A "board-approved certified nursing training program" is a mouthful, but it means the education of a certified nursing assistant, a title that can also simply be condensed to CNA. CNAs are support members of a medical team -- a type of medical assistant. The two occupations share several similarities and are both opportunities for someone interested in exploring a career in health without devoting a great deal of time to training. They also have several key differences.
While registered nurses and doctors manage a patients' medical condition, CNAs do all the things you do if you're looking after sick loved ones: bathe them, feed them, help them walk, help them turn over in bed, brush their hair and listen to their needs. In short, CNAs provide that basic, hands-on care ill or elderly patients desperately need. They can also handle basic medical tasks, such as taking vital signs.
CMAs are responsible for a bit more than CNAs. While they can perform all the duties listed above, they can also assist physicians with examinations, take blood samples and prepare them for testing, administer injections, remove sutures and authorize prescription refills. You can also find them in the office taking care of clerical tasks, such as maintaining patient files, making appointments and handling billing. Where a CMA works is going to affect her duties, too; if she works for a podiatrist, she'll probably find herself making casts of patients' feet.
The educational investments here are pretty minimal, but they aren't identical. CNAs have to be certified and must attend an accredited course, available at community and technical colleges and the American Red Cross, to do so. Courses last anywhere from several weeks to a few months. Medical assistants don't have to be certified at all. In fact, they can go to work and learn their skills on the job, but employers prefer hiring assistants who have completed a course, usually approximately one year long, and have earned certification. There are two-year courses, too, but if you're going to invest that length of time, getting an associate degree in nursing instead could lead to a higher salary.
Sometimes, when it's all said and done, it's all about the money. The quite natural answer is the more responsibility you have in the health care profession, the more money you'll earn. In 2012, CNAs brought home $24,420 a year on average -- approximately $11.74 an hour. CMAs, on the other hand, averaged $29,370 a year, or $14.12 an hour. What you ultimately choose should be what best suits your personality and needs. Going for the CNA position may mean you prefer providing hands-on comfort, while going for the CMA position may mean you prefer being more involved in medicine and decision-making.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Nursing Assistants and Orderlies: Summary
- American Association of Medical Assistants: What Is a Medical Assistant?
- O*Net Online: Summary Report for Nursing Assistants
- O*Net Online: Summary Report for Medical Assistants
- American Red Cross: Nurse Assistant Training and Caregiving Classes
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses: Summary
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