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Medical Assistant vs. Registered Nurse – What are the Differences?

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Medical Assistant Work

Medical assistants are key to any medical staff, helping clinical physicians and other professionals to carry out essential patient care and administrative tasks. If you’re thinking about studying at medical assistant schools in Miami, then you may have some questions not only about the medical assistant role, but also regarding the similarities and differences with nursing.

Both roles are patient focused and require a high skill set, however, it is much easier to become qualified and start working when you obtain your medical assistant certificate. Let’s take a look at what the key differences are between these professions, where they can crossover, and also how medical assistant work could be a gateway to nursing in the future.

Core Differences Between Registered Nurses and Medical Assistants

Besides the obvious gap in qualifications and schooling required, there are some key differences between these two roles in the healthcare industry.

Pay is a significant one, but it should also be understood that the pay scale is reflective of study time and the qualification needed. Registered Nurses usually follow a Bachelor’s Degree program before they begin work. At other times they may use credits from different levels of nursing, working towards an RN qualification over a longer period of time. In contrast, medical assistants only require a single year (sometimes 18 months) of study to gain a recognized certificate. Nurses can earn up to $70k (sometimes more) with significant experience and seniority in their role. Medical assistant school graduates will typically start somewhere around $30k, but this can vary depending on the workplace. With experience and by taking on additional responsibilities, medical assistants can earn highly competitive salaries.

The types of procedures performed by professionals in these roles are also different. Assistants are usually tasked with procedures like applying or removing dressings, administering medication, and taking blood or other samples. While some assistants will be required to operate medical equipment, some more complex tasks are handled by registered nurses. Nurses will administer intravenous devices, PICC lines, and specialized nurses may even administer anesthesia in surgical settings.

Another key difference is that medical assistant school will prepare you for providing short term care and immediate care for patients. Nurses are often involved in long term health planning, and will sometimes work with the same patients, depending on the clinic or hospital where they are working.

There are Similarities That You Will Learn at Medical Assistant Schools in Miami

Medical AssistantWhen it comes to similarities, there may be more than you think. The basic education of both medical assistants and nurses can be similar at times. Both professions require some study into medical terminology, biology, human anatomy, and aspects of medical law and procedure.

While medical assistants will be used for light procedures in most cases, nurses can also perform these tasks. Taking vital readings like pulse, oxygen saturation, temperature etc. are duties that may be shared by both assistants and nurses within the same organization.

Patient care is also an area of crossover, as both professions require a courteous, empathic, and respectful patient manner. Both nurses and assistants need to be able to make sure that patients are comfortable, free of pain (when possible), and that they are aware of any procedures or treatments that will be used. Often, both roles will mean dealing with distressed patients, so compassion and a cool head will be required at all times. Both professions also require attention to detail and excellent time management. Both nurses and assistants work in demanding environments where staff are required to perform their best at all times.

Can a Medical Assistant Role Lead to Nursing?

If nursing is your ultimate goal, but you’re not quite ready to commit to full time degree study, then a medical assistant certificate could be a good way for you to get into the industry. Your experience as an assistant will be invaluable if you choose to take further study, and may help you when applying to colleges.

Perhaps most importantly, become a medical assistant will mean that you can start working sooner, which may be more beneficial for your financial situation and long term goals. Having a certificate will allow you to have choices when it comes to planning your further study, without worrying about the pressure of choosing a degree right after high school. Many hospitals and clinics will offer part time work for assistants, so you could even fund your degree study by working as a medical assistant.

If you think you’re ready for the challenge of working as an assistant in your community, then it’s time to enroll at the FVI School of Nursing and Technology. Call us today to talk to our applications team, or simply fill out our contact form to request more information about the courses provided.


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All nursing programs offered at FVI are approved by the Florida Board of Nursing Professional Nursing NCLEX Code Miramar US70415200 Professional Nursing NCLEX Code Miami US70418900 FVI School of Nursing and Technology (FVI) is licensed by the State of Florida, Commission for Independent Education (CIE) Miami (main) campus License Number: 3441/ Miramar campus License Number: 6010 The Associate of Science programs at FVI School of Nursing and Technology, Miramar, Florida and Miami, Florida are accredited by the Accredited Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). FVI School of Nursing and Technology is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE) ID# 312400 since November 03, 2010