Practice Management

Medical Assistant ≠ Nurse

Medical assistants and other unlicensed, non-nurse personnel should never call themselves “nurses” as it comes with serious possible penalties.

Medical assistants and other unlicensed, non-nurse personnel should never call themselves “nurses,” even generically. State laws prohibit anyone without a valid nursing license from using “nurse” or other variations of this title.

Violators can face criminal prosecution and regulatory action. Unlicensed personnel who exaggerate the extent of their education and training may also be inclined to act outside their scope of practice, subjecting their supervisor and the practice to civil liability or licensing board disciplinary action. To mitigate risk, employers and supervisors should closely monitor the activities of unlicensed staff.

Statutory Prohibitions and Penalties by State for Misuse of the Term “Nurse”

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Risk Mitigation Checklist

✓ Educate unlicensed staff about the consequences of misrepresenting their education and training. Incorporate this information into a written medical assistant job description and monitor for compliance.

✓ Educate practice employees not to use the term “nurse” when referring to an unlicensed staff member.

✓ Gently but immediately correct patients and other visitors who refer to unlicensed staff as “nurse.”

✓ Do not allow medical assistants to misrepresent their certification. For example, only medical assistants certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants (“AAMA”) can use the designation “CMA.” The Certifying Board of the AAMA receives complaints against medical assistants unlawfully using the CMA credential and takes appropriate action.

✓ Supervisors should closely monitor unlicensed personnel to ensure they adhere to their scope of practice.

✓ Have staff wear name tags that inform patients of their name and job title.

Read More on How to Minimize Your Risk When Having Medical Assistants and Unlicensed Staff Based on State




The content of this publication or presentation is intended for educational purposes only; is not an official position statement of Mutual Insurance Company of Arizona (MICA); and should not be considered or relied upon as professional, medical, or legal advice or as a substitute for your professional judgment. Consult your attorney about your individual situation and the applicable laws. The authors, presenters, and editors made a reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of publication or presentation but do not warrant or guarantee accuracy, completeness, or currency of such information. As medical and legal information is constantly changing and evolving, check for updated information and consult your attorney before making decisions.

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