Nimble Prep

Guide to Passing the NHA CCMA

September 20, 2020

By Hunter H.

I passed my NHA CCMA exam with a 459/500 (92%)! I’ve created the following guide to passing and recorded the materials I used to study. I hope it helps!

First, just a disclaimer: I’m not providing the specifics of what was on my test because that would get me in trouble; just all the material you should know and feel comfortable with. I am not giving away answers in any shape or form.

I used an excellent Reddit post, 30 Tips & Topics for the NHA CCMA, to cover all of my bases and then took all three NHA practice tests. Before I started studying, I took my first practice test and scored below passing (60% or so). So if I can do it, then so can you!

I also did all of the practice questions in the back of the NHA Study Guide 2.0. For every question I answered on the practice tests, I made sure I was familiar with ALL of the other answer choices as well. I took a month to study the material every day until I felt more confident.

My class (US Career Institute) went into detail about things that we weren’t going to be tested on, so when I found the study guide, it felt like I had to start over from scratch. I have heard many other people reporting this as well from other academic institutes. Some questions consisted of things I had never seen before. I had to use a lot of guesswork for those questions. They really try to trip you up with things that aren’t on the study guide. In addition, the administrative questions can be really asinine because you have to learn terminology for someone who does billing. I did one year as a medical receptionist so this stuff should have come easy! In a real world situation, there’s a clearing house for checking over codes so it's not the primary responsibility of an MA to audit (eye roll).

The test has a 63% pass rate and they put questions that even the best and brightest won’t know -- material which is uncovered in the study guide. In my opinion, this isn’t fair because you should have access to 100% of the material before being tested. That is why you must study hard. But I’m here to show you how to pass!

Even knowing all the material well, I was still uncertain about answers for 15% of the questions on the test. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to really know your material because you may still end up like me uncertain about 15% of questions no matter how much you study. In my opinion, I got lucky and answered a few of those questions right because the highest I would have been able to score would be 85% (so I must have guessed right on 7% of the questions from those I was uncertain about by using the process of elimination). The other 85% of questions I felt were pretty obvious in the sense that even if you didn’t know what the right answer was, the other three choices were so obviously wrong (as long as you knew the material inside and out). To pass you need about 78%.

Because this test was such a pain in the arse, I made a detailed guide with more helpful resources that I used to succeed. There were a lot of outdated, unhelpful quizlets with the wrong info, so I’ve linked to the ones I made and two of the most useful.

  1. PPE
  2. Lab Values
  3. Vitals
  4. Drug Schedules
  5. Procedures
  6. Phlebotomy
  7. Pharmacology
  8. Microbiology
  9. Diseases
  10. EKG
  11. Letters

