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When did physician’s offices start using medical assistants instead of RNs and what can nurses do about it?

Dear Nancy,

I have noticed many physician’s offices are using medical assistants instead of RNs or LPNs. It concerns me that these assistants are able to give injections and medications that in other settings would be done by a nurse. When did this change and what can licensed nurses do about this?


Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Marvin,

The use of medical assistants in physicians’ offices in the place of RNs and/or LPNs is most likely due to the lowered cost of the salary of a medical assistant in contrast to that of an RN or LPN. Keep in mind, however, that a medical assistant is not an RN and therefore cannot perform nursing responsibilities that are only to be done by a licensed RN. Such responsibilities would include a nursing assessment, patient and family teaching, making a nursing diagnosis and utilizing the nursing process.

Likewise, the assistant is not an LPN so the nursing responsibilities the LPN is able to perform within his or her scope of practice cannot be performed by the medical assistant either.

Using a medical assistant in lieu of a licensed nurse is short-sighted. Since the assistant cannot, or should not, be performing the nursing responsibilities listed above along with others not listed, the physician’s patients are not being evaluated from a nursing perspective.

The physician is delegating medication administration to the assistant without the benefit of an RN or LPN’s observations of the patient and the identification of health issues the patient may bring up to
the nurse.

Physicians are often able to delegate the administration of medications to assistants because of a state Medical Practice Act that allows them to delegate patient care to others.

As a licensed nurse, you can help educate the public about the difference between a medical assistant and a licensed RN or LPN. If possible, see a physician who only uses RNs or LPNs in his office. Better still, talk to your physician if he does not use RNs or LPNs in the office, and help change the physician’s mind to use licensed health care providers for the patients’ care and treatment.


By | 2014-08-06T00:00:00-04:00 August 6th, 2014|Categories: Blogs, Nursing careers and jobs|3 Comments

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  1. Avatar
    Karen April 7, 2020 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Most Medical Assistants can do more in a Drs office than an RN could ever do. For instance, most RNs cannot draw blood or do a manual cbc w diff with a slide and microscope like they do when no lab is available. Nurses are better trained for a hospital setting whereas MA’s are trained to work in Drs offices.

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    Patricia August 26, 2020 at 11:05 am - Reply

    This is incorrect. An RN can do anything a medical assistant does. It is only for cost control that preference is often given to medical assistants in an office setting.

  3. Avatar
    Shelley September 14, 2020 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Karen, that is one of the dumbest things I have heard. An an ER nurse, I do everything for my patients that’s included within my scope of practice. And yes, I can certainly, and usually do draw blood. Often, CMA’s step outside of their own scope and should be corrected, especially when a patient will call them “the nurse.” That’s misrepresentation and is in fact illegal. See following article.

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