The Differences Between MA and LPN

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The Practical Nurse and Medical Assistant both are vital components of any medical team. They both can work in a variety of settings, from physicians’ offices to older adult care facilities. They also perform a variety of tasks, from taking vital signs to administering medications. There are many similarities.

There also are many differences, starting with the hierarchy in the medical industry.

“Lately, many Medical Assistant graduated students come to our Vocational Nurse (another name for Practical Nurse) program,” said Lu-Ping Gamble, RN, MSN, PhDEd, Director of Nursing at Concorde’s campus in Garden Grove, Calif. “It is the career advancement from MA to LVN.”

We enlisted the help of a recent article posted on the eMedicalAssistants website which might help some other Concorde students and graduates decide to pursue career advancement with another program.

Medical Assistants do not earn a license

A Medical Assistant might become certified or registered upon completing an approved medical assisting program, according to the eMedicalAssistants article. Certification and registration are different than a license and are not interchangeable. A Practical Nurse may sit for a licensing exam after graduation from nursing school. Earning a license allows the Practical Nurse to practice skills independently, though most states require that an LPN be supervised by a registered nurse.

Medical Assistants do not practice independently. They work under a physician’s medical license.

The Practical Nurse learns far more clinical skills

There are differences in skills performed by both MAs and LPNs, though some are common. LPNs learn some clinical skills during nursing school which are not taught in MA programs.

A Practical Nurse might be trained to place an intravenous line (IV) and provide select medications via an IV. That is not a skill routinely taught during MA school or allowed for practice, though some MA schools teach it.

LPNs learn other skills an MA might not have learned or be allowed to do by state law. Inserting urinary catheters and giving certain medications by injection, such as antibiotics or narcotics, are some skills that vary between professions.

Practical Nurse programs have more depth

Licensed Practical Nurse programs often are grouped in a nursing program that offers both LPN and RN degrees. All students obtain the same first-year nursing curriculum. An LPN program might include learning in-depth patient assessment techniques, how to create care plans, pain management techniques including therapeutic touch therapy and how to care for the terminally ill and dying patient. Critical thinking skills also are a foundation skill taught in nursing school. These skills allow the LPN to function at a patient’s bedside in a hospital, hospice or long-term care facility setting.

LPNs earn more

Despite similarities in responsibilities, LPNs generally earn more than MAs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Earnings will vary based on where you live, your experience and education earned beyond your LPN or MA diploma or degree.

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Davina Thomas-Clark | Medical Assistant, Vocational Nurse graduate

“I have taken the MA program and the LVN program. Concorde is a wonderful school. There is a difference between passion and a paycheck, and most of my instructors had a passion for what they do. The program was challenging but well worth it. I love this college!”

Kontessa Brown | Dental Assisting Graduate

“I think it’s an amazing school. When I sat down for boards, I felt more than adequately prepared. If you put the work in, your success is almost guaranteed.”

Jamie Troccoli | Medical Assistant graduate

“I am eternally grateful to Dr. Lu-Ping Gamble at the Garden Grove campus. They not only lit a spark, they lit a torch in my heart that shall burn forever! My education changed my life and has had a huge positive impact on the person I am today.”

Marcus Streator | Respiratory Therapy graduate

“Without the support of certain instructors … I would not have pushed myself to grasp the concepts and pass my boards on the first attempt. Once I passed my boards, it was less than one month after that I landed my first Respiratory Therapist job where I am currently working with so much joy every day.”

Trenisha Jones | Dental Assistant Graduate

“I decided to go to school because I was tired of working dead-end jobs. … When I found out I was pregnant, I realized that I needed a better life for me, for my child, for my husband, and just to better myself.”