MAERB COVID-19 Statement

Adapted May 2021

Based upon surveys and other data, it is evident that the CAAHEP-accredited medical assisting programs are successfully negotiating the restrictions and limitations of the pandemic. Most of you have reported that you are successfully placing students at practicum sites and ensuring that they have access to labs to achieve their psychomotor and affective competencies.  In addition, the advances that have been made in rolling out vaccines are significant, so the environment is changing. 

At the same time, there is great deal of uncertainty, and, based upon the information that we have, the MAERB has determined to extend the MAERB COVID-19 Statement to December 31, 2021, with the goal of officially ending it by the end of 2021 and resuming standard practices for the practicum and clinical competencies that are outlined in the CAAHEP Standards and Guidelines for the Accreditation of Medical Assisting Education Programs and the MAERB Policy Manual

Despite the extension, the expectation is that programs will fulfill the lab and practicum requirements if the environment and/or institution allows for it. But the extension enables programs to take emergency measure if there are shifts and changes.  As always, any changes should be discussed with your communities of interest.  

This updated Covid-19 Statement addresses and amends the original Statement, in considering the extended timeframe anticipated to fully address the nationwide COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.  The CAAHEP Standards and Guidelines for Medical Assisting Education Programs are designed to produce quality entry-level medical assisting students. In addition, the central goal of the Standards is to preserve patient safety by providing a strong educational foundation with supervised practice and guidance.  The MAERB is hereby updating the previous MAERB COVID-19 statement by extending the sunset date to ensure that the outcomes of producing quality entry-level medical assistants and protecting patient safety continue to be met.

The exceptions that are outlined below will be in effect until the extended date of December 31, 2021.  This change extends the original sunset date of October 31, 2020 and the extended dates of January 15, 2021 and August 15, 2021.  Before making any plans, programs should ensure that they are working effectively with the guidelines of their sponsoring institution, their institutional accreditors, Title IV funding, and state regulations. In addition, programs need to align with local, state, or federal directives, along with the requirements of their affiliated practicum sites, during this public health emergency.  See below for a checklist of items to be aware of. 

Fulfillment of the Practicum Component

The MAERB is amending its previous Statement to allow for a broader-than-normal range of approaches to the practicum, including simulation, so that students can achieve the goals of Standard III.C.3 in participating in at least 160 contact hours in an ambulatory healthcare setting, demonstrating the knowledge, skills, and behaviors of the MAERB Core Curriculum in performing clinical and administrative duties. 

The MAERB recognizes there most programs anticipate being able to have students complete a practicum experience within an ambulatory healthcare setting, but circumstances are decidedly varied across the country.  The goal would be to have students participate fully in the practicum experience, even if there were a slight delay in graduation. 

Due to varying degrees of clinical access across the country in fulfilling practicum requirements and to ensure that the students still fulfill this requirement, the program may provide an equivalent experience. The equivalent experience may include the following: 

  • Simulation, utilizing digital options with interactive components;
  • Simulation, utilizing a simulation lab or other setting;
  • Interactive case studies or scenarios, utilizing an online platform or other virtual options (i.e., Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, among others)

All these environments need to ensure student and patient safety.  While delays may still exist even with these alternatives, the progression toward student completion can potentially occur more efficiently. 

Since CAAHEP-accredited programs must ensure that students are able to achieve competency and serve the community, you will need to consult with your advisory board, affiliated practicum sites, local employers, and sponsoring institutions to supply an equivalent experience that is acceptable to your broad range of communities of interest. The number of hours of your practicum is not as important as the quality of the practicum experience.   Programs may find that they are able to divide the practicum experience into two parts with the goal of providing simulated practice and then moving students into a practicum setting.  Other programs have students who have partially accomplished the practicum and are able to reinforce the education that they have received through observation or in another setting.  Programs also might find that students are able to participate in a modified practicum depending on the resources available. For all students who may be participating in an alternative version of the practicum, a Student Status Form must be filled out and retained by the program.  In other words, it is very important for the program to keep a record of the changes that have been made and the students who have been affected. 

