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How Does a Medical Assistant and a Nurse Differ?

Posted On May 17, 2021

As the healthcare industry continues to explode, with a thriving job market that shows no sign of slowing down in the future, it’s no wonder so many people are considering training for a new career in the medical field. Two popular career choices include becoming a medical assistant (MA) or a registered nurse (RN), but how do you decide which career is the right fit for you?  While these jobs may share a couple of things in common, they are two very different careers with some stark contrasts to consider. Medical assistant going over a patient chart with a doctor.

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One of the biggest differences between a registered nurse, or even a licensed practical nurse, and a medical assistant is the education requirements. Nursing programs are usually more in-depth and take longer to complete than medical assistant programs. Nursing programs usually take at least two to four years to complete, but one of the major benefits of becoming a medical assistant is many of the programs are designed to be completed in just one year or less. Becoming a medical assistant is the ideal fit for those who wish to jumpstart their new career quickly. 

Job Duties 

Although a medical assistant and a nurse may share some similar duties, there are a vast number of differences between the duties performed by a nurse and a medical assistant. Job duties of a nurse typically focus on patient care and include a minimal number of administrative duties, such as writing patient care plans and documenting a patient’s condition. 

When it comes to the medical assistant duties and responsibilities, they are more versatile as an MA is trained to perform both administrative and clinical duties. 

Administrative Duties of an MA: 

Medical assistants are responsible for a large number of administrative duties, including but not limited to: 

  • Managing office telephone systems, including answering phones and returning messages.
  • Scheduling patient appointments. 
  • Documenting patients’ medical information, including medical history and health insurance information.
  • Performing data entry tasks to document patient records. 
  • Greeting patients and checking them in for their appointments. 
  • Arranging for payment. 
  • Completing insurance forms. 
  • Ordering supplies and equipment for the medical facility, lab, or office. 

Clinical Duties of an MA: 

Medical assistants may be responsible for performing a variety of clinical tasks, including but not limited to: 

  • Recording patient vital signs. 
  • Prepping patients, exam rooms, and equipment for medical procedures. 
  • Sanitizing the rooms and keeping them stocked with supplies. 
  • Explaining treatment procedures to patients. 
  • Collecting specimens for lab testing. 
  • Drawing blood. 
  • Removing sutures. 
  • Changing sterile dressings. 
  • Performing routine laboratory procedures. 
  • Operating electrocardiograms or X-ray machines. 

Job Outlook 

Both nurses and medical assistants are in high demand and are expected to see above average job growth in the future. Employment for RN’s is expected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, while employment for an LPN is expected to grow 11%. Medical assistants, however, are projected to grow 23% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all other occupations. 

Final Thoughts 

Both nurses and medical assistants work in physician’s offices, clinics, and ambulatory care. Nurses often work in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals. Nurses are often required to work long hours with rotating shifts, where an MA has the added benefit of working a traditional workday with nights and weekends off. 

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If you’re looking to get started in your new career quickly and don’t want to commit to going back to school for several years, then becoming a medical assistant is a smart choice. Contact Athena Career Academy for more information about their established and reputable certified medical assistant program. 

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Accrediting Agencies

Athena Career Academy is accredited by the Commission of the Council on Occupational Education. The school is registered with the Ohio Board of Career Colleges and Schools; State of Ohio – School Registration Number – 10-09-1943T and operates under the authority of the Ohio Board of Nursing. Please contact the Student Operations Manager for more information.

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