Thursday, Oct 21 2021 | Updated at 10:19 AM EDT

Stay Connected With Us F T R

Apr 20, 2020 10:08 AM EDT

Medical Assistant vs CNA


Medical Assistant vs CNA

(Photo : Medical Assistant vs CNA )

Whether you are looking for a career change or you are just generally interested in the differences between a medical assistant and a certified nurse assistant (CNA) it is helpful to know the difference. Some people use the phrase interchangeably, when in fact medical assistants and CNA's are two very different roles, but what are the key differences?

What Is A Medical Assistant?

For some people, job diversity is important and medical assistants have this. Medical assistants often move between direct patient contact and office-based administration work. Medical assistants are often more commonly placed in clinical settings such as physicians' offices as well as hospitals. A medical assistant's role comes with different responsibilities to that of a certified nursing assistants role as well as what certified nursing assistants do on a daily basis. You may find that the MA at your local surgery will collect patient's information, find medical records and other administrative tasks, as well as administering injections, checking vital signs and other basic medical needs. 

What Is A CNA?

A certified nursing assistant's role will often be found in an array of health care facilities, but their administration burden is far less than a medical assistant. A CNA's role will focus on providing long term care to an array of patients that are suffering from an array of conditions. Basic duties for CNA's can include bathing and dressing patients, helping patients to eat their meals, transferring them from their beds to wheelchairs and vice versa. CNA's can also be responsible for checking patients' vital signs and reporting back to nurses and other medical staff in relation to the health of their patients. 

Working Environments

Medical assistants will often have jobs in busy hospitals or other medical facilities that provide an array of care for an array of conditions. From acute injuries through to colds and flu at the local physician's office, this is in contrast to where CNA's work, as most of their roles is located in nursing homes or residential settings where patients need round the clock care. CNA's working life will also differ from a medical assistant as their care and skills are required round the clock, especially in nursing homes. Therefore, they will be working overnight shifts, public holidays as well as weekends. 


Between the two roles there are a lot of transferable skills that can be used across both, such as vital signs measurement, organisation and time management. However, a medical assistant needs to have more medical knowledge than a CNA as they can also complete Electrocardiograms (EKG's) and CPR, these are both skills that CNA's don't require in their role. However, to be a CNA you are required to be physically fit as you will be lifting people off beds, dressing people as well as helping them bathe. CNA's will benefit from having exceptionally strong communication skills to help the team work more cohesively. MA's will benefit from being very analytical to ensure that all medical details and charts are completed accurately. 

Educational Requirements 

Even though you will be working with patients, thankfully you don't need to complete a 4 year degree to be able to work within this field in these particular jobs. To become an medical assistant you can take a 12 month course that gives you a good understanding of anatomy and a good understanding of health care to get you on the road to your new career. As the name suggests for certified nursing assistant, you need to be certified before you can begin work in your field. You can do this through your local government agency that will provide you with a course that will cover all the basics of patient care, regulations and guidelines that you must follow. Once you have completed this course and gained your certification, you need to get clinical experience then you are away!

Final Thoughts

The job titles of Medical Assistant and Certified Nursing Assistant are not interchangeable as both fulfil very different but important roles in the health service. The key difference between the roles is that CNA's provide long term care to patients that are in nursing homes or other types of residential care where they need round the clock attention. Medical assistants are more commonly found in hospital or other health facility locations and split their time between seeing patients and completing patient's administration or other administrative duties. Both roles are fundamental in helping care remain at high level and ensuring that patients get treated with respect and dignity, regardless of the setting. 

See Now: Facebook will use AI to detect users with suicidal thoughts and prevent suicide

© 2017 University Herald, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Join the Conversation

Get Our FREE Newsletters

Stay Connected With Us F T R

Real Time Analytics