You have probably stumbled across the titles CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and CMA (Certified Medical Assistant) if you have ever looked into a career in the medical field, had a friend/family member who has spent time in a hospital, or spent time in the hospital yourself. There are numerous positions in hospitals and nursing homes, and keeping them all straight can be a difficult task. Most people can tell you the difference between an RN (Registered Nurse) and a CNA, but differentiating between a CNA and a CMA can be a little trickier.
What are the primary differences between a CNA and a CMA? Despite the similarity in name, there are actually many differences between these two positions, starting with training. A CNA has to complete 75 hours of training before taking their certification test. The CMA, on the other hand, has to complete a one year certification degree or a two year associate degree in order to work in the field. As expected, the difference in training means a difference in pay. The average CNA makes between $25,000 and $30,000 per year, whereas the average CMA makes between $30,000 and $35,000 per year, an increase of 20-40%.
The differences only continue from there. While the duties of the two positions may overlap at times, the actual responsibilities are quite different. A CNA is responsible for working directly with patients. The CNA’s tasks will include assisting patients with ADLs (Activities of Daily Living – in medical lingo), bathing patients, making beds, following turn schedules (turning immobile patients in their beds to reduce ulcers), reporting any abnormalities to nurses, and numerous other tasks involved in direct patient care. CNAs do not administer any prescription medications and make very few autonomous decisions; everything they do is overseen by a nurse on duty. CNAs can mostly be found in nursing homes or in hospitals working under a nurse.
The CMA involves much less direct patient care. The CMA’s primary responsibilities are patient assessment such as obtaining medical history, medication, and allergy information, doing a physical exam, and checking vital signs. The CMA prepares the patients for the doctor, performs clerical duties, cleans and sanitizes exam rooms and equipment, and also stocks rooms with supplies and equipment. CMAs most commonly work in a physician’s clinic or urgent care centers.
Do not let the similarity in name fool you, these two positions have distinct differences. The next time you are confused about the difference between these two positions, just remember the difference in responsibilities: the CNA involves direct patient care, the CMA does not. Also remember the CNA works directly under a nurse, the CMA works under a physician or other medical doctor.