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News / Health February 5, 2024

Medical Assistant vs. CNA vs. LVN in California

February 5, 2024

Medical Assistant vs. CNA vs. LVN in California

Medical Assistant vs. CNA vs. LVN in California: What’s the Difference?

If you have a passion for helping people, you may be contemplating a career in healthcare. With numerous healthcare jobs to explore, it can be difficult to know which direction to go.

If you’re interested in starting out in patient care, here are a few healthcare careers you may want to consider:

While these jobs may have some overlapping duties, they are distinct in terms of their scope of duties and professional requirements. What follows are the differences between these three roles (medical assistant vs. CNA vs. LVN) to give aspiring healthcare professionals a better idea of which career path they may want to pursue.

What is a medical assistant?

Medical assistants are essential for helping healthcare offices and facilities run smoothly. These healthcare professionals are trained to perform both administrative duties and some clinical duties under the direction of a physician.

As outlined by the California Employment Development Department (EDD), common medical assistant duties in California include:

Administrative Duties:

Clinical Duties

Due to the administrative nature of their work, medical assistants can work in a diverse range of healthcare facilities such as hospitals, physician offices, outpatient centers, dental offices and more.

You can become a medical assistant in California after completing a formal medical assistant training program or after receiving training under the supervision of a licensed physician, podiatrist, registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, physician assistant or qualified medical assistant (i.e., a certified medical assistant) who is acting under the direction of a physician or podiatrist.

For a deeper dive into the role and career path of a medical assistant, check out our guide titledHow to Become a Medical Assistant in California.”

What is a certified nursing assistant (CNA)?

A certified nursing assistant is a healthcare professional who provides support and care for patients under the direction of licensed nurses. Unlike a medical assistant, a CNA’s job only consists of patient care duties, which includes activities of daily living (ADLs).

According to the California EDD, common nursing assistant duties in California include:

A few common work environments for CNAs include nursing care facilities, hospitals, patients’ homes (through home healthcare) and outpatient care centers.

To become a certified nursing assistant in California, you must complete a CNA program that is approved by the California Department of Public Health and pass a competency evaluation exam so you can become licensed. You will not be considered a CNA until after you pass your exam and complete your licensure application.

What is a licensed vocational nurse (LVN)?

A licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is an entry-level nurse who is able to provide care for patients under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN).

While an LVN performs a lot of the same tasks as a medical assistant or CNA, they are legally allowed to perform a broader scope of clinical duties. They are also allowed to supervise nursing assistants or aides.

Here are some common LVN duties in California, as defined by the California EDD:

LVNs work in various healthcare settings, including nursing care facilities, hospitals, continuing care retirement communities, outpatient care centers and other care facilities.

You can become licensed as an LVN in California after completing a state-approved vocational nursing diploma program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Nurses (NCLEX-PN) or the National League for Nursing Test Pool Practical Nursing Examination (NLN). Learn more about California’s LVN licensure. requirements.

Some nurses complete a diploma program and become an LVN and then later pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with the goal of becoming a registered nurse.

Check out our LVN vs. ADN post to learn more about these two different types of nursing programs.

Nursing Assistant vs. CNA vs. LVN Comparison Recap

If you’re looking for more variety in your job function and are interested in performing administrative tasks in addition to clinical tasks, a job as a medical assistant might be right for you. In contrast, a CNA or LVN position would be a better fit for someone who is solely interested in caring for patients.

A certified nursing assistant role is great for someone who wants to jump right into hands-on patient care. Meanwhile, a licensed vocational nurse role may be ideal for someone who wants more extensive clinical responsibilities as well as greater involvement in planning and coordinating patient care.

Whichever profession you choose, you will be playing an important role in keeping your healthcare organization running efficiently and providing patients with the care and support they need.

Getting Started with a Healthcare Training Program

It doesn’t need to take an extensive amount of time to achieve your healthcare career goals. Most medical assistant and LVN programs can be completed within one to two years and some programs (depending on where they are offered) are shorter than others.

Though the length of a CNA certification program varies based on your location, the institution offering the program, the number of clinical hours required and several other factors, a CNA training program can generally be completed in four to 12 weeks. American Career College has a Medical Assistant program that can be completed in 9 months as well as a Vocational Nursing program that can be completed in 13 months (or 20 months for the Evening/Weekends program).

Both programs are available at ACC’s Los Angeles, Ontario and Orange County campuses, and the Medical Assistant program is blended, which means it includes both online and on-campus instruction.

Click the links above to learn more about these two programs or explore the other healthcare career programs we have available

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