Differences between Medical Assistants and Registered Nurses?

  1. 0
    I ran into an old friend from elementary school and she brought up that she was graduating soon from a 12 month long MA program. I am not sure, but I guess she had begun her 4 month long clinical phase(?). I congratulated her on her success (she graduated with honors) and I mentioned that we had something in common, that I also was entering the medical field. I told her that I had just been accepted into a RN program a few days prior (I was still in shock :spin: ). As soon as I said that, she got really defensive. She began stating that MAs do 90% of what RNs do, if not more. MAs get paid almost the same as RNs because the knowledge is the basically the same.
    She basically said that RNs and MAs are the same except that MAs don't do IVs.

    Then she proceeded to tell me how she hated the RNs in her clinicals.
    After a while she calmed down and said that she wanted to be a RN but went the MA route because she was getting a break with the tuition. She also plans on eventually going into a RN program once she is more financially able. My question is how similar are MAs and RNs? I worked at an internal med office for a year and I remember pretty well what our MA did most of the time (she trained me).Then again I am sure there are more skills under her belt that she just never had the chance to use within that year. Once she began talking then my defences went up as well (I felt like she was putting me down), although I kept quiet because who am I to say anything, I am not a nurse yet , right?
    Since I did not attent school with her, how do I know what her curriculum consisted of? So now I am turning to you ladies and gents to educate me on how similar or different MAs and RNs are.
  2. 23,209 Visits
    Find Similar Topics
  3. 114 Comments so far...

  4. 0
    Well let me begin by saying as a former medical assisstant myself, there is a huge difference between an MA and a RN. Medical assisstants do not have the knowledge base that an RN does nor do they learn the skills or critical thinking that is needed to be a RN. I have just passed the nclex pn and am now a LPN. What I learned as a nurse versus what I learned as a medical assisstant is very different. A medical assisstant is trained strictly for the clinical setting. A medical assisstant does not learn critical thinking skills at least not in the program I had completed. A medical assisstant can not cross over to the hospital since this was not part of their schooling. However a nurse can cross over to the clinic. I know more now as a nurse then what I learned as a medical assisstant. I was proud to be a medical assisstant, but I am even prouder to be a nurse. If you want to know what a medical assisstant truly does visit this web site www.aama-ntl.org
  5. 0
    Well, back a century or so ago when I was an LPN student, we had MA's trained in the same school. I've never forgotten one telling us that "we do everything that LPNs do except empty bedpans!"

    Actually they did learn to take vitals and give injections, but got clerical training instead of some of our nursing stuff.

    I have since worked with a couple of MA's. They both have been good, but my preference is a licensed nurse. My understanding is that MA's are certified but not licensed, and in some states NP's can't give orders to MAs the way they can to LPNs or RNs.

    At any rate, a MA is far more comparable to an LPN than an RN, and I'd prefer the LPN myself.
  6. 0
    Quote from MA2006
    I ran into an old friend from elementary school and she brought up that she was graduating soon from a 12 month long MA program. I am not sure, but I guess she had begun her 4 month long clinical phase(?). I congratulated her on her success (she graduated with honors) and I mentioned that we had something in common, that I also was entering the medical field. I told her that I had just been accepted into a RN program a few days prior (I was still in shock :spin: ). As soon as I said that, she got really defensive. She began stating that MAs do 90% of what RNs do, if not more. MAs get paid almost the same as RNs because the knowledge is the basically the same.
    She basically said that RNs and MAs are the same except that MAs don't do IVs.

    Then she proceeded to tell me how she hated the RNs in her clinicals.
    After a while she calmed down and said that she wanted to be a RN but went the MA route because she was getting a break with the tuition. She also plans on eventually going into a RN program once she is more financially able. My question is how similar are MAs and RNs? I worked at an internal med office for a year and I remember pretty well what our MA did most of the time (she trained me).Then again I am sure there are more skills under her belt that she just never had the chance to use within that year. Once she began talking then my defences went up as well (I felt like she was putting me down), although I kept quiet because who am I to say anything, I am not a nurse yet , right?
    Since I did not attent school with her, how do I know what her curriculum consisted of? So now I am turning to you ladies and gents to educate me on how similar or different MAs and RNs are.
    Personally, I probably wouldn't have dignified her comments with a response. I met an MA instructor when I was teaching LPNs, who basically told us instructors the same thing as your friend. We just rolled our eyes and held our tongues.

    Here's an example of a job description for a medical assistant, taken from a major medical center:

    " Provides care to patients. Assists patients with personal hygiene, nutrition, comfort, and safety. Maintains comfortable, orderly, safe, and clean environment.
    Prepares patients for examinations. Provides routine information related to medical treatments and procedures.
    Measures and records vital signs. Collects specimens.
    Prepares examining rooms. Selects and lays out medical supplies. Maintains medical equipment.
    Records and reports patient information. Retrieves laboratory test results and patient files.
    Escorts patients and visitors.
    Orders and maintains inventory of supplies.
    Performs clerical functions related to medical activities.

    "The job duties listed above are representative and characteristic of the duties required and the level of the work performed in the job title. The duties will vary from incumbent to incumbent in the job title."

    "Required Knowledge:
    General knowledge, high school level; detailed but narrow knowledge in one or several work-related areas; general acquaintance with broader field of knowledge.
    Limited acquaintance with business, accounting, or commercial procedures.
    Limited knowledge of University organizational policies and procedures generally; detailed knowledge of a narrow area of University rules and procedures.

    Required Skills:
    Copies data from standard or easily understandable formats.
    Files already labeled material using a straightforward alphabetical, numerical or chronological system.
    Understands short notes, basic written instructions, and forms.
    Writes short informal notes, fills out simple forms.
    Occasional use of more complex machines, including word processors or personal computers.
    Performs a few simple laboratory or scientific procedures; records results as necessary.

