Becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse as a Medical Assistant
A medical assistant is a health professional who performs certain basic duties, most often in a physician’s office. In this role you may get patients situated, take their vitals and assist a doctor during an exam or procedure. It’s a great career that doesn’t require a degree to start and that can get you quickly into the healthcare industry.
Working in this career you may want to transition into a role that gives you more responsibilities and duties, such as nursing. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), for instance, can provide basic care for patients, comfort and assist patients, communicate with doctor, and keep patient records. They work in mostly in residential care facilities and hospitals.
There are significant differences between the work LPNs and medical assistants do, but there is also overlap. Both work with patients, but LPNs have more responsibilities and can provide more advanced types of care for patients. Another important difference is that LPNs earn a higher salary on average than medical assistants.
Can a Medical Assistant Bridge to LPN?
If you are already qualified and working as a medical assistant, you may want to consider becoming an LPN to earn more and to have a more challenging career with greater responsibilities. Unlike medical assisting, an LPN career does require licensing in all states. You must complete an approved LPN program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN) exam.
There are few, if any, programs at post-secondary schools that are specifically designed to bridge medical assistants into a career as an LPN. You may find some online programs that can offer this, but you may still need to complete a clinical experience. You can check with schools that offer LPN programs to see if any of your previous credits transfer. If you have an associate degree in medical assisting, you can probably skip the LPN program prerequisites.
How Long Does it Take to Become an LPN?
The good news is that even if you have to start over from the beginning, it won’t take long to become a licensed practical nurse. Most LPN programs are a year or less in length and confer a certificate rather than a degree. If you can get any of your prerequisites to count toward the program, it will take less than a year, plus the time it takes to take and pass the NCLEX-PN exam.
Medical Assistant vs. LPN Salaries
Because LPNs need more training and licensing, and they have greater job responsibilities, they generally earn more than medical assistants. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for a medical assistant across the U.S. is $37,190 per year and $14.38 per hour.
For a licensed practical nurse, these figures are $48,070 per year and $23.11 per hour. In either career, you may earn less than these amounts in entry-level positions. You can earn more with years of experience, areas of special training and if you work in certain facilities or states where pay is higher.
Both of these careers are rewarding, challenging healthcare positions that are important to the smooth running of medical centers, doctors’ offices and hospitals. If you are currently a medical assistant, consider going back to school so that you can land a better job, earn more and enjoy more responsibilities in your daily work.