Sometimes what employers don’t know can hurt them. “Our HR [human resources] department discovered that we weren’t being competitive when it came to salary rates for medical assistants, and we were losing good recruits to competing hospitals because of this,” says Rebecca Umberger, AAS, CMA (AAMA), practice manager at Aultman Medical Group in Canton, Ohio.

Umberger made it her mission to help the hospital become appealing to qualified medical assistants. When she joined the group in 2012, many physician groups in the area were selling out to the hospital system. “We were adding practices constantly. Understandably, our HR department didn’t really understand the role medical assistants were playing in the outpatient practices because it was somewhat new to them,” says Umberger.

Umberger had 30 years of experience working as a medical assistant and practice manager, so when HR reached out to her for assistance, she shared her expertise. She also referred to the CMA (AAMA) Compensation and Benefits Report and referenced the textbook Clinical Medical Assisting, in which she authored two chapters.

“Jones & Bartlett Learning Publishing reached out to me to write a medical assisting book for Boston College, and one of the things I had to do was research the differences between [medical assisting credentials]. So I knew what education was required to obtain each, what organizations accredited them, and which had CEUs. I had a lot of information to share with HR,” she says.

“It is up to each individual practice manager as to whom they hire,” Umberger explains. “All I could do with HR was state my preference to hire the medical assistants that have the highest credentials.” For Umberger, that meant recommending CMAs (AAMA).

Learning all of this prompted the hospital to conduct a study that determined they were underpaying their medical assistants across the board. “Late last year, all our medical assistants received a 7 percent increase, and that didn’t include their annual raises,” says Umberger.

Umberger manages five outpatient practices between two counties for the group, which continues to see an uptick in the number of medical assistants it employs.

“The number has increased over the last five years that I’ve been here. A lot is due to meaningful use, but the other reason is once the hospital began noticing what medical assistants can do, they appreciated them more,” says Umberger.

She has helped set up and maintain the operations for several new practices within the group and is currently helping to develop a large expansion by working with architects to plan the flow of the offices and patient rooms. With each new practice that opens, more medical assistants are hired on.

“It’s so important to have people cross-trained in our practices because if someone calls off, you need someone else to jump in. If it’s a clinical person who misses work one day and we don’t have someone who can take vitals and do all that’s necessary on the back end, we are in a bind. No doubt the CMA’s (AAMA) ability to multitask is becoming more and more valued with each new practice we open,” says Umberger.

And she somehow finds time to elevate herself as a medical professional. She is in the midst of working on a bachelor’s degree in organizational development and leadership, and she plans to pursue a master’s degree in health care administration.

“I love my job. My hope is to advance in the organization. At 52 years old, I believe the more education I have, the more I can offer.”