MA to RN Programs

The role and training for a Medical Assistant (MA) is specific to the outpatient or ambulatory setting. As an important part of the care team in a medical office, the MA is exposed to many aspects of the job of a Registered Nurse (RN). Transitioning from an MA to a RN can be a challenge, yet the rewards and benefits are numerous for those that choose this career pathway and the many RN specialties.

MA to RN Pathways

While there is not a program specifically designed for the MA-to-RN transition, there are many areas of medical assisting that will aid the MA in becoming an RN, including securing enrollment in a nursing program. Many nursing programs, such as Miles Community College in Miles City, Montana, assign "points" to prospective nursing students for work experience associated with nursing such as being a Certified Nurse's Aide and other medical experience. Depending on the MA course or program that was completed by the MA, some classes may transfer to the nursing school as one of the pre-nursing requirements, if college credits were issued.

Starting as an MA

Medical assistants who attended a training program and received an associate degree in science are most likely to be able to transfer some of their credits to a nursing school. Programs such as Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, California, require courses such as College Writing, Medical Terminology and Computer Familiarization which can transfer to many pre-nursing requirements. Most MA programs only expect an introduction to anatomy and physiology (A&P) course which is insufficient to satisfy the full college course required for pre-nursing admission. However, the MA certainly has the advantage of having completed the introductory A&P course when attending the full course for a pre-nursing program.

Courses within the MA program are specific to the role of the medical assistant and may include:

  • General Medical Assisting
  • Medical Insurance Procedures
  • Administrative Medical Assisting
  • Medical Assisting Practicum
  • Medical Assisting Certification Review
  • Clinical Procedures
  • Independent Studies in Medical Assisting
  • Work Experience in Medical Assisting

The coursework and experience of the MA in clinical procedures also provides an advantage to the MA in nursing school clinical rotations. The clinical procedures course during MA school will teach the MA how to perform simple wound care and dressing a wound, how to apply simple splints, aseptic and sterile techniques for procedures, how to assist with procedures, how to collect data and how to measure vital signs.

Medical Assistants who graduate from an accredited MA program are eligible to sit for a certification exam through the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Although many employers do not require medical assistants to be certified, sitting for a certification exam can prepare the future nursing student in how to study and sit for a national examination.

Transitioning to Registered Nursing

The education and training of the Registered Nurse (RN) is much longer and more intensive than that of the medical assistant, as the scope of practice of the RN is more complex and requires a clinical license. RNs are required to complete nursing studies that are regulated and accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) to ensure consistent nursing education that is grounded in evidence-based studies. Nurses attend anywhere from a 64-week diploma program such as the one at Covenant School of Nursing in Lubbock, Texas to a four-year bachelor of science program. Prerequisite courses required for most nursing programs include:

  • English - Two Semesters
  • Chemistry with Lab
  • Anatomy with Lab
  • Physiology with Lab
  • Microbiology with Lab
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Nutrition

Each state's Board of Nursing determines the minimally-required courses to graduate an accredited nursing program in order to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Requirements may include up to 500 hours of classroom time and over 1,200 hours of hands-on clinical experience. Courses may include:

  • Health Promotion and Wellness
  • Professional Nursing Skills
  • Nursing Care of the Adult
  • Nursing Care of Pediatrics
  • Maternal-Child Nursing
  • Psychiatric Nursing
  • Complex-Care Nursing

Medical assistants are trained to work under the supervision of physicians, podiatrists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and registered nurses. While the role of the MA is crucial to both the front and back office of medical practice, many MAs seek to expand their education and scope to that of a registered nurse. Medical Assistants who commit to attending nursing school to obtain an RN license are at an advantage of non-medically skilled applicants and can utilize their MA training and experience to navigate the challenges of nursing school and a fulfilling career as an RN.