Comparing Medical Assistants and Nurses

A nurse and a medical assistant may sound like two different names for the same job, but their roles are very different. Even their job descriptions may include some of the same things: handling tasks that doctors do not and helping to make sure everything goes smoothly. However, there are many differences between the two that the average person may not immediately recognize or understand.

If you’re considering pursuing an education and career in healthcare, then it’s important to know what sets each job apart from the other, as the role of each tends to differ considerably. Both are important for a healthcare facility to operate, which makes it essential that nurses and medical assistants both perform their specific tasks well.

What is a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant, also called a clinical assistant or healthcare assistant, can take on a variety of tasks each day. These jobs typically include both administrative and clinical duties, and as a result, a medical assistant often works with many staff members to get their work done. Some of their responsibilities may include:

  • Lab work, such as collecting and preparing specimens and performing lab tests.
  • Billing, coding, bookkeeping, and collecting medical records.
  • Caring for patients by explaining procedures, preparing them for exams, supplying medicine, and helping the doctor perform the exams. Typically, though, these duties require a doctor’s supervision.

Ultimately, medical assistants help with miscellaneous day-to-day tasks a hospital or clinic wants to run smoothly. With their numerous roles, a medical assistant should understand enough about healthcare to perform various duties in healthcare. , 

As a result, medical assistants typically have  a certain amount of  healthcare training, and this training can come from a variety of sources. While other staff members may require more education due to their more specialized roles, the training a medical assistant goes through should not be underestimated.

Some common ways a medical assistant might get their education are:

  • A training program, with length varying depending on the program itself.
  • Traditional or online education to receive an associate degree, diploma or certificate.
  • On-the-job training.

A well-trained medical assistant should be someone the staff and patients can trust to help with general tasks. They help by  handling the important work they are responsible for. This reality demonstrates the importance of properly training medical assistants, as their role is in making sure patients are properly cared for.

What is a Nurse?

“Nurse” can actually describe a variety of different roles, as there are several types of nurses, each with different training requirements and tasks. What nurses have in common, however, is that they’re primarily focused on caring for patients, and have a wide array of duties they can perform.

Most of a nurse’s responsibilities revolve around patient care, such as:

  • Monitoring vitals.
  • Administering medicines and vaccinations.
  • Educating patients about their situation, such as managing their illness or what treatments they can receive.
  • Recording medical history.
  • Recording patient symptoms.
  • Performing tests and evaluating the results.
  • Advocating for patient care and well-being.

Nurses can also perform administrative tasks, such as scheduling and patient charting. . Because a nurse is licensed to care for patients, they perform more clinical  tasks than a medical assistant can under the orders of a physician.

As such, a nurse must go through a longer period of training – and with different types of nurses come different educational requirements. In general, a registered nurse has to have at least an associate degree and may be expected to obtain a bachelor’s. Additionally, a nurse must pass their license exam, as administered by the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses. This licensing process also comes with a background check. Once a nurse has their degree and license, they can officially start working. This isn’t where it always ends, however. Nurse practitioners require even more education and training, such as an advanced certification or a master’s degree. Achieving this allows them even greater medical responsibilities and more duties to perform.

Proper education and training are must-haves for nurses because they’re so close to patients. Nurses fill important roles in clinics and hospitals, providing important work for the doctor  and taking care of patients on a personal level.

Nurses and medical assistants are both important roles that allow healthcare facilities to run properly, and it’s no surprise that both require proper education first. If you’re looking to become a medical assistant, McCann School of Business and Technology can help. Begin your education with a specialized trades school program that helps prepare you for a bright career as a medical assistant.


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