Considering a Career in Healthcare? Understand the Difference Between a Medical Assistant and a Nurse Aide

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Choosing a career path in healthcare can be overwhelming, especially with so many options to choose from. In addition to nurses and doctors, there are other professionals who are dedicated to the care of patients and their health, such as medical assistants and nurse aides.

Although both positions have similar goals, their day-to-day duties, educational requirements, and career outlooks vary widely depending on what kind of healthcare setting you want to work in. Read on to learn more about the key differences between medical assistants and nurse aides, so you can decide which career path best fits your interests and goals.

What Is a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants are trained professionals who provide a wide range of care for patients in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. They perform administrative tasks such as

  •  Scheduling appointments
  • Keeping track of patient record
  • Answering phones and making phone calls
  • Organizing medical supplies and equipment
  • Preparing patient charts and reports
  • Filing paperwork and doing other light clerical work.

The exact duties they perform depend on the size of the facility and how much experience they have.

Medical assistants are hired by doctors or other health professionals to help with administrative tasks like scheduling appointments and keeping track of patient records. They also help out with medical procedures such as preparing medications for injections, writing prescriptions, taking vital signs, and performing basic lab tests. They may be asked to perform more advanced tasks such as operating equipment used in patient care, such as x-ray machines, ultrasound machines, and MRI scanners.

What Is a Nurse Aide?

Nursing assistants, also called nurse aides, provide basic patient care under the supervision of licensed practical nurses and registered nurses. They work in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and home health agencies.

They are responsible for helping patients during their hospital stay and providing them with basic care. Also, they can help the patient’s family members or friends find out the information they need about their condition or treatment.

The duties and responsibilities that a nursing assistant performs on a daily basis can change depending on the type of care facility, but in general, they involve the following tasks:

  • Bathing patients
  • Preparing them for meals,
  • Helping them eat and drink safely
  • Carrying out daily tasks like getting dressed or using the toilet,
  • Making bedside calls to inform families about their loved one’s progress or condition,
  • Assisting with medication administration
  • The administration of IV fluids

Medical Assistant vs. Nurse Aide: How Do They Differ?

A male medical assistant or nurse aide checking on a patient’s vitals.

Nurse at the hospital checking the vitals of a hospitalized patient.

If you’re considering a career in healthcare, you may be wondering what the difference is between a medical assistant and a nurse aide. Both roles are important in providing patient care, but there are some key distinctions.

Job Description

A medical assistant is a multi-skilled professional who supports the work of physicians and other health professionals. They perform both clinical and administrative tasks in hospitals, clinics, and other health care settings. Nurse aides provide basic patient care under the supervision of licensed practical nurses or registered nurses. Duties include bathing, dressing, feeding, and transferring patients. Some may also be assigned to stand by as backup when needed. Aides are not allowed to administer medication or do invasive procedures.

Education, Licensing, and Certifications

Both positions require some level of education, but the amount and type of education differ. For example, a medical assistant typically must complete an accredited post-secondary medical assisting program, while a nurse aide may only need to complete a state-approved training program.

Although many states do not require medical assistants to hold licenses or qualifications, many employers favor employees who do. Before pursuing a certification, medical assistants often need to finish post-secondary school and accumulate some relevant job experience. Nursing assistants do not need licenses.

Work Environment

A medical assistant typically works in a doctor’s office, private healthcare facilities,  laboratories, or hospital. They might work at a reception desk or utilize stethoscopes, scales, syringes, and other tools in the treatment rooms. They frequently move back and forth between sitting and standing. The majority of medical assistants have full-time occupations, wherever they may work. While some healthcare professionals work the typical nine to five shifts, others might work evening or weekend shifts to serve their patients better.

Nurse aides usually work under the supervision of nurses or physicians in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes or hospices. Most of their work requires them to stand all the time, and they typically perform it in patients’ or treatment rooms. The majority of nursing assistants have regular full-time jobs. Many nursing assistants work in facilities that offer round-the-clock care, so some work during the day and others at night.

Pursue a Medical Assistant or a Nurse Aide Career With SCI

Medical administrative assistants and nurse aides are medical professionals who keep the system running behind the scenes. They are a valuable part of the health care team. Indeed, they’re needed in many different settings from hospitals to private practices. Medical assistant and nurse aide careers are a great fit for students who want to help people but don’t want to deal with the stress or long hours that come with being a doctor or a nurse.

Southern Careers Institute has been helping our students since 1960.  Whether you’re looking to gain entry-level skills in medical assisting or jumpstart a new career as a Nursing Aide, our trade school in Texas has the programs and the staff to help you every step of the way. We offer both on-campus training and online options for students interested in pursuing these two rewarding careers. We invite you to explore our website for more information about programs available at our campus locations and our online courses comparable to an associate’s degree. For more information about one of these programs, call us today at 1.833.SCI.TEXAS.

This article was published on: 10/20/22 12:47 PM

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