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What Is the Difference Between an MA and an LPN?

If you are considering a career in healthcare where you get to interact with patients and provide care and support, two popular career paths are MAs (medical assistants) and LPNs (licensed practical nurses).

People are often confused about the responsibilities and roles MAs and LPNs serve and provide, which is understandable because there is some overlapping of job responsibilities and duties. To help you decide what career path would be better for you, let’s take a look at what each job entails in greater detail.

Medical Professional

Similarities Between MAs and LPNs

Both LPNs and MAs require the appropriate career training at an approved nursing school or medical assistant training school in New York, like ABC Training Center.

Upon completing career training, MAs and LPNs typically work under and alongside RNs (registered nurses) and physicians in a variety of medical settings.

Both medical professionals are trained to perform similar job functions including:

  • Educating Patients
  • Taking Patients Vitals
  • Collecting Lab Samples
  • Assisting Patients with Filling Out Their Information Forms
  • Administering Vaccinations and Medications
  • Assisting Physicians During Minor Outpatient Surgeries

It is due to these similarities people mistakenly assume MAs and LPNs are essentially the same types of healthcare career. However, both MAs and LPNs have specific job functions, which makes the careers different.

Medical Assistant (MA) Differences

MAs not only complete clinical coursework and training but, also, administrative office classes. These classes allow an MA to work in both the front office—providing patient care—and the back office—performing administrative tasks, like patient billing, filing, general accounting, recordkeeping, and so on.

The best medical assistant schools in NYC, like here at ABC Training, offer weekday and weekend programs so you can complete your career training in a year or less.

Another key difference is that several of the clinical courses focus on providing emergency and ambulatory care services. As such, MAs tend to be more qualified to work in emergency rooms.

Medical Assistant and Patient

Additionally, MAs do not earn a license. Rather, they take a certification exam. Being certified means the medical assistant is not able to practice under their own license, like an LPN. Instead, they practice under another licensed medical professional, like an RN or a doctor, who must agree to allow the medical assistant to practice under their license.

As a result, this can limit the number of settings an MA can work in, to only private facilities, not those that are fully state-funded facilities.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Differences

LPN career training tends to focus more on clinical studies with minimal attention given to administrative training. They do have to learn how to record vital signs, fill out patients’ records, and other forms directly related to the care of the patient, which is often the extent of their administrative training.

LPN career training programs in NYC can take a year or longer to complete, not counting passing the state licensing exam. Since career training is more focused on patient care, LPNs typically work in hospitals and clinical care facilities where ambulatory or emergency room care is not required.

LPNs also receive training on how to administer fluids via intravenous lines, while most MAs do not receive this training due to state regulations.

Licensed Practical Nurse at Work

Furthermore, LPNs must take a licensing exam. Having this license allows them to practice on their own and does not require working under another licensed professional. It does give them a little more flexibility with career opportunities in fully state-funded healthcare facilities.

However, being licensed also means you can be required to carry malpractice insurance, either through your employer or on your own.

Which Career Path Is Best for You?

To help you determine what career path is best for you, the easiest way is to think about what type of healthcare setting you would enjoy working in and the types of job functions you want to perform.

If you want to work in an emergency room or provide ambulatory care, then an MA career path would be better. On the other hand, if you want to have more direct contact with patients in a clinical setting and be more “hands on,” then an LPN career path may be better, since most clinical MAs perform more administrative functions, like greeting patients, scheduling appointments, and back office duties.

Initially, many LPNs begin their careers as MAs and then go on to complete further career training required to become an LPN. It can also be beneficial to talk to a practicing MA and an LPN to find out exactly what job functions and duties they perform to help you make your decision.

If you are ready to start your medical assistant training or have further questions about the differences between an MA and an LPN, please feel free to contact ABC Training Center at (718) 618-5589 today!