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Steps to Take to Go from Medical Assistant to RN

February 1, 2024

Most medical assistants eventually want a nursing career later on down the line, and understandably so - a career in nursing continues to prove to be rewarding, and it can even give you job security due to the demand for nurses in the medical field.

You might have heard that you need to be an RN (registered nurse) to work at a hospital or clinic, but for those who don't have nursing degrees, there are also healthcare occupations that have clinical tasks similar to nursing. However, graduating from a nursing program holds a lot of benefits that other healthcare programs don't.

In this article, we will discuss the steps you'll need to take for a career change from medical assistant to RN, including education requirements, scholarship opportunities, RN bridge programs that might be of help to you as a medical assistant, and employment platforms to help you secure a nursing job. We will also tackle topics such as the need for prior experience or additional education to get you started on your career shift journey.

What is a Medical Assistant?

A medical assistant (MA) is a healthcare worker who assists physicians, nurses and other health professionals. When it comes to tasks, medical assistants perform routine clinical duties like taking note of the patient's vital signs and preparing patients for examinations or treatments. They may also be involved in administrative tasks, including but not limited to answering phones, scheduling appointments, and updating patient records, among other roles and responsibilities.

Why Switch From Medical Assistant to Registered Nurse?

The advantages of more obligations and freedom come with becoming a certified nurse. No matter how much experience they have, medical assistants are only allowed to do a certain number of jobs - they have a limited amount of autonomy over their decisions, as they need to be guided in their work by a higher medical professional such as a doctor or nurse who gives them assignments.

On the other hand, registered nurses have more freedom to do their work tasks without supervision and assume more responsibility for providing direct patient care, including guidance for medical assistants.

For instance, nurses examine patients, evaluate symptoms, and dress wounds, but medical assistants can only conduct more standard activities like recording vital signs and making appointments. Moreover, after completing their nursing education, medical assistants can work as either generalists or specialize in a field that interests them, like pediatrics or neurology.

While being a registered nurse is a significant accomplishment already, some driven nurses may also opt to pursue graduate studies to advance their profession and become advanced practitioner nurses.

Read More: 10 Top Nursing Schools In Canada

A registered nurse performing wound care to their patient.

Can a Medical Assistant Become a Registered Nurse?

Yes, definitely - a medical assistant can become a registered nurse. But to advance to this position, medical assistants must attend nursing school. In completing their studies, they must prepare for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed by the state board of nursing and complete a background check.

There are three main types of training programs for becoming an RN:

Online nursing degree programs have recently grown in popularity, and part of the reason is that they can be completed in much less time than a traditional classroom-based program. Medical assistants can still keep their current jobs while obtaining an education for a higher position and broader skillset in the healthcare field.

Aside from this, medical assistants can also benefit from their previous work experience in medical institutions like clinics and hospitals, and they should find many of the courses more accessible to learn than other students who haven't previously worked in the medical sector.

Despite the lack of official MA to RN programs and the few transfer credit alternatives available, medical assistants already have some level of familiarity regarding topics including medical terminology, fundamental procedures, and patient care abilities, among others. They are also accustomed to working in a clinical setting, so they're prepared to go to battle eventually.

A list summarizing the three main types of training programs for becoming an RN.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Registered Nurse in Canada?

While this mainly depends on your program of choice, it typically takes up to four or five years to become a registered nurse in Canada. The length of time varies depending on how quickly you complete your education and how you accomplish your training requirements. For medical assistants looking for bridge programs, keep your eyes open to fast-track your progress and become a registered nurse.

Financial Aid for Medical Assistants Who Want to Be Registered Nurses

Financial and time constraints must be the top two hindrances to attending nursing school full-time for most medical assistants currently working. Tuition, fees, and books comprise a significant portion of the cost of attending nursing school, and some may just forgo their dream of getting into nursing school and stick to their medical assistant role. However, aspiring nurses do not have to worry, as plenty of financial aid options are rising nowadays, including loans, university-granted scholarships, and scholarships from third-party sponsors.

Read More: Medical Lab Assistant Courses In Canada

Meanwhile, current medical assistants may choose a shorter 2-year Associate Degree, especially if they want to be more involved in hands-on patient care faster. After successfully passing the NCLEX-RN exam, medical assistants are eligible to work in the US and Canada, regardless of the educational path they choose to take to become a registered nurse.

Find Your Dream Nursing Job Today at Caring Support

Becoming an RN is an excellent choice if you're looking for a healthcare career. Even if you're from different backgrounds or levels of education, you can enter the field. However, some requirements must be met before you can start working as an RN in Canada. These include having completed high school or equivalent and completing an approved college or university program, including clinical experience in hospitals or other healthcare facilities under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs).

Caring Support is the largest healthcare employment platform for medical assistants, registered nurses, and other healthcare professionals to thrive and find an online community to assist with their career needs. Caring Support offers tools like resume builders and tips to ensure you ace your interviews and land the job of your dreams. Get involved and fulfill your nursing dreams - create an account at Caring Support today or login if you already have one.

About The Author
Kate Piamonte
Content Writer

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