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Medical Assistant vs. Nurse: Which Career Path Is Right for You?

Medical Assistant vs Nurse

Medical Assistant vs. Nurse, The healthcare system is a broad field with a wide range of opportunities to consider. It’s common for aspiring medical professionals to become confused when choosing their path into the medical field, but it doesn’t have to be hard! If you’re planning on a career in the medical world, you clearly hold the necessary level of empathy and intelligence to find fulfillment in using these qualities to provide the best possible care and support to patients – so you’re on the right path!

Further proving that affirmation is the fact that these two roles are very similar in very many ways. It’s not uncommon to find these two roles sharing the same spaces within medical environments and specific units, or even looking the same and equally professional in their crisp women’s scrubs. But they’re not doing the same things, they don’t share all of the same qualities and they won’t both align with your personality and academic achievements in the same way. So, what differentiates them?

Seeing the Similarities and Distinguishing the Differences

Medical (or clinical) assistants are healthcare professionals who assist doctors in medical offices, laboratories, clinics, hospitals and more – primarily performing administrative and clinical duties. Although they are not qualified to give medical advice to patients, they may coordinate prescriptions, prepare lab samples, ensure the sterilization of medical equipment and ultimately prepare both the doctor and the patient for their visit. In comparison, nurses are healthcare professionals who assist doctors in medical offices, laboratories, clinics, hospitals and more – primarily through direct patient care. Along with clinical tasks and patient care, nurses may also oversee medical assistants and other types of nurses, depending on their specific certifications.

Education Requirements

Medical assistants undergo a relatively time- and money-conscious certification process that can be completed in as little as nine months, depending on the state or country where you reside. It’s relatively time- and money-conscious as compared to nursing school, that is. The time and money needed for nursing school is not a decision to be made lightly for most, but with so many different types of nursing, this can vary widely. For example, on top of licensing, some specialties of nursing may require a master’s degree in order to proudly hang your symbolic and stylish stethoscope on your neck, and some may require as little as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The most commonly taken paths to nursing are the latter, though, and they generally take anywhere from two to four years.

Salary Expectations

Depending on the state or country you reside in, the average hourly wage for a medical assistant comes in close to $18.00 per hour, making their average yearly salary close to $37,000. In comparison, the average hourly wage for registered nurses comes in at about $36.00 per hour, or an annual average salary of around $75,000. While these numbers can vary as much as the factors that determine them, it’s safe to say that the nursing path generally has a significantly higher salary to offer.

Salary Expectations

Duties of a Medical Assistant

A medical assistant’s duties and initiatives are often quite extensive and involve various efforts to ensure an organized and efficient environment for the practice and other professionals. A few other duties they are tasked with include:

  • Recording, updating and filing medical records
  • Analyzing insurance information
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Preparing patients
  • Assisting physicians with patient examinations
  • Performing basic lab tests
  • Dispensing patient injections/medications as permitted and instructed by the doctor
  • Dressing wounds as permitted and instructed

While there is a considerable amount of hands-on clinical work that is done by medical assistants, there are also a lot of administrative duties involved, making the medical assistant a jack of all trades in this scene. With that in mind, it’s important not to forget that medical assistants DO have many limits to abide by and learn.

Duties of a Nurse

Nurses are notoriously found “on the floor” evaluating and directly tending to patients. Because of their more personalized role with patients and their families, nurses are required to be highly educated, possess high critical thinking skills, be quick on their feet and be empathetic and emotionally stable if they want to wear their hospital scrubs proudly as a nurse. Where a doctor only provides the medication or direct medical procedure needed to treat a patient, nurses are given full responsibility for their care. For example, after a medication is prescribed by the doctor, a nurse will be tasked with ensuring the correct doses are administered and that the patient is fully aware of what measurements should be taken, how to take them and when.  There are many classifications of nurses who perform different functions, though, and they can include:

  • Assessing patients’ conditions through physical exams
  • Recording observations, symptoms and updates to medical histories
  • Providing comfort and emotional support by listening to patients’ emotional needs
  • Communicating and coordinating with physicians and specialists
  • Administering medicines and treatments as directed by doctors
  • Operating medical equipment
  • Transferring information to doctors regarding diagnostic tests and results

While there are some administrative qualities in a nurse’s job description, much more attention is focused on the patient’s welfare in regards to observing their progress and responses to medical treatment. In addition, nurses must stay abreast of new advancements in medical technology so as to educate patients and their families on how to best supervise their recovery after leaving the hospital.

Duties of a Nurse

Pursuing the Path of Passion

Regardless of the road you choose to take, the money you stand to make, the patient population you protect or the skills you get, if caring for patients is your passion, you’re on the right track and the reward will be priceless!

Along with the fact that you’re bound to excel on either path, you’re also always encouraged to expand. Healthcare professionals in these positions always have the opportunity to advance or shift. So while you should consider your path carefully, you should never feel bound to it!

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