Nursing vs. Medical Assisting

Nursing vs. Medical Assisting

You want to go into the medical field. It has been a dream of yours to work with patients and doctors. You have made the decision to pursue your dream. However, you are not sure if you should pursue nursing or medical assisting.

Each has a long list of advantages, and both are great careers. So, how do you decide on which path to choose?

You can start by learning some of the differences between the two, which are listed below.


Nursing vs. Medical Assisting: Areas of Focus

Medical assistants are assets on the administrative side of healthcare. This means they will focus on learning the software used to enter patient data, as well as knowing how to communicate with insurance agencies and submit patient claims.

Medical assistants will complete billing procedures, accounting, scheduling and maintain compliance. They must have good interpersonal skills, pay close attention to details and be able to learn the medical vocabulary used in daily practices.

Medical assistants are cross trained on the clinical side of healthcare, as well as the administrative side. When obtaining education for this career, students attending a local college will learn all the valuable clinical skills to help them assist doctors before, during and after patient visits.

Clinical skills include drawing blood, taking electrocardiograms, removing sutures, preparing and administering medications, and collecting and preparing specimens. Furthermore, they will learn to take medical histories, prepare patients for their exam, and complete laboratory testing as assigned by the doctor.

Nurses work directly with patients and provide services to the patients. Therefore, they will need to know the human body, physiology, anatomy, human development and diseases or disorders. They need to know symptoms common to illnesses.

By attending a local college, nurses will take courses that teach them all necessary information vital to their job.

Nurses also need to know how to report information to practitioners. They need to know how to provide accurate assessments and take quality patient notes. Furthermore, nurses need to know pharmacology and stay up to date with community health issues that can affect the patients they see.

Both nursing and medical assisting require education that can be easily obtained at your local college.


Nursing vs. Medical Assisting: Education Needed

Both medical assistants and nurses must obtain their education through an accredited college program.

Medical assistants can achieve the required education much quicker than nurses. Local colleges often offer fast-track training for medical assisting that can be completed in 12 months or less.

And many programs prepare you for taking medical assisting exams for certification that can help you when seeking employment.

Nursing certificate programs, either as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), can be completed in 14 months or less at your local college.

Both medical assistant and nurses can specialize in their field. Medical assistants have the choice of specializing in clinical or administrative duties.

Nurses have many more options when it comes to specialization. Some of the areas available include: Endocrinology, Orthopedics, Cardiac Nursing, Critical Care, Drug and Alcohol, Psychiatric, Emergency, Trauma, Genetics, and Forensics.

Some companies require their medical assistants and nurses to be licensed, which can mean passing licensure exams. This extra work pays off, however, when it comes to salaries.


Nursing Vs. Medical Assisting: Salaries

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics report there is a sixteen percent increase in the need for nurses in the next few years. Registered nurses earn close to $70,000 depending on geographic location, type of company and amount of education and experience.

Medical assistants also have a very positive job growth outlook and are expected to continue to grow through 2024. Annual salaries for medical assistants are lower than that of nurses, with the average around $30,000.


Nursing Vs. Medical Assisting: Places of Employment

The agencies in which nurses and medical assistants are very similar. Both can find employment working for a private practice physician, urgent care centers, hospitals and laboratories. Other employment opportunities can be found working for specialists, surgeons, nursing homes and physical therapy centers.

Nurses can also seek employment with schools, from elementary and high school to colleges. Medical assistants can also seek employment with public health agencies in their administrative departments.

While the job locations are similar, the duties of a nurse and a medical assistant are different.


Nursing vs. Medical Assisting: Job Duties

When you enter a medical facility, the person you are likely to see is a medical assistant. Medical assistants check patients in and prepare them for their visit, whether at a hospital or a family practice. They collect insurance information, check identification, process fees and any other important administrative duties that help the visit be successful.

Nurses work directly with the patients. They check the blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. They also administer medications; take blood work and many other duties that require specific nursing training.

Nurses do have some administrative duties, like writing patient notes, documenting progress and vital information and any other records to help in the treatment of the patient.

Nurses are assistants to the doctors and in many cases perform duties on behalf of the doctor.


Nursing vs. Medical Assisting: Certification and Licensure

Nurses can get certified through many agencies. The employer they wish to work for may have a preference so checking with them is a good first start.

Some of the agencies that provide certification exams include the National Council State Boards Nursing- PN or NCLEX-PN.

Each state will have different processes for licensing LVNs and LPNs.

Medical assistants focusing on the clinical side of the industry can get licensed too. Each state varies on their requirements. However, it is likely the certification will be a pre-requisite to taking a licensing exam.


Nursing vs. Medical Assisting:  Where to Start

The good news is that both nursing and medical assisting programs begin at your local college. Whether you have questions about the differences in the two program or you are ready to enroll, contact your local college for help.