Well: How about this?
Hoo-doggy, but that was a long ride! For the first time since I started down the path to become a Medical Assistant, on January 7th, 2020, I am now completely certified, licensed, and ready to go.
It has been a mind-blowing adventure. Along the way; I left a job of 15 years, I gained new friends, and I lost my father. But now, at the end, I am finally ready to go. I am ready and willing to work.
Thank you, Washington State Department of Health. They are the unsung heroes on the front-lines of America’s War on Competency.
So, there’s certification, and then there’s licensing. In Washington State, any healthcare practitioner, at any level, needs to apply and obtain a license from the Department of Health. Sounds reasonable. I think you need a license for just about everything. Which reminds me, I need to renew my license to flush the toilet. But anyway, my healthcare practitioner’s license. I had heard along the way that it can take 2 or 3 weeks. Hey, no problem. Time for a little break!
I sent in my application to Olympia on January 2nd, certified mail. My instructor had advised me to send it certified, as I would have proof of its arrival. One can also apply online, but my wise instructor said certified mail was the way to go. I filled out the enormous packet of literature, and made my way to the local post office. The USPS informed me that my application would arrive at the Department of Health on Monday the 4th.
My application did not actually arrive in Olympia until January 6th. Well, I know the USPS has been under fire, what with them being a punching bag during the Presidential election, but I suppose I can understand the delay. The thing is, Olympia is about an hour and change drive south of Seattle; I could have driven it there faster! Kind of a scenic drive, too, once you get past Tacoma. The Nisqually Delta is a beautiful sprawl of wetlands.
It would have been a useless drive. The Department of Health, due to Covid, had closed their in-person office. Everybody works at home these days. Except Medical Assistants. So be it. At least now they had my application, and could get started on it.
I called the Washington State Department of Health on January 21st, 2021. I figured this should have been enough time, and that they should almost be done. I spoke with a nice representative. She was very helpful. She told me that they had not received my application.
The representative informed me that they will start the application process once they have transacted on my application fee, a paltry $145. She told me that she saw no payment under my name.
So I took a stroll up to Chase Bank, where I had worked for 15 years before starting my medical adventures. The nice banker at one of the desks looked up the status of my money order, and saw that it’s status was: ‘pending.’ That means that it is currently being processed, and would post the next business day. ‘Pending’ is a word I would come to be very familiar with.
Well, the next day, I called the Department of Health again. It was a different representative, but he also was very pleasant. He said that they had received my money order and cashed it. Government priorities! I was informed that now that they had the payment, they could begin the application process, but it could take several weeks.
So, I figured I had some time off. I relaxed a bit, cleaned the apartment thoroughly, and defended the Earth against the invading alien horde in XCOM. But I would spend each day practicing my clinicals, going over material, studying. I had to stay sharp. I knew I would be headed to work soon.
I applied for a several jobs; I kind of cast a net. It’s tough for a brand-new Medical Assistant, even though there is a demand. Each facility I interviewed with understood that I was still in the licensing application status of: pending.
A couple of days go by. I call the Department of Health (I’ve memorized the number by this point, if anybody needs it) to where things are. The kindly representative informed that my status was still: pending. He directed me to a website where I could look up the status myself. I navigated through the digital maze of a government website, found my name, and saw my status. There it was: pending.
There is something I need to mention. Way back in 2002, or maybe 2003, I really can’t remember, yours truly committed a heinous, vile crime against the people. Brace yourselves. I was arrested for possession of marijuana. Please feel free to shame me. I deserve it. Funny thing is, several years later, long after I had stopped smoking it, you can now buy it in the store here. Nevertheless, I went through the judicial process of a pre-trial diversion agreement. As this was my first arrest ever, for a misdemeanor, I simply had to stay out of trouble for a year and they would not file any charges. I had briefly consulted an attorney before I sent in my application for my healthcare practitioner’s license, and he informed me, after I read the verbiage from the application, that my situation did not apply. He advised me not to mention it on the application’s list of ‘ have you ever been evil.’ Okay.
The despicable crime I had committed kept nagging at me in the back of my head. I again called the Department of Health, and told them of my sins, breaking down, sobbing. I was admonished, severely, by the almighty representative I spoke with. I groveled, begged. She told me that I should have included the crimes against humanity I had committed, and she was perplexed as to why the attorney had told me to disregard it. She informed me that there was nothing they could do, until they got to the background check phase. I was told that this would delay my application even further.
So I did my due diligence, and contacted the court where I was brought before The Law. They literally could not find my records. Seriously. They told me that a specialist would contact me the next day. The next morning, I saw the email in my inbox. I nervously opened it. It basically said, not using legalese here: “Uh… Dude? That was like, 18 years ago for possession of pot. We don’t really keep those kind of records lying around. Sorry man. Peace out.” However, they did email me an official court letter saying that my records no longer existed. I kept it handy, for when the Department of Health called me out for my misdeeds.
I emailed the records to the Department of Health. I gave them a day and called them, ready for my seething reprimand. A representative (I got a different one each time I called), was rather indifferent to my violations of the sacred laws of Washington State. He had reviewed the court materials I had sent over. He told me that a misdemeanor possession of a substance that was now legal, 18 years ago, was not even a blip on their radar. I though: great! They must have started the background check phase!
The representative told me that they had not yet started the background check phase. I asked what ‘phase’ they might be in. He told me they actually hadn’t started on my application yet.
I really never found out exactly what they were checking. A background check, sure, but that process, which we’ve all had to go through when we get a job, is a day or two at most. They already had my official transcripts and my proof of passing the exam. You got me as to what else they might have been checking. Driving record? Credit record? Calling my Mom?
I understand, though; to a degree. The Department of Health is overworked, understaffed, and extremely backlogged. But you’d think that they might out a little more urgency into those that wanted to enter healthcare. Especially now. You may have heard of this whole Covid thing. In case you ain’t been keeping up on current events, pal, we’re getting our butts kicked!
Time counts, and keeps on counting. They days go by. My savings dwindle. I really could not have gotten a job in this interim; they’d look at my resume and wonder what a guy with a medical certification is doing applying at Kroger, unless he’s waiting for his license to clear and will bail as soon as he gets it. I keep checking my application status online. It was always: pending. Pending, pending, pending.
I called the Department of Health on March 9th. They informed me that my application was in process. I asked the (again, friendly) representative what stage of the process they were in. He replied: well, we actually haven’t started yet.
This couldn’t go on. I had to do something. Why, I am inclined to write a letter to the authorities! Which is what I did. I wrote an obsequious, begging, pleading email to the Washington State Secretary of Health, Dr. Umair Shah.
Well, sometimes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And sometimes, our public officials hear the voice of their constituents. Perhaps. I received this email response on March 17th:
Hello Andrick Schall,
Thank you for contacting Dr. Shah regarding your medical assistant certification application. I have been asked to research your application and respond.
The Department of Health is committed to working with others to protect and improve the health of all people in Washington state. We understand that there is an increased need for all types of medical assistants, and we are sincerely sorry for application delays being experienced.
We received your application on January 20, 2021. Our review and the required background checks were completed, and the certification was approved yesterday. The active status can be verified through http://www.doh.wa.gov, Provider Credential Search.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation with the credentialing process during this difficult time.
T. Diane Young
Health Systems Quality Assurance
Washington State Department of Health
PS~ Here’s your license, pothead. (I made that up.)
So, there you go. Sometimes you have to be patient, and sometimes you have to squawk a little. I have two solid job offers lined up, and am mulling them over now. My decision of which job to take is, of course: pending.