Medical Assistants and Certified Nursing Assistants Part of the Health Care Community

The medical field is complex. Many individuals are working to deliver one common goal, quality care with the best possible outcome for patients. Each professional has a role to play in this very large system. When they all come together and deliver their piece, great things happen. Two of the basic roles in this system are Certified Medical Assistants and Certified Nursing Assistants.

Medical Assistants

Medical Assistants are the base of patient care. In many offices, these professionals will be the first contact with the patient after the receptionist. They set the stage and gather the initial information. This may include initial patient information such as history, weight and vital signs. This step provides health care practitioners the very first information they need in understanding the concern of the patient and providing treatment.

After examination and a decision on treatment, the Medical Assistant may further assist. The scope of duties may depend on the specific state, but in most, it includes performing injections of medications, obtaining culture samples by swabbing or performing finger sticks to obtain blood samples. Each state has a board governing medical practice, which can provide the specifics for that state.

At the end of the visit, Medical Assistants commonly confirm that the patient understand treatment directions and checks to see if there are any more questions. This step is very important in confirming that the unanswered questions don’t linger. In addition to working in the exam and treatment rooms, some Medical Assistants provide additional front office duties, including scheduling, working as referral specialists or managing medical records systems.


Not all Medical Assistants are certified, as it is possible to obtain adequate training and work as a Medical Assistant without certification. However, certification offers rigor and quality control to the profession. Anyone entering the field should seriously consider pursuing certification. The basics of certification include graduating from a program recognized by professional boards. This educational program includes a hands-on practicum. After graduation, certification can be obtained through testing. The test is a two hundred question exam and is quality controlled.

The National Board of Medical Examiners assists the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) in assuring quality of testing. After being awarded certification, the Certified Medical Assistant must maintain certification by a routine schedule of continuing education, which must be performed on a five year cycle. 

Certified Nursing Assistants Certified

Nursing Assistants are primarily responsible for the bodily care and comfort of patients. This includes cleaning, turning, providing clean linens and similar tasks. Their role also brings them into close and frequent contact with patients, which allows them to understand how a patient may be feeling. This information, passed to nursing staff, is very important in patient care.

1. Nursing Assistants work where patients are.

This includes hospitals, nursing homes, and similar care facilities. The professional status of Nursing Assistants varies by state requirements. All states require some level of oversight for Nursing Assistants to work in retirement homes. Depending on the state, this may be Certified, Register or Licensed. While these terms may have slightly different legal meanings, the bottom line is that to work as a Nursing Assistant some level of authority must be granted by an appropriate oversight body, such as the American Red Cross. Working as a Nursing Assistant is demanding.

2. The hours can be long.

The patient load is normally excessive. The work is physical, and the contact can also be emotionally impactful as CNAs are commonly interacting with patients who are not well, with a poor prognosis for improvement. Because of these realities, Nursing Assistants must have a good work ethic and a positive attitude. Turnover is high in the profession but often for a very positive reason. Many CNAs use the steady work and contact with the medical industry as an opportunity to advance into other allied health professions. This job has served many as a gateway into professional nursing with CNAs obtaining the need education to become Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and even Registered Nurses (RN) while working as CNAs.

Demand and Career Prospects for Nursing Assistant and Medical Assistants.

Simply put, work is available. There is no prospect of an oversupply of workers in either of these fields. Nursing Assistant salaries are above minimum wage but not greatly. Overtime is common, as is the prospect of working for multiple employers at the same time, if desired.

The challenge in working as a Nursing Assistant is to think in term of career development, to have a plan to advance into nursing or another allied medical profession. Doing this requires long term thinking, which includes leaving enough time and energy to do the academic work necessary to advance. Medical Assistants are also in great demand across the country.

They typically have less physically demanding workloads when compared to Nursing Assistants, and the salaries tend to be higher. Many Medical Assistants are satisfied working in the field for the long term. However, the same pathways to advancement that exist for CNAs are available for Medical Assistants. The fundamental goal of both CNAs and Medical Assistants is to help those in need.

To be successful in these fields, your personal values must be aligned with this goal. If it is, these can be careers that an individual can start quickly and also continue to develop and grow, at a pace that fits your total life.

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