Medical Assisting Students Analyze Three Distinct Medical Fields: MA, LPN, RN

Posted by on October 8, 2012

By Lindsay DesLauriers

I tend to have many people ask me about the differences between certain medical careers,  specifically, medical assistants (MA), licensed practical nurses (LPN), and registered nurses (RN).  As part of medical assistants final class, they researched the differences between the three and below is a compilation of some of those standout differences.  All three professions are projected to grow substantially within the upcoming years but there are some vast differences that one should consider when entering the very rewarding and challenging health care field.



MA Facts:

  • Poses a diploma or associates degree in medical assisting
  • Most employers prefer certification through the AAMA (American Association of Medical Assistants)
  • Hours vary but typical physician office hours are 8-5
  • Growth is 31% faster than average
  • Most MA’s work in physician offices with some in other health care facilities
  • Duties vary by state and specialty.  There are clinical and administrative duties
  • Take patient history and measure vital signs
  • Help the physician with patient examinations and minor surgeries
  • Give patient injections as directed by the physician
  • Schedule patient appointments, billing and insurance
  • Urinalysis and other laboratory tests
  • Phlebotomy (drawing blood)
  • X-Rays

RN Facts:

  • Poses either an associates or bachelors (although most organizations require a bachelors in nursing (BSN)
  • Growth is 26%, faster than average
  • Hours are rotating, typically 12 hour shifts, to accommodate the entire day.
  • RN’s can work in hospitals, physicians offices, nursing home facilities, or home care facilities
  • Record patients’ medical histories and symptoms
  • Give patients medicines and treatments
  • Set up plans for patients’ care or contribute to existing plans
  • Observe patients and record the observations
  • Consult with doctors and other healthcare professionals
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment
  • Help perform diagnostic tests and analyze results
  • Teach patients and their families how to manage their illnesses or injuries
  • Explain what to do at home after treatment

LPN Facts:

  • Poses an associate’s degree
  • Growth is 22%, which is faster than average
  • LPN’s can work in nursing care facilities, general medical and surgical hospitals, physician offices, or home health care services
  • The majority of duties can vary from state to state
  • Monitor patients’ health—for example, by checking their blood pressure
  • Administer basic nursing care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters
  • Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as helping them bathe or dress
  • Discuss health care with patients and listen to their concerns
  • Report patients’ status to registered nurses and doctors
  • Keep records on patients’ health

No matter the path one chooses in healthcare, it will grow and be a lifelong, fulfilling career.  One must consider all options when choosing an institution to facilitate their education.


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