Achievement of the Psychomotor and Affective Competencies

As always, students will still need to achieve all the psychomotor and affective competencies in the MAERB Core Curriculum as well as be taught and assessed on all the cognitive objectives prior to or in conjunction with those psychomotor and affective competencies.  In establishing that the student has achieved those psychomotor and affective competencies, the program can use simulation or online education with the proviso that the students are not handling specialized equipment—such as needles—in an environment in which they cannot take the proper precautions.  Supervision is still a necessary component of that achievement.  The program also may give “incompletes” in order to bundle the achievement of the competencies later. Standard V.C requires that the health and safety of patients, students, faculty, and other participants be adequately safeguarded.  Again, for all students who participate in these alternate methods of achieving the psychomotor and affective competencies or whose education has been interrupted, a Student Status Form must be filled out and retained by the program. 

Necessary Documentation

Any changes must be made with the full support of the sponsoring institution, in conjunction with federal and state regulatory compliance, to ensure that the students receive the educational experience the institution is responsible for fulfilling. Because of the inclusive nature of these changes, between now and December 31, 2021, the MAERB will not require that programs submit a Teaching Invasive or Protective Competencies Via Distance Education (TIPCDE) workbook for permission to teach the invasive or protective competencies online. 

Your careful documentation, however, is vitally important, and the MAERB is requiring every participating medical assisting program to keep the following documentation for the program and the student:

Student Status Form: If the program takes an alternative path to either the practicum fulfillment or the achievement of the student’s psychomotor or affective competencies, it will need to fill out this form for every participating student and keep it in the program’s permanent records for reference so that the program can illustrate that entry-level competence has been achieved.   Programs will need to retain these records permanently.  A copy of this form is attached to the MAERB email.

Purpose and Rationale of this Amendment

While there is a need to respond to the national crisis, MAERB wants to reiterate the value of the current educational practices that are embedded in CAAHEP’s Standards and Guidelines for Medical Assisting Education Programs.  The students’ experience of a practicum in an ambulatory healthcare environment is invaluable.  There they can put into practice the clinical and administrative competencies that were so carefully taught and then achieved in a classroom and laboratory setting. The practicum experience, along with the intensive educational component, prepares graduates of CAAHEP-accredited programs to succeed in the marketplace.  The expectation, even in this current pandemic environment, is that medical assisting students should be able to achieve the psychomotor and affective competencies in a lab and classroom and participate in a traditional ambulatory practicum if possible.

In making these changes, the MAERB is responding to the concerns and questions that have been voiced by the program directors during this public health crisis.  The short-term and temporary exceptions outlined above have been deemed necessary by the MAERB board.  What has not changed, however, is the need for the programs to stay in compliance with the CAAHEP Standards, producing quality entry-level medical assistants and preserving patient and student safety. 

Community Resilience, Flexibility, and Strength

We are all participating in an unprecedented global health crisis, and the MAERB sends its best wishes to the community which it is privileged to serve.  You all have demonstrated great resilience during the many changes that we have encountered.  Your willingness to share information with us has helped us to define this temporary pathway; your commitment to quality medical assisting education ensures that this temporary exception will not diminish student achievement. 

Please stay safe and healthy.

Checklist Items

  1. Does the adaptation successfully achieve the outcomes of the CAAHEP Standards and Guidelines? 
  2. Is the adaptation acceptable for the institutional accreditor?
  3. Is the adaptation acceptable for the state higher education authority?
  4. Does the adaptation comply with state requirements, if applicable, for medical assisting education? 
  5. Does the adaptation comply with the specific credentialing exam pathway that the program relies upon, if applicable? 
  6. Does the adaptation meet the current state directives regarding the pandemic? 
  7. Does the adaptation fit the needs of your local community, based upon your communication with the advisory board and practicum affiliation sites?