I have often wondered if I should have been a registered nurse instead of a Certified Medical Assistant. But after much reading and calculating, I decided I had made the right choice. The decision to become a medical assistant was based on several key items.

Certified Medical Assistant vs Nursing Assistant

  • Medical assistant training is geared more toward the medical office, while in my opinion, nursing is geared more toward a hospital setting.
  • There is more one on one time with your patient in an office environment. In the hospital environment, people are in and out. In a Dr.’s office, you see the same people on a regular basis.
  • You are trained to give injections, perform lab work, wound care and blood draws among other duties as a medical assistant.  A nurse performs these tasks as well as starting IVs. The responsibility of a nurse is a little more in depth than a Certified Medical Assistant. They are responsible for around the clock care in the hospital setting.
  • You can finish the CMA course in 2 years. I finished the course in 1 ½ years. My credits transferred from my undergraduate courses. The Nursing course can be finished in 2 years; however, you do have to complete needed base courses to apply for the nursing program. There is several clinicals you will have to do during this course of training.  The CMA only needs to do one externship, which often leads to employment with the place you are at.
  • Salary was compatible with others in the area. I was satisfied with my salary as a CMA. I was fortunate enough to work for a pediatrician in a larger city. The pay was wonderful. Most CMA’s do not start out at the rate I did. However, I did oversee the clinical section of our office. Registered nurses do make quite a bit more than CMAs, but it also entails long hours and different shifts. The advantage to nursing salary is you will always find a job opening. There are many hospitals and other areas to work in.

Medical assistants and nurses have one goal in common. Follow directions and prevent the spread of bacteria which leads to unnecessary infections.

Comparison with Other Medical Fields

I admire the nursing industry. They are a dedicated staff geared toward hospital settings. They do work long hours with few breaks. The nurses can work in most of the healthcare fields offered.

I have found that most medical offices prefer to hire the CMAs instead of Registered Nurses because of the salary difference. There are other titles in the healthcare field to compare with medical assisting also. I will explain the difference in each one as compared to the Certified Medical Assistant.

  • CNA – Certified Nursing Assistant. The CNA is responsible for taking care of the patient’s bodily needs. CNAs work in Nursing Homes, Assisted Living and hospitals. They take care of cleaning the patient, changing sheets, walking the patient, taking vitals, and recording info. However, they do not give injections or administer medicine. Salaries are less than that of a CMA. The program for a CNA is 6 weeks. You then work 75 hours and take a competency test. You must work to keep your certification current.
  • LPN – Licensed Practical Nurse. LPNs work in the hospital and doctor’s offices. They perform all duties a CMA performs. However, LPNs can start an IV, where CMAs cannot. Their training is close in comparison to that of a medical assistant. The LPN program can be finished in one year after your base courses are fulfilled.
  • LVN – Licensed Vocational Nurse. The only difference in a LPN and a LVN is the name. The title LVN is used in some states instead of the LPN. Salaries are usually compatible. The program would be the same as the LPN.
  • RMA – Registered Medical Assistant. There is a difference in the RMA and the CMA. The CMA is registered with the American Association of Medical Assistants. The RMA is registered with the American Medical Technologist
  • The RMA renews every year in October. The AAMA renews every 5 years according to the date you took the exam. The exams differ also. The AAMA exam is more in depth with all aspects of the medical office. The RMA exam is less in depth without certain aspects of the medical office.
  • Medical Assistant – You can work without being a CMA or a RMA.  The doctors and hospitals do prefer that you are certified or registered due to their liability insurance. Most coverage requires medical assistants or nurses to have certification or license to work in the healthcare field.

How Do I Become a Medical Assistant?

The first thing to do is find a school that is accredited by Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education School (ABHES).  If you have ever been convicted of a felony, you are not eligible to enroll in the course.

Once enrolled you will work toward and Associate of Science degree, which is a 2- year program. You will train in courses of:

  • anatomy, physiology and pathology
  • medical terminology
  • business
  • insurance coding and billing
  • lab techniques
  • clinical and diagnostic procedures
  • pharmacology
  • first aide, CPR
  • office practices
  • patient relations
  • medical law and ethics

After completing these courses, you will do an outside externship with a doctor or office of your choice. You will be overseen by the head of your department while performing the externship. 

When finished, you will apply to take the test for certification.  The test is usually $95.00 for a student and $150.00 for non-student.  The test will be set for a future date. You need to study and brush-up on all that was learned. The test can be hard for some people. You have 5 hours in which to complete. Do not second guess yourself.

Honoring Your Title

Being a Certified Medical Assistant allows you to sign your name as a CMA. Do not call yourself a nurse. That is a no-no. You will be performing an illegal act if you call yourself a nurse or sign your title as RN. Some offices will refer to you as their nurse. You need to tell them you are a CMA.

Liability is not there if you misuse your title for any reason. Lawsuits can evolve from misleading statements. It can confuse the patients if you call yourself both. Do not disrespect the nursing population by claiming to be something that you are not. Wear your title proudly, you earned it.

Helpful Resources

Whether you are a CMA, Registered Nurse or RMA, you will need to keep up with the associations that you are a member of. The CMA, as stated earlier, would look to the American Association of Medical Assistants. At this website, you can keep up with CEUs and renew your certification. As a member, you will receive a monthly magazine dedicated to CMAs.

If you are a Registered Nurse, you will answer to the Board of Nursing, which each state has. You will do CEUs yearly and turn in to renew license. There is a National Council of State Boards of Nursing which handles all boards and regulations.

If you are a RMA, you will be in touch with American Medical Technologies. You will need to keep your certification up to date by completing 30 CEUs every 3 years. Pay your annual fees yearly to stay a member of the American Medical Technologies.

The Choice is Yours

The focus of this article is to decide the right career for you. There are several you can choose from. The career you choose is a dedicated career. It is held in high esteem. No matter which one it is, they all help people. Being a healthcare worker is gratifying to all who decide to work in it. The healthcare industry is one of the most versatile. If you train in one area, but would like to train in another, the field is open for you. You can be a CMA, RMA or RN. These opportunities are waiting for the right person to choose it.

The stability is great. You can always count on finding a job in the healthcare field. Salaries differ in each area of the field. Choose the one best for you.

Most employers do offer great benefits at a fraction of the cost you would otherwise pay. This helps in times of need. Some of us do not carry insurance unless we are working. It is necessary in this day and time.

You will work with many different types of patients. Diversity is all around you. You learn to treat people the way you want to be treated, no matter what culture.

Most of the areas you work in are a fast-paced job. You do not have to sit and wait for quitting time. The day goes by fast and you are ready to tackle it again the next day.

No matter which area you choose, you will be an accomplishment in that field.

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