My Guide

  • Take the NHA practice tests. There are 3 versions (A, B, C)
  • Buy NHA Study Guide 2.0. Read thoroughly and highlight so that you can go back and read over important parts quickly. Do all the quizzes in the back and highlight everything you get wrong.
  • Be able to describe each procedure from start to finish as if you’ve done it yourself. Watch videos for all of them: all CLIA-waived tests, all ways of taking blood (capillary, venipuncture), injections, allergy tests, and the methods for each age group.
  • Forget about the numerical values you learned from your textbook. Instead, memorize the values in the NHA Study Guide and on my quizlets linked above.
  • Know vitamins and minerals, what foods you can get them from, and their purpose (spend time sparingly on this because it will only be one or two questions). For example: Would you get more fiber from fruit or cereal? What mineral/vitamin/diet would you recommend for someone who has xyz disease?
  • Know your medications: what each medication is for, what type of medication it is, and what general symptoms you’d expect (one or two questions).
  • What kind of doctor treats xyz disease?
  • What pathogen causes each disease, its type (fungal, bacterial, parasitic, viral), how it is transmitted (contact, bloodborne, airborne), what PPE you would need, and its symptoms.
  • Know your medical terminology to figure out if a given surgery is a removal of, creation of, etc.
  • Use your medical terminology to describe a disease given the meaning of its suffix and prefix. Do you know what a suffix and prefix is?
  • What supplies would you need for a test or procedure? For example: suturing, removal of sutures, CLIA waived tests, cryosurgery, and physical exam. What are the different kinds of tools for surgical procedures (e.g., forceps, probe, scissors)?
  • What position to be in for every procedure and in what circumstances do you change into what position (e.g., supine, fowlers, sims, knee chest, recumbent).
  • Know each quadrant and what organs are in each quadrant (RUQ, LUQ, RLQ, LLQ), anatomical positions, planes, and what organ belongs to what system. For example: Pancreas (digestion and endocrine), Thymus (endocrine and immune).
  • When vitals are bad (normal vs critical values).
  • How to give CPR, how many compressions, breaths, etc.
  • How to write a letter in: Block, Modified Block, Simplified Block, and Modified Block with Indented Paragraphs. Know where the letterhead, date (formatted January 1, 2020), inside address, salutation, body, complimentary close, and signature block goes on each and how much spacing is in between.
  • Know the exact purpose of ICD-10 vs CPT, modifiers, fraud, and how many letters and alphanumeric items are present in each place. Upcoding (code creep, overbilling, overcoding), bundled coding, usual fee, customary fee, reasonable fee, capitation, category I, II, III codes, and phantom billing. Who do you report to for fraud? Who do you report to for unsecured PHI? What is the difference between ePHI and PHI? Who governs both? This is just the bare minimum for what you should know with admin!
  • Legal terms
  • Always reflect the patient’s point of view back to them for active listening
  • Know EKG from the NHA Study Guide in detail. Know leads I, II, III, AVR, AVF, AVL, and V1, V2, V3, V4, V5, V6. Know their color and where they go. Which ones are unipolar, bipolar, and precordial? Know all the arrythmias and in what circumstances they happen. Know how to get HR from a EKG strip (The 1500 Method: Count the number of small boxes between two successive R waves and divide this number into 1500 to obtain heart rate) If that is too hard, try this video instead.
  • There's a calculator on the computer to use for basic math even though the NHA site says you won’t get a calculator.
  • Chain of Infection
  • Drug testing, DNA paternity testing, what that is called and special precautions
  • Study the administrative section. Questions tend to be random and not all the information can be found in the NHA Study Guide for this particular section. Study your classroom textbook for admin questions in addition to the NHA Study Guide. Write down everything you learn from practice questions.
  • Know different organizations and their target population. HHS, CMS, OSHA, Red cross, legal aid society, TJC, Hospice, Meals on Wheels, NAACLS, ACS, AHA, to name a few.
  • ACO vs PCMH. We have to know the outreach programs to give to patients if they need help because of the shift to PCMH and ACO.
  • At what age and how often are routine exams done?
  • SOAP notes:
    • POMR: Problem oriented documentation is organized by: database (medical history, lab results, review of systems, CC), problem list (patient’s condition), educational, diagnostic, tx plan (rx and lab orders, tx plan), progress notes (progress notes on every problem listed in chronological order).
    • CHEDDAR: CC, history, exam, detail of the problems, drugs and dosage, assessment, return visit or referral.
  • RACE:
    • Rescue all patients, visitors, employees, staff and volunteers from immediate danger.
    • Alarm by pulling the closest fire pull-station and by dialing 811 or 77 (or 911 in offcampus and leased facilities) and reporting the location of the fire.
    • Confine the area by closing all doors.
    • Extinguish the fire if the fire is small (use P.A.S.S). Evacuate patients from the area if instructed to do so by fire officials or hospital leadership.
  • What organization governs emergencies?

Additional Resources

  1. Free practice test
  2. More practice questions

Helpful Videos for Overall Understanding

If you know how to perform each procedure as if you actually had to do it, you won’t be tripped up by material not being in the study guide.

  1. SOAP Notes
  2. Rapid Strep
  3. Intradermal Injection
  4. IM Injection
  5. SC Injection
  6. Phlebotomy Technique

I had a well rounded knowledge of anatomy and physiology before taking this class, and I have experience dealing with shock and when vitals don’t look too hot. You might need to study these sections more than I do, but I promise you that it’s really not too bad!

A Little About Me

I am a certified EMT and I have a Biology degree. I recently suffered a back injury and went through lots of hip surgery so I can no longer lift patients into the back of an ambulance, which ended my short life as a EMT. In addition to that, during all of COVID, I lost my best friend to suicide. There have been a lot of ups and downs throughout the past few months. I want to be a Physician Assistant and I’m using CCMA as a way to get hours towards school. Learning what I did from being injured and losing my best friend taught me that even though you may be limited physically, mentally, or by whatever gets you down, don’t lose hope of your dreams. There are going to be good days and bad days in life, and you aren’t defined by the bad days where you just lose motivation. Keep pushing forward, because you can always find another way. You can succeed, too.

The information in this article was adapted from a Reddit comment originally posted on September 14, 2020. With the author's permission, it has been republished here to help future CCMAs. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Nimble Prep or its members.

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