Provo College Looks at the Difference Between CNAs and Medical Assistants

The Difference Between CNAs and Medical Assistants

Within the world of healthcare, there is a vast array of distinct careers to choose from, including nursing, Medical Assisting, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and certified nursing assisting. While there is some overlap in the tasks required of these healthcare careers, each is distinct and has a different set of educational requirements, job tasks, and levels of patient interaction. If you are considering a career as a CNA or a Medical Assistant, there are certain differences you need to be aware of before making a final decision.

What Is a Medical Assistant?

Chances are you have interacted with a Medical Assistant in your lifetime. You will find Medical Assistants working in doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals, where they carry out a combination of administrative and clinical tasks. On any given day, a Medical Assistant records a patient’s vitals, collects and prepares laboratory specimens, telephones prescriptions to a pharmacy, assists the physician during patient exams, and relays information to patients.

While Medical Assistants do interface with patients on a daily basis, they also play an administrative role as well. Some of these duties can include filling out insurance forms, answering phones, and handling billing and scheduling issues. As you can see, a Medical Assistant’s responsibilities are quite varied, making it an ideal career for someone who prefers fast-paced and dynamic work environments. In the Medical Assisting profession, variety is to be expected.

What Is a CNA?

CNAs enjoy a high level of patient interaction. They care for patients who are terminally ill, recovering, or aging. In the field, they perform tasks that range from feeding patients to collecting food trays and administering treatments, which can include catheterizations and suppositories. A CNA may be tasked with grooming, bathing, and dressing patients who are unable to complete these tasks.

The CNA’s role is much more clinical than that of the Medical Assistant, as Medical Assistants split their time between interfacing with patients and running the front desk. Some healthcare professionals prefer an occupation with this kind of variety, while others prefer to spend the majority of their time with patients. It’s also important to note that some work as a CNA to discover whether or not nursing is the right career for them. Again, it’s vital to reflect and look at your strengths, desires, and career goals.

Is a CNA Higher Than a Medical Assistant?

Both CNAs and Medical Assistants must be interested in helping those who cannot help themselves; they must approach their work with a spirit of service and genuine care. One technical difference is that a Medical Assistant typically reports to a physician or office manager, whereas a CNA usually reports to the head nurse who oversees the nursing team.

It’s important to realize that completion of a formal Medical Assistant program will typically help with employment opportunities and general marketability. In this increasingly competitive world, it would be beneficial to gain vital experience and knowledge in a formal training program.

Providing a definitive answer regarding which role is “higher” or held in greater regard is difficult. Both careers are distinct and your decision on which is a better fit for you greatly depends on your long-term career goals. If you are looking for a role that provides exposure to patients and a variety of administrative tasks, then a Medical Assisting career might be the perfect choice for you.