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Nursing Assistant vs Medical Assistant: What Are the Key Differences?

by Lisa A. Yeager

Do you want to work in healthcare but don’t have the time or money required to complete medical school? Becoming a medical or nursing assistant may be the perfect career for you.

The job outlook for both medical assistants and nursing assistants is excellent. Both jobs are growing at a rate much faster than average.

Both of these careers involve working with patients and other medical experts on a day-to-day basis. Becoming a medical or nursing assistant is exciting and rewarding.

Here’s what you need to know about working as a nursing assistant vs. a medical assistant.

Nursing Assistant vs Medical Assistant: What Are the Key Differences? 2

What Is a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants perform various administrative and clinical tasks for physicians and hospital workers.

The duties of a medical assistant can vary depending on where they work. Clinical duties may include guiding patients to treatment rooms and taking medical histories. They also explain medical procedures to patients and collect laboratory specimens.

Some medical assistants may conduct basic examinations. These include taking a patient’s vital signs or checking their blood pressure. Medical assistants often help physicians by administering medications and injections.

When it comes to administrative work, medical assistants update and file patient information. They also schedule and confirm appointments and coordinate laboratory services.

Medical assistants are trained to perform a variety of tasks. Some may choose to specialize in either administrative (office) work or clinical work.

Administrative medical assistants handle front-office tasks like filing insurance claims, scheduling, and coding. Clinical medical assistants perform back-office duties. This includes drawing blood and helping doctors with patient examinations.

Some medical assistants also work in specialized practices where they assist specialty doctors.

What Is a Nursing Assistant?

Nursing assistants assist with patient care in hospitals or other care facilities. Nursing assistants have to be on their feet most of the day. They help out with physical tasks such as bathing or moving patients.

Nursing assistants do not engage in any administrative work. They assist only on the clinical side of healthcare. Nursing assistants perform essential tasks such as helping patients to move around and eat their food.

Nursing assistants tend to spend more time with patients than any other health professional. Because of this, they often build lasting relationships with patients and their families.

In general, nursing assistants are there to aid patients in their daily activities and monitor their vital signs. They will document patients’ conditions and relay information to physicians.

Working Environment

Both medical and nursing assistants can work in a variety of settings. This includes hospitals, doctor’s practices, and long-term care facilities.

Medical assistants split their time between the front office and patient treatment rooms. When conducting administrative work, they sit behind a desk and work on a computer. When helping with clinical tasks, medical assistants use basic equipment such as scales and syringes.

Most medical assistants work full time. Working hours are usually 9 to 5, but some may work weekends or late shifts depending on patient needs and staff availability.

Most nursing assistants work in hospitals, nursing homes, or long-term care facilities. They spend most of their time working with patients in their rooms or treatment rooms. Very little work is done sitting down, so nursing assistants must be prepared to be on their feet all day.

Nursing assistants work full-time hours with regular shifts. Healthcare facilities usually employ nursing assistants round the clock. Some may work during the day while others work during the night.

Nursing assistants often have to perform physically strenuous tasks such as repositioning patients. This is why they must learn how to take care of their body not to cause an injury.

Education Needed

Good news. You won’t need a four-year degree to qualify as a medical assistant or nursing assistant.

Medical assistants are usually required to complete a Medical Assistant (MA) training program. These programs teach you the skills you need for the job. You will also learn medical terminology and basic anatomy.

To begin an entry-level job as a medical assistant, you will need to pass the National Medical Assistant Certification Exam.

To become a nursing assistant, you will also need to be certified. This requires enrolling in an appropriate training course and then passing a state-mandated competency exam. A recognized school provides training for nurses assistant.

Nursing Assistant vs. Medical Assistant: Which Is Right For You?

Medical assistants need to be concise and organized in everything they do. They must record patient information and vital signs, and this requires attention to detail.

Medical assistants deal with large volumes of patients. That’s why they must be friendly and polite. Analytical skills are also important for medical assistants because they often need to read patient charts and record diagnoses.

Nursing assistants are passionate about one-on-one patient care. They often have to work with elderly patients or those who are severely ill. This requires a great level of patience and compassion.

A nursing assistant’s job is very taxing – both emotionally and physically.

Nursing assistants build strong relationships with patients. Nursing assistants may care for the same patients over the course of months or even years. This makes it difficult when the patient eventually passes away.

Deciding between becoming a medical assistant or nursing assistant depends on your personality. Do you enjoy working closely with people? Are you comfortable with being on your feet all day? If so, consider becoming a nursing assistant.

Maybe you’re interested in the administrative side of healthcare? Then you might prefer working as a medical assistant.

Which Career Will You Choose?

Both nursing assistants and medical assistants fulfill important roles in the healthcare industry.

Nursing assistants work on the clinical side of healthcare. They spend a lot of time caring for patients.

Medical assistants perform clinical as well as administrative tasks. This requires them to have a keen eye for detail. When it comes to nursing assistant vs. medical assistant, both are rewarding careers.

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