The number of health care jobs is increasing tremendously. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is one of the fastest growing industries in the country today. There are currently some 14 million different positions within the field of health care, and a further 3.2 million positions are expected to become available between 2008 and 2018. The fact that our population is aging is one of the main drivers behind this rapid growth in new positions. Additionally, it means that many people within the workforce itself will soon retire, and they will need to be replaced. There are three main career options for those who want to work in nursing care, and there are bridging programs between the three for those who wish to progress. If you want to go from medical assistant (MA) to registered nurse (RN), it is important to understand the differences between the various positions first.
Many people who want to get started on a health care career start as an MA. This is because it is relatively quick and easy to become certified. Some states don’t even need any certification and just require students to complete some education. As a medical assistant, you will assist physicians in things such as running the medical office, taking vital signs, phlebotomy, prescription refills, billing and coding, and so on. Usually, medical assistants either work “front office” or “back office”, which means they either work directly with patients, or that they are more involved in administrative tasks. Nevertheless, an MA is trained to do both. MAs hold a diploma with which they can become certified medical assistants (CMAs) in the states where this is required. In some states, the position is known as Registered Medical Assistant (RMA), which is the same thing. Completing the diploma usually only takes one year and there are little to no prerequisites other than a high school diploma or GED. However, students can also enroll in a two-year associate’s degree program in medical assisting. This is longer, but it also means better earning and more job responsibilities.
Licensed Practical Nurses
After the MAs, there are the licensed practical nurses (LPNs), who are sometimes called licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). This takes a reasonable amount of education and most colleges will require students to pass certain math and chemistry subjects. Additionally, most schools will have some sort of entrance exam for their licensed practical nurse programs. It usually takes two years to become an LPN, after which students can become licensed through the NCLEX-PN examination. Once certified, they can get to work together with physicians in tasks such as delivering babies, caring for patients, dressing wounds, monitoring equipment and more. Once they have worked for a number of years, licensed practical nurses s often start to supervise CNAs or MAs, although this does depend on the setting in which they work.
Once MAs have become an LPN (or if they went straight for the LPN qualification), they can move on to become RNs (registered nurses). This usually takes another two years of studying. Hence, to become an registered nurse, a student could spend as much as five years (one year for MA, two years for LPN and two years for RN) to end up with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Luckily, there are other options besides going straight for the bachelor’s degree. Many schools now offer accelerated programs that allow students to transfer credits from their previous education to the RN program. As such, the amount of time spent in school can be significantly reduced. As an registered nurse, students are able to give therapy treatments, administer medication and place IV lines. Additionally, they often oversee and manage other MAs and LPNs, although this depends on the organization in which they work. As an RN, there are many different potential work settings to choose from, including hospitals and care centers. Additionally, they can choose specializations such as critical care nursing or neonatal nursing.
Becoming an RN
So how do you become an RN from being an MA? If you are an medical assistant, this means you will have at least completed your high school or have obtained a GED, and that you have taken various science classes as well. From there, you will have attended nursing school to achieve your diploma. You will then need to study on towards at least your associate’s degree and preferably your bachelor’s degree. From thereon, you could decide to go for a master’s degree and eventually even a doctorate degree.
In order to become a registered nurse, you must pass the NCLEX-RN examination. This will license you on a national level to find work as a registered nurse. NCLEX also has an examination for practical nurses, which you will have to take if you want to go from MA to LPN before becoming a registered nurse. The exam ensures you have the competency to practice in the field of nursing. You will still have to apply with your own State Board of Nursing to be able to start working as an RN. These state boards each have different rules and guidelines on what they want to receive with your application. However, once you hold your registered nurse, you can use that after your name and you are entitled by law to actually practice in the field of nursing.