Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant is a wise career choice in today’s economy. While economic downturn continues to plague most of the United States, careers in health care continue to rise. There are fewer jobs that are as secure as those jobs that are in healthcare and the allied healthcare fields.

If you are considering a career as a Certified Medical Assistant, it’s important that you have enough information to make the best decision possible about your career options, training options and what your day-to-day duties will look like. After all, it is important that you will enjoy spending time doing the work you will be doing on a daily basis.

Let’s explore the difference between a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) and a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) so you can make the best possible decision for your next career move.

What is a Certified Medical Assistant?

Certified Medical Assistants are well trained, highly professional people that work in hospitals and clinical settings in conjunction with other health professionals, such as doctors and nurses. Certified Medical Assistants help keep patients moving through the health care system and act as a liaison between medical professionals and patients. A career in medical assisting can be rewarded and satisfying to those who embark on the journey to becoming certified.

Medical Assistants can become certified to engage in the level of work that they do. It is a very important job, with very important responsibilities, and certification is required to ensure that proper care is taken in the day-to-day role of a medical assistant.

Given the aging population of people in the United States, it is estimated that more and more opportunities will open up for those who gain certification as a medical assistant. Overworked doctors and nurses will need more assistance in emergency situations, as well as in office practices. If you are looking for a job that is not going anywhere, anytime soon, consider becoming a Certified Medical Assistant.

What Training is Required?

Because the role of a medical assistant may require professional certification, the training programs that you can enroll in have to be approved and recognized by governing bodies, such as the American Association of Medical Assistants. Associations such as this can help you decipher the accredited training programs from the non-accredited training programs, and this can save you a world of hurt when it comes to launching your career as a medical assistant.

More and more medical assistant openings are requiring certification. You should train at an institute that is accredited. If you happen to train at an institute that is not recognized by a governing body, such as the AAMA, it can be next to impossible to find a job that pays what you would expect for the training your received. Do your homework so you don’t get stuck with an education you cannot use.

Certified training programs include several core modules that need to be included, according to the governing body in which they are accredited. For example, all certified medical assisting training programs must include thorough lessons in ethics and medical laws, in depth medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology and patient practices.

In addition, certified training programs should include modules in patient communication and interaction, computer applications, office policies and procedures, accounting practices and record keeping.

Finally, training programs that are recognized by governing bodies also include modules in coding and medical billing, insurance procedures, medicine administration, first aid, and clinical procedures.

Job Duties of a Certified Medical Assistant?

Knowing what your day-to-day job responsibilities will look like is important in making a decision about your career. You want to do a job that makes you feel good and makes you feel like you are contributing to something bigger than yourself. That is the job of a Certified Medical Assistant. These are a few of the tasks Certified Medical Assistants are responsible for on a daily basis.

Certified Medical Assistants are typically responsible for:

  • creating and managing patient files
  • recording medical histories from patients
  • answering phones and booking appointments
  • completing billing procedures
  • helping to prepare patient rooms for examination
  • preparing examination materials and tools
  • prepping medical samples
  • taking blood from patients
  • securing hospital admissions and more

What is a Certified Nursing Assistant?

Certified Nursing Assistants can go by many names and hold many roles. Such titles can include home health aide, nurse’s aide, and personal care worker or associate. Unlike a Certified Medical Assistant, a Certified Nursing Assistant’s job focuses more on the day-to-day care of patients in their homes, or long term care facilities, rather than in a hospital setting.

Certified Nursing Assistants typically work with people who suffer from limited mobility, medical disorders, or mental health deteriorations such as dementia. Highly specialized training is required to ensure that nursing assistants don’t hurt themselves or their patients while on the job. Nursing Assistant jobs can be very physical and proper body mechanics are important.

Learning to care for an individual is important to their long term care and health. As the population continues to age, the need for Certified Nursing Assistants is growing. The career outlooks for this field are positive and opportunities are available in personal care homes, long term care facilities or senior’s homes.

Training to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant

Similar to becoming a Certified Medical Assistant, Certified Nursing Assistants have to gain an education at an accredited institution that provides the approved curriculum for this career. Certification depends on which state you reside within, but the process is the same for all nursing assistants who want to become certified: train at a recognized institute, take the nursing assistant exam, and receive a passing grade.

When you enroll in a Certified Nursing Assistant training program, you can expect to learn about long term patient care, basic nursing duties and procedures, how to take and record vital signs, how to recognize and control infections, emergency preparedness procedures including first aid, personal care skills such as washing patients and feeding them, and much more.

As someone who is interested in becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant, you should be compassionate, outgoing, understand and patient. Being a nursing assistant is different than being a medical assistant because nursing assistants build long term relationships with their clients, while medical assistants may only meet a patience once in their career. Patience and understanding, compassion and an outgoing nature is also important when pursuing a career as a medical assistant, but the level of interaction is much different. Certified Nursing Assistants see less patients per day than a Certified Medical Assistant as well, and the training for each career reflects that.

Key Job Duties

Choosing a career as a Certified Nursing Assistant means your day-to-day job responsibilities will mostly consist of:

  • meeting and greeting patients in their homes or long term care facilities
  • preparing meals and drinks
  • feeding and bathing patients
  • dressing patients
  • helping patients with less mobility move from their beds and chairs
  • changing dressings and administering medications
  • cleaning patients after meals and helping them dress in their clothes
  • helping with physical therapy routines and strengthening routines
  • providing companionship to patients
  • maintaining patient files

Certified Medical Assistant vs Certified Nursing Assistant?

As you have read here, the paths to medical assisting and nursing assisting careers are similar in that you have to complete a training program from an accredited post-secondary institution; and study for, and get a passing grade on a certification exam. However, the day-to-day lives of each type of assistance is very different.

It’s important to ask yourself how you want to spend your day. Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant means working in a fast paced clinical environment that will have you interacting with all kinds of different people on a regular basis. Choosing a career as a Certified Nursing Assistant may be more slow paced, but the work is more physical than clinical.

A Certified Medical Assistant is expected to be a fast learner, have strong organizational skills, and be able to work under pressure in a healthcare setting. Opportunities for Certified Medical Assistants in the United States are plentiful and the work is great for people who like to keep moving and enjoy change. A Certified Nursing Assistant will typically have a route or routine they will follow when caring for their patients. Nursing Assistants work mostly with elderly patients, while Medical Assistants work with people from all walks of life, at all ages.

Ask yourself how you would like to spend your days: Do you want to work in a fast paced, fun and engaging environment where you can meet lots of people and learn a lot of new things on the fly? Or do you want to work in a slower environment where you see mostly the same people day in and day out? Certified Medical Assistants are likely to work in medical clinics of all shapes and sizes in a variety of disciplines, whereas Certified Nursing Assistants tend to work in geriatric facilities.

Whatever career you choose, make sure it is the right choice for you. Finding happiness in your career is important, and having all the information before you make a choice is the right way to go!

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