A felony conviction is a serious setback, but it’s not necessarily the end of your chance to become a medical assistant. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves a chance to start over, you just need to find out how.
You can’t change your past or hide it, but there are steps you can take to put it behind you. The first step is to get a waiver so you can take the certification exam, and we’re going to show you how to do that.
Keep in mind, even though one of the certifying bodies may decide to permit you to take a certification exam, some healthcare employers may still not hire you. Unfortunately, a lot of medical facilities have their own, biased view on this issue and don’t hire anyone who has ever been convicted of any offense; even if it is a trivial offense like slander or possession of marijuana in small amounts.
Requesting a waiver from AAMA
Once you complete an accredited medical assistant program, you can apply to take the AAMA (American Association of Medical Assistants) exam to become a certified medical assistant.
If you have been convicted in court of a felony, or even if there was no trial, and you pled guilty, you may not be able to take the exam. The certification application is very long, and very thorough, and by law, you have to answer all questions truthfully.
The AAMA investigates the eligibility of every candidate, so just be honest; if you’re caught lying on the application or falsifying information, you just blew your chance of ever being able to take the exam. Felony convictions are public knowledge, and all it takes is a quick internet search to find out if someone is a convicted felon.
Don’t lose hope, you can get a waiver from the AAMA if there were mitigating circumstances to your case. The waiver request form requires you meet certain conditions, and to supply some documentation.
These conditions are:
- That there were extenuating circumstances at the time you committed the crime, such as your age or personal situation.
- You haven’t been involved in any illegal activity or picked up any new charges since your conviction.
- There have been at least 3 years between the time of your conviction and your application to take the exam.
Now, all you need to do is download and fill out a waiver request form to turn in with your application. The form itself is pretty simple; here is what you need to tell them:
- Details of the crime and the mitigating circumstances that contributed. You should also let them know how you have changed since your conviction, and what steps you have taken to turn your life around
- You must certify that you are fully rehabilitated and would not be a threat to co-workers or patients.
- You have to have at least 2 letters of reference from someone other than a friend or relative. These can be from teachers, past employers, your probation officer, or any other person who knows first-hand what you have accomplished since your conviction.
The AAMA board will review the request, and if they find that your circumstances warrant a waiver, you will be free to take the exam.
Requesting a waiver from AMT
Unlike AAMA, AMT (Association Medical Technologists) consider prior felony convictions on case-by-case basis. As with the AAMA application, you will be asked if you have been convicted of a felony, and you have to be honest.
You will need to provide a detailed description and explanation of your case on a separate piece of paper, and attach the letter to the certification application along with any court records or other relevant documents.
The letter must contain the following information:
- Date and type of felony. Did the crime involved physical injury or moral turpitude?
- Copies of any court documents, probation release (if prison)
- How long ago was the crime committed?
- Was the crime related to health care employment?
- 3 character references from someone other than family of friends.
The process of becoming a certified medical assistant is a thorough one. From an employer’s point of view, it is necessary for the protection of patients to screen the applicant who will be involved in their care, either directly or indirectly.
The best way to convince either board that you have changed your life is to demonstrate that change. Since a medical assistant often works directly with patients, the board is more concerned with crimes against persons.
In either profession, you may have access to medication; if you were convicted of a drug offense, they want to know that you are clean.
You can help convince them that you deserve a chance to prove yourself by doing the following:
- If you were convicted of a violent crime, let them know the specific circumstances surrounding the crime. Show proof that you’ve undergone psychotherapy or been through anger management.
- If you’ve been convicted of a drug offense, or had substance abuse problems, let them know that you have been through rehab and received help for your problem.
- Make note of any restitution you have paid, community service performed, or any other ways that you can prove that you have paid for your crime and are now a productive citizen who deserves a second chance.
The bottom line is, be honest about your situation and show that you have made a sincere effort to turn your life around.