What’s The Difference Between a CNA and a Medical Assistant?

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Certified Nursing Assistants and Medical Assistants are healthcare professionals who work with patients in different settings, from hospitals to clinics.

Although they both assist doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals there are many differences between the two career paths.

While medical assistants focus mostly on assessing a patient’s condition and helping physicians when providing care and treatment, nursing assistants- also known as nursing aides, work more closely with patients and help them perform different daily living activities.

In this article, we will try to sum up the main differences between the two professions in order to help you decide which one is best suited for your skills and professional aspirations.

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Training Programs

Medical Assistant Training

Most medical assistants join this profession after completing an accredited medical assistant program at a trade school, community college, or technical school.

Depending on the type of program, the training period can last between 1 and 2 years.

The training curriculum focuses both on classwork and hands-on clinical training.

During the clinical training, each student gets the chance to work directly with patients under the supervision of an experienced professional.

CNA Training

Training programs for Certified Nursing Assistants can last anywhere between 6 weeks and several months, depending on the type of program.

Students can take the classes online or in-person at a trade school or community college.

Programs focus on direct patient care, patient safety, and documentation.

CNA training also includes a clinical time where students learn hands-on each type of care that they will perform.

Type of Care

Another important aspect that sets the two careers apart is the scope of practice, namely what treatments and procedures each one of these two careers are allowed to perform.

Medical Assistant Scope of Practice

The attributions of medical assistants vary from one state to the other and are determined in accordance with the type of training and evaluations medical assistants need.

The usual tasks a medical assistant performs include:

  • drawing blood samples for laboratory testing
  • performing preliminary physical exams
  • obtaining vital signs
  • giving injections
  • schedule patient appointments
  • recording patient history
  • helping physicians with patient examinations

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CNA Scope of Practice

The scope of practice of CNAs also varies from state to state but nursing assistants are usually responsible for the following tasks:

  • cleaning and bathing patients
  • transfer patients between beds and wheelchairs
  • helping patients dress
  • measuring patients’ vital signs
  • serving meals and helping patients eat
  • helping patients use the toilet
  • listening to patients’ concerns, record these concerns and communicate them to nurses or physicians.

Salary Prospects

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for nursing assistants was $30,850 as of May 2o20 while the median annual salary for medical assistants was $35,850.

However, salaries for both professions vary depending on a variety of factors, including experience, region of employment, and skills.

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