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Check Out These Key Differences Between Registered Nurses and Medical Assistants

A nurse helping a patient complete paperwork

Medical assistants are not the same as registered nurses (RNs). While both careers perform vital healthcare tasks with the ultimate goal of improving patient care, their day to day responsibilities and educational paths differ.  

If you’ve been considering pursuing a healthcare career, it’s good to know you have options. Both career fields are on the rise. Before you start down an educational path, make sure it’s the right one. Here’s a look at the similarities and differences between these two distinct careers.

Where Nursing and Medical Assisting Are Alike

One of the main things you likely know about these healthcare professions is that they are both focused on helping patients. Each of them requires professionals with a highly qualified skill set in order to practice in the field. The educational journey may start out in a similar fashion but branches out once an individual has taken courses in  biology, medical terminology, medical law and procedure, physiology, and human anatomy.

Both nurses and medical assistants often conduct light procedures in the clinical setting, such as taking vitals of the patient’s temperature, pulse, and oxygen saturation. However, nurses are responsible for analyzing the data, while the medical assistant records it.

The work that’s done in a clinic or hospital setting requires that the person has a strong sense of what’s involved with patient care. It’s important to be respectful and empathic as well as patient. Many patients become distressed so it’s ideal if their nurses and assistants are able to remain as calm and compassionate as possible.

Both sets of healthcare professionals need to ensure that patients are aware of what treatments and procedures are going to be used in their care. Some additional characteristics that are crucial in both nursing and medical assisting are attention to detail, effective time management, and strong communication skills.

Differences Between Nursing and Medical Assisting

One of the most obvious ways that these positions differ is that there are more qualifications to become a registered nurse compared to what’s necessary for a medical assistant. This means that the RN will need to attend school for longer and take more specialized courses in order to fulfill the requirements of the job.

The pay for these positions is also significantly different—mostly due to the RNs lengthier educational requirement and the need to be licensed RNs typically will need to earn a bachelor’s degree. If they started out with a nursing diploma or an associate degree, they would often need to pursue more education to earn the bachelor’s and satisfy educational requirements for becoming an RN. Programs to certify medical assistants typically run 12-18 months before awarding a career-building certificate.

Nurses can earn up to $70k or more depending on the level of experience and seniority they’ve gained in the field. Medical assistants tend to make around $30k to start, though this varies depending on where they are working. When a medical assistant gains experience and has added responsibilities, they stand to earn more competitive salaries.

Nurses conduct tasks and do work that requires advanced knowledge. Some tasks include monitoring patient vitals, performing catherization, administering medication through IVs, and performing tests. While nurses do perform tasks, they also must have critical thinking skills so they can assess patient data, create a nursing diagnosis, develop a nursing plan of care, implement the plan, and evaluate if it was successful.   There are also nursing specializations, such as critical care or emergency. Medical Assistants have routine tasks such as giving medications, taking blood and various other samples, giving medications, applying and removing dressings where the patients have wounds and surgical spots and more.

Medical Assistants Are Necessary

Medical assistants are an invaluable resource to the medical team. They make it possible to carry out administrative and patient care tasks more effectively. All of the little things that these professionals do throughout their shifts is a huge help. It allows RNs and doctors to focus on specific duties, streamlining the work so patients receive a higher standard of care due to the additional support.

And medical assistants are in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for medical assistants will grow 23% by 2028‑much faster than the average for all careers the BLS examines.

The Benefits of a Bryant & Stratton College Education for Medical Assisting

Bryant & Stratton college offers an associate degree program in medical assisting that gets you ready for the fast pace and demands of the profession. In it, you’ll take classes to learn the psychomotor, cognitive, and affective skills you’ll need to succeed in the healthcare field such as communication with patients and staff, legal regulations, safety measures, meeting standards, and risk-reduction. If this is in your career goals, you’re sure to find this program to be the right fit.

If you are looking to pursue a degree, look no further than Bryant & Stratton College. With professors who have years of real-world experience in the same field they are teaching why look any further? Get more information about our program today by reaching out to talk to an admissions counselor.


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