipients must be able to:

  1. Provide Bathing, feeding, catheter care, and more
  2. Acquire, distribute, and administer supplies
  3. Check for safety and cleanliness in patient rooms
  4. Accommodate special needs patients
  5. Monitor vital and EKG readings
  6. Perform phlebotomy procedures
  7. Provide emotional support, especially in the event of death

This makes CPCT/A recipients a jack-of-all-trades in the medical world, responsible for fulfilling a patient’s needs at any point.

Often, the work associated with CPCT/A work is called “grunt work,” but make no mistake — these personnel are absolutely essential to the continued operations of a health company and the wellbeing of their patients.

CPCT/A recipients can also work in lots of capacities. They may be used in hospital care, but they could also work for private hospice providers.

Overall, this certification gives students options for their futures. Those options all feature similar tasks and responsibilities — but they’re spread out over a wide array of employers. 

Related Article: How to Prepare Your Students for CPCT/A Exam Success

Prepare Your Students for NHA Certification Exams

When preparing your students for any of these certification exams, it's crucial you find the right instructional materials.

The NHA provides test prep materials such as study guides and practice tests for all of their exams.

But, the problem is, those resources don’t actually help you teach the content in your day to day classes.

We find that teachers (and students) have more success when they implement a curriculum that covers their course standards and aligns with their program’s certifications.

That’s why instructors across the US have implemented our digital curriculum system HealthCenter21 to teach classes and prepare their students for their NHA certifications.

It includes thousands of ready-to-use classroom resources, assessments, student tracking features, and more.

Wondering if HealthCenter21 could be a good fit for you and your students? Watch our demo video to find out:

Watch Your Demo Video >>


About Chris Zook

Chris Zook is a contributing author to the AES blog. He enjoys everything about online marketing, data science, user experience, and corgis.