Medical Assistant vs. CNA – Differences & Common Points

Medical assisting and certified nursing assisting will be the focus of our discussion.

Are there any differences between medical and certified nursing assistant roles?

If you’re having difficulty choosing between the two, the comparisons made below should help you decide.

CNA vs. Medical Assistant

Healthcare professions may sometimes be confused due to certain similarities.

Now it’s common knowledge that each healthcare field or career is distinct from the other but requires collaboration with other related professions to achieve the sole objective of promoting healthcare.

Is a medical assistant the same as CNA? No. Let’s look at the differences and common points.

  • What’s Medical Assisting?

As the name suggests, medical assisting is a field within healthcare whose primary focus is providing support to doctors and nurses offering medical care to patients.

Medical assistants also interact with patients regularly. Doctors and physicians mainly supervise medical assistants.

Medical assistants tend to perform more administrative duties and less physical labor. They also handle clinical roles. For the most part, medical assistants tend to be more comfortable dealing with technology.

These are just the basics of what medical assisting is about. Read on for more details.

  • What’s Certified Nursing Assisting?

Certified nursing assistants, also identified as CNAs, are healthcare professionals whose responsibility is to provide hands-on, intimate healthcare to patients under the supervision of a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse.

The nature of assistance includes bathing, dressing, and other essential activities that make the patient’s recovery much faster.

Professionals supervise certified nursing assistants with more medical training. Nurses conduct such supervision.

Points of Comparison

In making comparisons between medical assistants and certified nursing assistants, specific points have to be considered.

These are essential to fully understand areas of similarity and differences between the two medical professions. So, what are these points?

They include responsibilities, roles, work settings or workplaces, certification & licensing, education or training, and valued qualities.

Other points of comparison include job titles, career advancement, salary, and job outlook. Understanding each of these enables you to identify your preferred field.

i. Responsibilities

Regarding responsibilities, medical assistants and CNAs have unique roles to play.

In the case of the former (medical assistants), these professionals handle all sorts of tasks, including measuring vital signs such as blood pressure and recording patient history and personal information.

Other responsibilities of medical assistants include entering patient information into medical records, prepping blood samples for lab tests, and scheduling patient appointments.

Medical assistants also assist physicians with patient examinations in addition to giving medications & injections as directed by physicians.

On the other hand, CNAs carry out tasks like helping patients dress or use the toilet.

They help clean and bathe patients, serve meals and help patients feed while performing similar tasks to MAs, such as measuring patient vital signs like temperature and blood pressure.

A CNA listens to and records patients’ health concerns while relaying such information to nurses.

These professionals (CNAs) are also responsible for repositioning or turning patients and transferring them between beds and wheelchairs.

ii. Roles

When it comes to comparing the roles of medical assistants and CNAs, the distinct aspects of these professions are examined.

For medical assistants, roles generally involve the completion of administrative & clinical tasks.

For certified nursing assistants, the roles are quite different as they mostly have to do with providing primary care and helping patients with routine activities, promoting optimal care.

iii. Work Settings or Workplaces

Because medical assistants and CNAs are both medical professionals, you’ll mostly find yourself working in similar settings. However, there may be slight variations due to their specializations.

In the case of medical assistants, these professionals work in physician offices, state, local & private hospitals, and private clinics.

Medical assistants also work in chiropractor offices, outpatient care centers, long-term care facilities, medical research centers, diagnostic labs, etc.

CNAs work in various settings like nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living care centers, home healthcare, and adult day care centers.

CNAs may work as independent contractors, open a private practice, or work in the Veterans Health Administration, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Department of Defense.

iv. Certification & Licensing

Certification for medical assistants, though recommended, is optional. Such professionals must have completed an accredited program and passed the exam.

On the other hand, CNAs must complete the state-approved training program and pass the competency evaluation exam.

v. Education or Training

Is a medical assistant higher than a CNA? Yes. MAs require more training and take on more responsibilities.

There are apparent differences in the educational requirements for medical assistants and CNAs.

In the case of the former, completion of a postsecondary non-degree education program is required. Such may include a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree.

This takes anywhere from 1 to 2 years to complete.

A minimum of 75 hours of CNA training is needed to become a CNA. This program takes anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks to complete.

vi. Valued Qualities

Professionals must possess certain qualities or skills to enable them to function better. For medical assistants, crucial skills include technical, detail-oriented, analytical, and interpersonal skills.

CNAs must possess excellent communication skills, have physical stamina, and be compassionate and patient.

vii. Titles

Compared to CNAs, medical assistants tend to have more job titles.

Examples include the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA), Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), and Registered Medical Assistant (RMA).

There are more MA titles like the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) and the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA). The only title for CNAs is Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).

viii. Career Advancement

Most aspiring medical professionals seek careers that have the potential to boost their advancement. Medical assistants can transition to managerial positions, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and registered nurses.

In the case of CNAs, these professionals can move on to become licensed practical nurses or registered nurses.

ix. Salary

Medical assistants receive a slightly higher annual average salary of $37,190 compared to the $30,310 from CNAs. This can be one of the factors considered in choosing a preferred field.

x. Job Outlook

According to the bureau of labor statistics, the growth projection for these medical professions is expected to grow within the current decade.

For medical assistants, the growth projection in employment is around 18%, while that for CNAs is about 8%.

These are the basics for making a close comparison between medical assistants and certified nursing assistants.

Now you have the information to use in deciding on what career to go for.