If you’re interested in a career in healthcare, you’re not alone. There are over 130 million people working in the healthcare sector in the United States alone. To join their ranks, you’ll need to choose what kind of healthcare career you want.
There are plenty of roles other than doctors in the healthcare field, like medical assistants and nurses. But what’s the difference between a medical assistant vs a nurse? This article will help you understand the differences between these two careers and find the right one for you.
What is a Nurse?
Nursing is a huge part of the healthcare field, and there are many different ways that nurses treat patients. So what do nurses do? Regardless of specialty or level of education, the core duties are the same:
- Assess patients through a variety of lenses to help identify patient needs
- Help diagnose patients alongside the physicians
- Help set and follow through on goals for patient recovery
- Implement, document, and evaluate patient treatment to make sure it is consistent and helpful for the patient
Nurses work in hospitals, clinics, and every type of private medical practice. The level of education a nurse receives determines how independently they work to diagnose and treat patients. All nurses, however, are there to help support their patients’ health.
What is a Medical Assistant?
Like nursing, medical assisting is one of the most important healthcare roles. However, medical assisting helps connect patients with their physician or nurse practitioner. Only some nursing jobs involve administrative work alongside clinical work. However, medical assistant duties always include administration.
Medical assisting does involve some patient care, but mostly in terms of taking a patients’ vitals and prepping them for the doctor.
One of the biggest differences between being a medical assistant and being a nurse is the amount of education you need. Nurses need at least an associate’s degree, and some types of nurses even have master’s degrees or higher. A nursing education usually takes at least four years.
Medical assisting does not require a special degree, but to get certified, you’ll need an associate’s degree, a certificate, or a diploma program. Some programs are as short as nine months, though the average is two years. A good medical assisting program is similar to the first year of nursing school.
For both professions, you should expect to take courses on anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and biology. Both career paths also require certification tests, though the testing requirements for medical assistants vary by state.
Another difference between these two professions is where they work. Medical assistants tend to work in private practices and clinics, rather than hospitals. Nurses work in a broader range of medical fields. Nurse practitioners can even work in their own practices with limited supervision from a doctor.
Because their job duties include tasks like scheduling appointments and updating medical records, medical assistants are a valuable part of smaller clinics and practices. Medical assistants can help keep the office running while helping care for patients.
Medical Assistant vs Nurse: Which Is Right for You?
When it comes to being a medical assistant vs a nurse, the main differences are the type of education you need and how much administrative work you’ll do. Medical assistants blend patient care with clinic management, while nurses are more focused on patient treatment in a clinical setting.
For more tips on healthcare and education, check out the Education section of our blog!