medical assistants will take vital signs, weigh patients, maybe even take brief health complaints, draw blood, perform ecgs, and other tests if the md has trained them and they work in a specialized office. they are to assist the md, mostly in an office setting. They also learn the front office end, filing and pulling charts, making appts, collecting co pays, . giving discharge instructions. They work in md offices, and urgent care centers. Rarely do they work in hospitals, at least not in mine.
they are paid less than a nurse for an office to be profitable. I think some programs are six months, others a year.