I am currently a medical assistant and work at a pediatric clinic. Being a medical assistant give you much more you can do, like blood draws (not just finger pokes for blood sugars), injections, throat cultures, wound care and so much more.
I also worked as a caregiver, I know it's not a CNA but pretty much the same concept. I worked in a retirement community/assisted living. It wasn't a nursing home. I helped with exercises, toiletting, showers, basically the ADLS.
They both have their advantages. I love being a medical assistant smuch more. I feel like I got some much more out of it as an MA than a caregiver. I did not like being a caregiver at all.
I think for the most part is that I took so much pride in my work. On my shift I always made sure residents who needed to be toiletted got toiletted. I would come on and start my shift and my residents would be soaking wet. So wet that I needed to change their clothes, bed sheets, etc. It was so frustrating when others didn't take as good of care as they should have. I felt like some things were getting neglected and I just couldn't see that anymore so I quit. I know that it probably isn't like that everywhere.
The residents were great! That is a good thing I can say about that. It was great getting to know some of them and listening to some of their stories. I found that I had a lot in common with some of them. It was so great when I would get a hug, thank you or a huge smile. Made me feel like I was really making the difference.
Last year I applied to 5 nursing schools (didnt get in), but if I remember correctly, most of them gave some sort of points for work experience (regardless of MA or caregive/CNA). I got points from one school for working as a caregiver. It went by how many hours I worked. I think full time for one year was 6 points, that was the max. I think that was for Clatsop Community College (where I am going this year!).
Clackamas gives 3 points, plus I think 3 more or so for getting the MA from them.
From what I have heard, all schools want you to have your CNA, or at least take the NA course before you start nursing school. I haven't taken the NA course but I can take a nursing skills class through Clatsop. It takes place of the NA course.
So it is kind of a tough decision for you. Either way you will get some great hands on experience.
Another thing to think about is pay as an MA and a CNA. I do believe MA's get paid more. You can work in hospitals, clinics, urgent care, etc. Most places you wont have to work nights. It is basicalloly M-F 8-5 kind of thing. You get paid holidays, decent benefits (depending on where you work). At my clinic there are some Saturdays availabe, it is not manditory. But nice when you do work a weekend (about 4 hours), we get paid time and a half. Winter hours for weekends are a little different.
As a CNA you may work nights. And will miss out on holidays, sometimes without extra pay. Again that will depend on where you work. I know the place I worked at as a caregiver did offer benefits but it was for full time employees, oh vacation time too (as well as for MA. I get 2 weeks a year after my first year, plus sick time).
One other thing (I know this is getting kind of long), if you plan to work full time as an MA, it might be hard to take classes. Some clinics may not work with your school schedule. If you work part time though, some would be pretty accomidating. It gets pretty busy during flu season. Our hours change to accomidate a large patient flow (I work for a really big clinic, 4 locations, total of 10 providers).
Just something to think about from someone who as done both. I do have to say I love medical assisting. It is great! If you want to talk more send me a private message. I can answer any more questions you have.