Should You Become a Medical Assistant or an PN?

Posted by Athena Career Academy on Jul 6, 2016

The Medical Assistant (MA) and Practical Nurse (PN) are both occupations where you can be working after one year of training. There are job postings for the two in the Toledo OH area. Both jobs require positive patient contact and are directly related to satisfaction with the health service received. But there are fundamental differences in the work performed and one may suit you while the other may not be satisfying. Let’s look at the differences.

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Job Duties

The MA provides administrative services and clinical assistance at a physician’s office or medical center. The office duties include

  •  Answering phones and making appointments
  •  Coding and filling out insurance forms
  •  Billing and bookkeeping, and maintaining patient records

Clinical Medical Assistant Training in Toledo Ohio with Athena Career AcademyClinical duties of the MA include

  •  Taking patient histories and vital signs
  •  Preparing patients for exams or treatment
  •  Drawing blood
  •  Administering medications under the direction of the physician

Practical nurses provide basic nursing care under the supervision of an RN. Their duties generally include

  •  Feeding and bathing
  •  Giving medications
  •  Measuring vital signs
  •  Recording patient information
  •  Collecting samples for lab testing

Education Required

You can opt for medical assisting training of less than a year to receive a certificate or diploma. Or you can attend a community college two year program and work for an associate degree. In either case, you should look for an accredited program which qualifies you to take the national certification examination to become a certified MA (CMA). Here are some courses you will be taking.

  • Medical Terminology
  • Medical Office Management
  • Electronic Records
  • Insurance
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Patient Preparation
  • Basic Laboratory Procedures and Tests

After a one year program for practical nursing at a community or technical college, you will take the national examination called NCLEX-PN, required by each state for licensure. Practical nursing programs include both classroom study and supervised clinical practice. These are some of the courses in the program.

  • Practical Nursing Clinical Applications
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Nursing Fundamentals
  • Nursing Pharmacology
  • Nutrition
  • Legal and Ethical Concepts
  • Psychology

Important Skills and Personal Traits

A most important quality in an MA is accuracy and attention to detail. Errors in medical record keeping or clinical procedures can be costly to human lives. Errors in billing can be costly in dollars as well as in time consumed for correction. In addition, the MA needs to be adept at multitasking for the many separate tasks required on the job. Communication and interpersonal skills are primary for effective patient contact.

Effective practical nurses are open and caring and can connect emotionally with patients and understand what their needs are. They are calm and professional during critical situations. They have critical thinking and decision making skills along with good communication and accuracy with details. The LPN must also work effectively with the supervising RN and other health professionals.

Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2015, medical assistants earned an average yearly salary of $31,390. The average for the state of Ohio was $29,240. The job outlook between 2014 and 2024 nationwide is reported as 23 percent, which is much faster than average.

Licensed practical nurses nationwide earned an average annual salary in 2015 of $44,030. The corresponding average for Ohio was $41,060. The job outlook nationwide for this occupation is 16 percent, which is also much faster than average.

An indication of the outlook for these two occupations in Toledo OH can be gauged by looking at the postings on job listing sites such as or On both sites, MAs and licensed practical nurses are listed especially by health systems that provide services over a geographical area extended from Toledo. There are medical assisting positions for physician offices or front offices of medical services. LPNs are largely sought for skilled nursing facilities or residential services.

Both medical assisting and licensed practical nursing occupations offer flexible training programs and have good job prospects in Toledo OH. There are many schools offering medical assisting programs in the state, and this site lists 72 schools, noting those that are accredited. The Ohio Board of Nursing lists 71 currently approved schools of practical nursing education. Both occupations provide promising career advancing possibilities, but studying the differences between the two will help you to select the one for which you are most suited.

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Topics: Clinical Medical Assistant, LPN