The health care industry is constantly expanding. Choosing a job in the health care industry provides individuals with ample opportunities to find employment in a variety of environments. Two popular career choices in this industry include medical assisting and nursing. Although they share some similarities when it comes to job duties, work environment and schedules, medical assisting and nursing are two very different careers.
Providing patient care is one job duty shared among medical assistants and nurses. Providing patient care includes assisting patient with activities of daily living, such as hygiene and feeding, wound care and preparing patients for diagnostic testing or procedures. MA and nurses are both responsible for preventing the spread of infection and illness by providing patients with a clean environment where they receive their care. This includes changing bed linens, cleaning non-disposable equipment and disinfecting areas that are shared by patients.
Work environment is another similarity shared between nursing and medical assisting careers. MA and nurses both find employment in settings that include doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals. Some facilities employ both MA and nurses who work together to assure the facility runs smooth and efficiently. Hospitals employ nurses and medical assistants to work on the floor caring for patients or behind the scenes filling administrative positions.
Medical assistants and nurses have the option of working a variety of schedules. Dependent upon the needs of the employer, they may be scheduled eight-hour, ten-hour or twelve-hour shifts. Those working for a doctor’s office find themselves with a more business like schedule consisting of daylight hours Monday through Friday. Often MA and nurses employed to work in a doctor’s office have weekends and holidays off. Those employed in clinics or hospitals have more schedule option available. These types of employers often allows nurses and MA to work varying shifts that include daylight, afternoon or night turn shifts, providing them the opportunity to choose the schedule that best suits their needs. Often those working for a hospital or clinic are required to work weekends and holidays.
Although they share some similar job duties there are a large number of differences between the duties performed by a medical assistant and those performed by a nurse. MA are typically assigned a variety of responsibilities including patient care and administrative duties. Job duties for nurses typically focus on patient care and include a minimal amount of administrative duties. Medical assistants follow a doctor’s orders and only perform the type of care expressed directly by the physician. Nurses also follow doctor’s order; however they are also trained to write patient care plans. Writing patient care plans allows nurses to recommend various care and treatments for medical conditions and injuries. Another difference in job duties for MA and nurses include administrative duties. MA often perform administrative duties such as scheduling patients, answering telephones and medical billing. Administrative duties performed by nurses include documenting a patient’s condition and writing care plans.
Patient care is an area where both similarities and differences among nurses and MA occur. Differences in patient care involve the types of procedures and treatments performed. Nurses are trained to perform more invasive procedures like starting an IV and advanced medication administration. Nurses are also trained to use various types of specialized medical equipment. Medical assistants are often only trained to do what the employer needs them to do. In addition, MA are only taught how to use the medical equipment utilized by their employer.
Education is an area in which there are many differences between a medical assistant and nurse. Training is necessary for an individual to successfully work as a MA. Although recommended, medical assistants are not required to go through any type of formal training program in order to work as a MA. Accredited training programs that provide the knowledge and skills necessary to work as a MA are available across the country. Some employers also provide the training necessary for a medical assistant to learn the skills they need to perform their job duties. A career in nursing requires the completion of an accredited training program as well as certification/licensure through the state in which they intend to work. Nursing programs are found at universities and colleges across the country. There are several types of nursing programs that offer varying degrees that range from licensed practical nurse to nurse practitioner.
Salary is a category in which there are significant differences. On average, medical assistants earn $21,000–$31,000 per year. The salary earned by MA is typically based on the training, experience and job duties assigned by the employer. Nursing salaries are dependent upon the education and type of degree. Licensed practical nurses on average earn $31,000-$43,000 per year. Registered nurses earn an average yearly salary $47,000-$69,000.