Medical Assisting as a Pathway to Nursing

Written by NS StaffJuly 30, 2011
Medical Assistant

People looking forward to a career in nursing might first consider working as a medical assistant as a way of learning more about the medical field and for the practical experience. Medical Assistants learn a very valuable skill set that can be applied toward an eventual career as a nurse, and if you think nursing may be the right career for you, the lessons learned as a medical assistant can go a long way toward helping you achieve this goal.

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Medical Assistantship, along with nursing, is one of the fastest-growing career fields in the country. There are two basic types of medical assistants: administrative and clinical. Both work primarily in physician's offices: administrative assistants are trained to work in the front office as receptionists, and receive training in the financial and insurance aspects of a physician's office, while clinical medical assistants assist doctors with patients, obtaining vital signs and a brief medical history for the doctor, as well as assisting the physician with minor medical procedures.

Medical assistants are an important part of the evolving health-care community. This field is fast-growing because the services that medical assistants provide are in more demand now than ever before. Many medical assistants make the transition to becoming nurses by earning a degree after gaining significant on the job experience as a medical assistant. The skills that medical assistants develop, both in terms of their responsibilities as a physician's assistant, and in communicating with patients, are traits that translate well to a successful career in nursing.

Alongside becoming a medical assistant, there are a couple of other excellent ways to achieve your goal of becoming an RN:

  1. Become a Certified Nursing Assistant/Aide (CNA)
  2. Train as a Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN).

To become a CNA, you first need a high-school diploma or GED. In addition, you'll need to pass your state's approved CNA training program, the coursework for which falls between 75 and 150 hours depending on where you live (you can get hired some places as a CNA without finishing the training program, so long as you become certified within four months of being hired). A CNA's responsibilities will vary depending on the environment in which you work (nursing home, etc.), and if you're looking at a career as a nurse down the road this is a good way to gain some practical experience. To become a nurse, you'll have to go on to earn a more advanced degree, and your work as a CNA can help to strengthen your applications when you're ready to make that step.

LPN/LVNs usually have a year's worth of schooling at the vocational level or junior college. They typically have more advanced skills than a nursing assistant, and most often they will work directly under the supervision of an RN or a physician. Work as an LPN/LVN is an excellent stepping stone to a career as a full-blown RN: while LPN/LVNs can't perform some of the same tasks as RNs, the practical experience gained and on-the-job benefits will come in handy when applying and studying for the more advanced degree required to become a registered nurse.

See a list of schools/colleges offering nursing programs

Learn More About Your Future Career as a Nurse:

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Typical Career Path
Medical Assisting as a Pathway to Nursing
Profile of a Nurse
Nursing as Compared to Doctoring
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