Medical Assistants and Certified Nursing Assistants may sound like the same thing, but while the jobs are similar, the options for advancement are different. If you want to become a nurse go for the CNA. Medical assistants do not provide bedside care, which is the main difference between the two jobs since the other responsibilities mostly the same. Medical assistants interact with the public, but Nursing assistants interact primarily with patients and RNs or LPNs. CNAs also care for patients’ hygiene, helping them bathe and cleaning bedpans among other responsibilities. Medical assistants cannot work in nursing homes or in home health care, however, certified nursing assistants can. Certified nursing assistants generally answer patients’ call signals, record patients’ food and liquid intake and output, monitor vital signs, clean rooms and change linens.
The median annual salary for a Certified Nursing Assistant is $26,630, although the top paid CNAs earn $35,377. Job security is good since there will be an increased demand for home health aides as the baby-boomer generation ages. While certification regulations vary by state, the National Association for Home Care offers national certification for home health aides. Opportunities for advancement are limited unless the Certified Nursing Assistant wants to pursue an Registered Nursing degree.
State approved training programs require 50 hours of theory and 100 hours of supervised clinical training, and aides who complete the programs qualify to be put on the State registry of nursing aides. Nurse aides must participate in 48 hours of continuing education classes every two years to maintain certification. Since the nurse aide’s job is to primarily help patients, the coursework is necessarily more hands-on. No book can teach how to help a 98 year old walk to the bathroom. Becoming a Certified Nursing Aid is not required to become a registered nurse, but the experience may be beneficial for those who wish to become nurses.
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