Professional Identity

Physicians Referring to Medical Assistants as “Nurses”

Q. I understand that medical assistants cannot use the term nurse when referring to themselves, but what about doctors referring to their medical assistants as nurses?

A. Just as medical assistants are forbidden by state law from referring to themselves as nurses, a physician should not refer to medical assistants as nurses. However, a physician (or any other staff member) referring to a medical assistant as a nurse could indeed harm the practice from a malpractice standpoint in that a plaintiff could argue that the medical assistant should be held to the standard of care of an RN or LPN instead of that of a medical assistant.

10 thoughts on “Physicians Referring to Medical Assistants as “Nurses””

  1. Are Medical Assistants more qualified as Nurses (LPN’s) since the school program is longer? Which is the best career choice?

    1. Thank you for your question.
      Medical assisting and nursing are very different professions. Medical assistants who are educated in a postsecondary, programmatically accredited academic program are taught both back-office clinical theory and practice, as well as front-office administrative theory and practice. Medical assistants work primarily in outpatient settings (e.g., clinics and medical offices). I will e-mail you so we can dialogue about your career options.
      I hope this is helpful.

  2. LPNs are license MAs are not!!!! LPN is a nurse a MA is not. You don’t even have to be certified to be a MA. A LPN can pass medication under his/her license a MA can pass meds under a RN’s license or Doctor’s license. You have to apply to get into a limited enrolled nursing program MA programs are a dime a dozen. I can keep going

  3. In the 20 plus years working as a CMA, I’ve found that CMA’s are far more qualified to work in medical office and clinic settings due to the fact that our curriculum teaches everything that is done in these settings. During my years working I’ve taught many LPNs and RNs how to draw blood, perform U/As and do ECGs and even give some injections. It seems that nurses are more trained for hospital and nursing home jobs, which are also extremely important. I’m retired now but have enjoyed all the years working as a CMA. I was enrolled in an accredited CMA program and received an Associates in Applied Science. To me, it’s a pretty decent credential.

    1. Hello Sal. I would like to comment on your message dated June 21, 2013. In your message you stated that you, as a medical assistant, “taught many LPNs and RNs how to draw blood, perform U/As and do ECGs and even give some injections.” Please forgive my incredulity but I I find that claim to be alarmingly unlikely. I can tell you as a nurse educator that LPN and RN entry level curricula in schools of nursing throughout the United States and its possessions include instruction on those very skills and many others in beginning and advanced nursing skills classes as well as skills lab demonstration, practice and testing. Nursing students are required to pass those examinations in order to graduate.The skills you mentioned are not unique to medical assistants so I can’t imagine why any nurse would require a medical assistant to “teach” them. For the record,neither nurses nor medical assistants “perform U/As” (I assume you mean urinalysis as that is the common abbreviation for such a test). The urinalysis is performed by laboratory technicians and technologists. Medical assistants collect these specimens and process them for laboratory testing while nurses perform the added skill of focused assessment. I could however believe that in the proper setting, you assisted student nurses in their learning as it pertains to the collection and processing of these specimens.Perhaps that is what you meant. If so, thanks for your help. Be well.

  4. Can CMA’s work in a long term care facility as a Nursing assistant? I am asking this question because we have had CMA express interest in an NAR job. Our nurses are able to work as NAR’s without being on the registry because they hold a higher license then an NAR. Would the same apply for a CMA?

    1. Thank you for your question. I am happy to respond.

      Medical assistants–even CMAs (AAMA)–cannot work in inpatient settings as nursing assistants or medication aides unless they meet the requirements and register with the appropriate state agency–usually the state department of health/public health, or the state board of nursing. I believe some states will give CMAs (AAMA) credit for their medical assisting education and their CMA (AAMA) credential, so a CMA (AAMA) may not be required to take all of the nursing assistant or medication aide course.

      I address this in my public affairs article in the July-August 2012 issue of CMA Today.

      I will send that article directly to your e-mail address.

      I hope this is helpful.

      Donald A. Balasa, JD, MBA
      Executive Director, Legal Counsel

      American Association of Medical Assistants
      Ph: 800/228-2262 | Fax: 312/899-1259 |

      Visit us on Facebook!

      The CMA (AAMA): Health Care’s Most Versatile Professional

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