What’s The Difference Between an MA and a CNA?

What's the Difference Between an MA and a CNA?
MA’s & CNS’s are similar, but not the same.

There is a lot of confusion between medical assistants and certified nursing assistants. The bottom line is that they are NOT THE SAME. Though they share a handful of the same tasks or duties, here are some of the main differences between MA’s and CNA’s:

Job Duties – Patient and Administrative Tasks

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

As a CNA, you will perform mostly patient oriented tasks including bedside assistance, feeding, bathing, and closely monitoring, recording and reporting any changes in the patients’ health as well as maintaining the cleanliness of the patients’ environment, assisting patients with therapies and providing comfort.

Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA)

As a medical assistant, you will perform both clinical AND administrative duties to provide a broader range of skill-sets to your [potential] employer. Just because you have your certification as a medical assistant doesn’t mean that you will perform all of these duties on a daily basis. In most settings, there will be multiple medical assistants working in the same facility to help balance out the workload.

On the clinical side, you will do a variety of things such as setting up for procedures and assisting doctors in minor surgeries, gathering and updating patient health history, patient assessment and care, injections, EKG, urinalysis, glucose monitoring, blood drawing and blood typing.

On the administrative side, you will be trained how to compile patient charts, handle insurance, billing, co-pays and deductibles as well as schedule appointments and answer phones.

A typical day for a medical assistant does consist of multiple duties which can be a positive for anyone who dislikes doing the same thing over and over again. Medical assisting is also great for people who love to learn and be in a constant state of growth.

Training – 3 months, 10 months or 2 years

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Becoming a CNA requires the completion of a state-approved training program, 75 hours of training and a satisfactory score on the state exam. These programs typically run about 3-4 months.

Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA)

In order to receive a medical assisting diploma, one must complete an accredited medical assisting program, including some clinical time. These programs are typically 1-2 years.

At WellSpring, the accelerated medical assisting course is approx. 10 months long, includes a triple certification (NRCMA, NRCPT  & NREKG) with hands-on learning, an externship, and career placement assistance for as long as you keep your certification valid.

Employment Opportunities – Wide Range Available

As a CNA, you will likely work in a nursing home, a hospital or residential care home, whereas an MA is more likely to work in a clinic, a physician’s practice, or in Urgent Care, though, a small percentage (approx. 11%) of MA’s do acquire jobs at hospitals.

Wellspring offers career placement assistance for as long as your certification is valid, and provides an externship at the end of your training to expose you to real patients before you even graduate.

I’m already a CNA, how could I benefit from getting my NRCMA?

If you are already a CNA and are thinking about becoming a medical assistant, here are some things to consider:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth for certified nursing assistants is 21% by 2022. While that may be above average, the projected growth for medical assistants is 29%.

Medical assistants are nationally certified, whereas nursing assistants are only certified in the state they passed their exam. If you ever plan on moving out of state, this would be a huge factor, as you would have to take another CNA program based on where you move to.

The industry average income for medical assistants is $14.12/hour.

The industry average income for nursing assistants is $11.73/hour.

Starting out, a CNA can expect to make $9-11/hour, while a medical assistant will start between $11-13/hour.

Why would I want to be a Medical Assistant?

On top of working in an already stable industry, MA’s have opportunities for advancement as soon as they get some experience in the field and typically work full time. Plus, medical assistants have the added bonus of being nationally certified.

Aside from stats, medical assisting is a job many people prefer because they simply like to help people. Of course, working in healthcare can be stressful at times, but you can guarantee a personally rewarding career.

At WellSpring, the medical assisting program offers a triple certification to ensure that you have the most dynamic range of skill-sets to meet the requirements of any medical assisting position. Currently, WellSpring has a 100% pass rate of all MA students who sit for their exams. 

How do I become a medical assistant?

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