The United States Department of Labor estimates certified medical assisting (CMA) careers to grow by 34% through 2016; certified nursing assistant (CNA) careers are expected to grow by 18%. Despite the differences in job growth rates, both tend to be popular allied healthcare careers. Both professions are currently in high demand. Though exact job vacancies for both may be difficult to determine, many factors play a role in how many CMA and CNA jobs are available around the country.
Though both medical assistant and certified nursing assistant are allied health professionals, their roles are very different. Medical assistants are specially trained to work in ambulatory care settings like clinics and outpatient surgery centers. CMAs may work directly with a physician and provide clinical patient care like surgical assisting and medication administration. They may also perform administrative duties such as setting appointments and keeping medical records.
Certified nursing assistants specialize in hospital care, assisted living and long-term care environments. CNAs often help elderly and infirm patients with personal hygiene tasks like bathing and dressing, assist with feeding, record keeping and housekeeping duties.
Though some job duties overlap between the two professions, CNAs and CMAs are not interchangeable. State laws often prevent medical assistants from working in resident care facilities. Likewise, certified nursing assistants often cannot cross-over into clinical medical assisting without seeking additional training.
Medical Assisting Factors
Though medical assisting has certainly grown by leaps and bounds, not all medical centers hire them. Medical assistants may have a harder time finding a job in areas that don’t yet utilize CMAs to their full potential. Some health systems may employ a registered nurse and physician team or rely on licensed practical nurses to fulfill clinical duties. Other may not have protocols that allow medical assistants to practice. Regions with clinics that don’t utilize CMAs may have more jobs available for nursing assistants in hospitals and nursing homes.
Regional areas with large teaching hospitals and multi-specialty clinics may offer the greatest employment opportunities for certified medical assistants. Alternately, rural and small-town clinics may find it more cost-effective to utilize medical assistants over nurses for clinical duties.
Medical assistants are often satisfied with their jobs and may stay with their employer longer. A low turn-over rate can equate to fewer medical assisting jobs in areas without multiple medical facilities. Most medical assistants work in primary care, according the United States Department of Labor. Wide-spread focus on preventative medicine, well-visits and increasing primary care centers will help fuel growth of the medical assisting profession and more job opportunities across the country.
Nursing Assistant Factors
- A boom in the aging population and longer life spans has created a need for more care facilities that offer elder care. In turn, nursing care facilities throughout the country have created many new job opportunities for certified nursing assistants to help meet the elder care demand. The growth of hospital-based jobs may be slower compared to those found in long-term care facilities due to lack of government funding for hospitals and low insurance reimbursements. CNAs may find abundant employment opportunities in home health care as more people opt to recover from surgery or illness at home rather than a hospital.
- Working as a certified nursing assistant can be taxing. It is a physical job that requires frequent lifting and moving of patients. Dealing with the daily needs of the elderly, like bathing, toileting and feeding can by trying—more so if patients have medical conditions, like dementia, which make them aggressive or combative.
- CNAs may not earn an adequate salary to compensate for the demands of the job. Combined, these factors contribute to a high turn-over rate for the profession. People may leave to work for another facility, to pursue higher education or leave the profession altogether. Facilities that lose CNAs must replace them, and continual or frequent job opportunities for nursing assistants may be available.
Which is Better?
Though it is hard to determine which career offers more immediate employment openings, both have great potential for years to come. People will always need healthcare services and as they get older, long-term care as well. When choosing one career over the other, consider duties of each, compensation and long-term prospects of the job. Research your area to see what the employment opportunities are for both professions to help make your decision easier.