Home General What’s the Difference Between a Medical Assistant and a Nurse – And Which Role Would Suit You Better?

What’s the Difference Between a Medical Assistant and a Nurse – And Which Role Would Suit You Better?

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It’s 2022, and the world has seen a rising shortage in health workers over the last two years since the pandemic first began. A major reason for this is due to the mental tension and physical tiredness that many doctors faced during the last two years, which has then contributed to a steady decrease in the number of aspiring doctors. 

However, many have also found this to be the right time to pursue a position in healthcare as a nurse or medical assistant, simply because of the rising demand for sure roles, and the comparative ease with which they can get the required degrees and roles when compared to a professional MD. 

In this article, we’re going to take a walk-through of some of the major differences between a nurse and a medical assistant, since many people tend to confuse the two. Once we’ve done that, you’ll be able to make an informed decision and choose a career path in the healthcare field that best suits you! Let’s get started. 

What is the major difference between the two?

Medical assistants

Let’s start with medical assistants. As the name suggests, they are assistants who help physicians and other medical professionals by taking care of administrative tasks, and sometimes even clinical tasks as well. 

This varies between different hospitals, but most medical assistants will be cross-trained to take care of both administrative and clinical tasks in the hospital. For this reason, they’re also known as clinical assistants in many places. Unlike doctors and nurses, it can be fairly quick to train to become a medical assistant, which means that you can start practicing and learning soon after your degree, and don’t have to have a period of internship. 

For instance, a medical assistant program in New Jersey trains professionals for both a clinical and support team set up for a duration of 24 weeks, which includes lab hours as well. Soon after the completion of their degree, they’ll be able to join and be trained in any hospital where there’s a shortage of staff. 


There are many different kinds of nursing degrees which you can pursue, depending on the type of work you’d like to do. In general, nursing includes a lot of time spent caring and looking after patients – which can either be before operation, during operation, and post-operation. Right from performing physical examinations to running tests and keeping track of a patient’s medical record and history, they take care of many different aspects of patient care. 

At the end of the day, it all depends on what kind of nurse you want to be, and where you want to work – this could be in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or even someone who visits and treats patients in their homes. 

What are their primary roles and duties?

These are some of the usual tasks that come under a medical assistant and a nurse in most hospitals:

Medical assistant

  • Update medical records of patients
  • Schedule appointments for patients
  • Explain procedures to patients
  • Take care of the room preparation before a patient gets treated
  • Collect laboratory specimens
  • Administer certain injections


  • Assessing patients who come for treatment
  • Recording their symptoms and helping doctors diagnose
  • Administering injections, medications, treatment
  • Preparing patients before treatment or operations
  • Looking after patients during their recovery period
  • Performing diagnostic tests
  • Giving patients medical advice post-surgery

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, the decision you make should focus on what type of duties and roles you think you would be better suited for – if it includes a lot of admin work (primarily) then being a medical assistant is the way to go. However, if you’d like to work more closely with patients, then you can always choose to go for nursing.

Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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