    Office and Administrative Skills:
    Keyboards letters, memos, and other moderately complex material.
    Enters and retrieves data from given sources on a personal computer.
    Schedules and coordinates appointments.
    Screens and refers callers and visitors to the appropriate individual.

    Experience, Education and Formal Training:
    Two years of related work experience and a high school level education; or an equivalent combination of experience and education.

    Complexity and Organization:
    Limited variety of job tasks requiring coordinating steps/procedures.
    Occasionally coordinates or organizes the work of others.

    Interpersonal Relations:
    Ongoing involvement outside immediate unit.
    Offers or obtains basic information or provides assistance on general matters.
    Understands and conveys more complex messages and instructions, and takes action accordingly.

    Supervisory Guidelines:
    Work is subject to general review on an occasional basis.
    Supervisor and incumbent plan, assign, and schedule work jointly.
    Instruction provided only in new situations, methods and procedures that are not clearly related to existing tasks and duties.

    Independent Judgment:
    Established procedures/policies govern most work situations.
    Occasional exercise of independent judgment or initiative.
    Problems solved by using established procedures.

    Leadership Responsibility:
    Occasionally provides general orientation to routine procedures/policies.
    Sometimes distributes and monitors work.

    Impact and Consequence of Error:
    Work affects only immediate work unit.
    Errors are somewhat difficult to recognize and correct and can cause harm or financial loss to individuals, departments, and the University or to other individuals and groups."

    Now here's the job description of one registered nurse position, also in an ambulatory setting, at the same major medical center:

    "General Purpose:
    Provide direct service in multi-problem situations for a selected caseload of patients. Triage of clinic patients and telephone calls.

    Essential Duties of the Position
    1. Plan and coordinate the patient flow through Urgent Care. Supervise the work of ancillary and part-time personnel. Provide a harmonious work environment. Engage in crisis management of physically or mentally ill patients. Be prepared to render life saving care such as initiation of CPR until MD arrives. Assist in stabilizing the patient for transfer to xxx Medical Center (or other acute facilities). Coordinate activities in the event of a fire or other disaster. Assist with physical care of patients including lifting.
    2. Assess the patient's problem via the telephone. May advise treatment without direct medical consultation, advise patient to come in for care at the health center. Or advise care at an acute facility, i.e., Emergency room, or encourage self-care at home.
    3. Accurately and systematically audit records, conduct interviews, identify problems, determine and implement a plan of action and evaluate the results.
    4. Communicate with other health care clinicians to ensure appropriate on-going care.
    5. Provide emotional support and/or encourage the use of appropriate support.
    6. Encourage preventative health practices.
    7. Make fiscal decisions such as ordering ambulance service, ordering laboratory tests and ordering equipment and supplies for use in the clinical areas.
    8. Proficient in the placement and maintenance of I.V. therapy.
    9. Maintain records and dispense narcotics, medications and other controlled substances.
    10. Orient new staff and provide input in evaluating the performance of ancillary personnel.
    11. Responsible for maintenance of a comfortable, orderly, safe and clean environment.
    12. May be assigned to the Inpatient Care Facility as needed.

    Experience and Training
    1. State R.N. license
    2. Graduation from an accredited School of Nursing.
    3. CPR certification.
    4. IV/Phlebotomy experience
    5. Preferred: BSN and one-year experience working in a ambulatory care setting, emergency room or urgent care setting."

    Pretty soon you will get an idea of what is really involved in becoming a registered nurse. It is not a collection of tasks. It is a discipline, which requires thought and knowledge and discernment and analysis and stamina and courage and tact and vision and organization and education and a thousand other skills that the MA is nowhere near "90%" ready to handle.
  7. 0
    I'm a new LVN who completed a medical assistant program over 6 years ago. The medical assistant program was totally skills-based, whereas the nursing program emphasized critical thinking. There are other major differences.
  8. 0
    Thanks for all the replies! I think I now have a better understanding of their roles within healthcare. One last question...
    I hope I don't sound picky but I have another friend who is also a MA, yet on her myspace and in real life she tells everyone she is a nurse. I thought she was a nurse as well until a mutual friend brought up that she is a CMA. I wonder why she would put nurse instead of her title? I was just curious. Does the fact that she is certified make a difference?
  9. 0
    Quote from TheCommuter
    I'm a new LVN who completed a medical assistant program over 6 years ago. The medical assistant program was totally skills-based, whereas the nursing program emphasized critical thinking. There are other major differences.

    I was just getting ready to say this. Learning the skill is one thing, but learning the why's behind the skill is part of the nursing training.
  10. 0
    Quote from MA2006
    I hope I don't sound picky but I have another friend who is also a MA, yet on her myspace and in real life she tells everyone she is a nurse. I thought she was a nurse as well until a mutual friend brought up that she is a CMA. I wonder why she would put nurse instead of her title? I was just curious. Does the fact that she is certified make a difference?
    No, and if she continues to tell people she's a nurse, she may hear from your state's Board of Nursing with a cease and desist order or worse. They take a dim view of nurse imposters.
  11. 0
    Did she actually say that they made almost as much as an RN? From what I've read around here they make only around $10 and hour. And I have heard of many who graduate & cannot find a job, even at that wage.
    Dixie
  12. 0
    Yes, she said that MAs make almost the same as RNs. I don't know where she got her "facts" but I also thought MAs earned around $10-$13 depending on experience. The girl who worked with me at the medical office made around $12 a hour and she was a CMA for a good 3-4 years. Then again I assume that there are some that may make as much as a RN in some instances.


Top