What Is the Difference Between a Medical Assistant and a Registered Nurse?

Two nurses conversing

Do you think you suffered an injury due to the negligence of a medical assistant or registered nurse? You could be owed compensation if their actions failed to meet an acceptable standard of care, causing you serious harm as a result.

It’s easy for patients to be confused about the differences between registered nurses and medical assistants. There are significant differences, though, in the required training for nurses and medical assistants, so it is vital to understand the distinctions.

Differences in Training Requirements

Training requirements for a nurse

Different types of nurses have different levels of education:

  • A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is typically required to complete a certificate program or an associate’s degree.
  • A registered nurse (RN) must have at least an associate’s degree, although a bachelor’s degree is often preferred by employers. RNs also must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to be licensed to practice. Some RNs may also earn board certification to specialize in certain areas of practice.
  • A nurse practitioner (NP) is a licensed RN who has further education and training. An NP must earn a master’s degree in nursing or maintain certification as an NP. Nurse practitioners who need to be able to prescribe medications must apply to the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (PLA).

In addition to education, licensing, and certifications, nurses often complete clinical training, giving them valuable experience in the field.

Training requirements for a medical assistant

Medical assistants (MA) require much less training than nurses. This might include on-the-job training or a certified program, which can range from nine months to two years. Associate degrees and certification courses for MAs are offered online and at traditional schools. Courses typically involve some basic medical education, as well as administrative training. Can a medical assistant transfer to nursing? This depends on the MA’s level of education – an associate degree might enable them to transfer, while lower certifications likely won’t qualify.

Medical assistants cost much less than nurses, so clinics often overuse these employees. This can lead to under-qualified medical staff providing patient care without proper training or authorization, which can have life-threatening consequences.

Differences in Patient Care

Both medical assistants and nurses can provide basic patient care. This might involve helping patients with daily activities like feeding, wound care, or hygiene, or providing patients with a clean environment by changing bed linens or disinfecting patient areas.

Patient care can also involve preparing patients for diagnostic procedures, obtaining patient histories, providing basic patient education, or administering medication. However, medical assistants can only provide care when a physician expressly directs them to do so, while nurses have training to write patient care plans.

Differences in Duties and Responsibilities

Medical assistants provide basic patient care and might perform administrative tasks, such as answering phones and scheduling appointments. However, they are required to work under the direct supervision of a licensed medical doctor or registered nurse.

Nurses work under their own license, which enables them to perform a wider range of duties than medical assistants. In addition to providing basic patient care, nurses can perform procedures, such as starting intravenous lines and administering advanced medications like chemotherapy. Nurses might also specialize in areas like oncology or labor and delivery.

Need Legal Advice? Contact Us Now

If you suffered harm due to malpractice on the part of a medical assistant or registered nurse, it’s critical to consult with a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney. With over 15 years of experience, the compassionate Indiana injury lawyer at the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson know how to handle these complex claims to fight for the justice and compensation you deserve.

Our medical malpractice attorney is available to review your case and answer your questions today. Contact us at 833-4MEDMAL, chat live, or fill out an online contact form for a free case evaluation.

Injured patients and their families need solid legal guidance after a serious medical error. At the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson, we listen attentively to our clients’ questions and concerns. Our goal is to help them move forward after devastating, even fatal medical errors.