Nurses and medical assistants are both part of a coordinated team of health care; however, they do not have the same job responsibilities, level of education, certification status, or income. Depending on the state you live in, job responsibilities can vary greatly, but in general, nurses will serve a more clinical role, while medical assistants may serve in both administrative and clinical roles. Nurses will be more likely to have direct, intensive contact with their patients.
Differences in Job Responsibilities
Some of the similarities in responsibilities between these two roles include taking vital signs, recording a medical history, and/or assisting a physician with minor procedures. A major difference though is that nurses can place intravenous lines (IV’s) for patients and also administer some medications via IV. Most medical assistants are not allowed to perform these procedures without additional training. Nurses can also insert catheters and give oral medications as well. On the other hand, medical assistants may learn to perform venipuncture, to record EKG’s, to perform basic lab tests, and/or to take simple X-rays – procedures that nurses are generally not taught. Nurses can be employed in state facilities, hospitals, long-term care facilities, but medical assistants most qualified to work in a doctor’s office.
Difference in Education and Certification
All nurses, even practical nurses, must sit for a licensing exam (and pass it) in order to work as a nurse. While medical assistants can elect to take a test to become certified, or registered, they are not required to do so in order to be employed. Nurses are also required to graduate from an accredited program in order to sit for their licensing boards. Medical assistants don’t necessarily have to have a degree (though it is a good idea), and can sometimes be trained on-the-job.
Both nursing and medical assistant programs are about two years in duration. Each requires the student to take classes in anatomy and physiology, epidemiology, and pharmacology (along with other general education requirements) at least some of which can be taken online. The difference is that a nursing program is going to cover these topics more fully, and will emphasize critical thinking. Medical assistants may learn the same skill set, but will not be required to learn as much about direct patient care.
Differences in Income
In general, nurses make significantly more money than do medical assistants. Their educational requirements are more stringent than that of medical assistants and patient care responsibilities are greater. Nurses are viewed as professionals, whereas medical assistants are viewed more like technicians, who work under the supervision of nurses or doctors who have much more experience and training
. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the average income for licensed practical nurses is around $41,000 per year. Medical assistants average around $29,000 per year. Online medical assisting and nursing programs can both be quite expensive. The long-term financial reward is greater for , but the work is more demanding in terms of patient interaction. If you are trying to decide what role will suite you best, think about how much time you want to spend in direct care of patients and what kinds of skills you would most like to learn and perform on a daily basis.
How to Choose RN to BSN Online Programs
Finding an online RN to BSN program is easy. All you need is a computer with an Internet connection and some time. Selecting an online program that is right for you is similar to the process of selecting a traditional academic program. Online programs offer the same high quality education as a ‘brick and mortar’ facility, with the added benefit of being able to complete a major portion of the work at home. Jotting down a list of the things you consider most important in anacademic program is a great way to begin.
What factors should you consider when choosing an online RN to BSN Program?
- Admissions requirements
- Faculty to student ratio and availability of online support
- Number of credit hours required for graduation and transfer credits accepted
Admissions and Costs
Admission to most online programs is relatively standard and RN licensure is required as a prerequisite in all transition programs of study. However, look for colleges that celebrate, and give credit for, your particular strengths. For example, maybe you have some experience in research, or a pediatric specialty. Good programs will recognize these accomplishments and give you academic credit for them where appropriate.
Costs associated with continued education can be quite high; however, many employers offer registered nurses tuition assistance as part of their benefit package. Even if you pay out-of-pocket, or utilize federal financial aid sources, investing in higher education is a wise decision.
Location is Key
Though online RN to BSN programs make learning anywhere a reality; location is still an important consideration. Actual coursework can often be offered 100% online, but there may be other requirements that students have to fulfill in order to graduate. For example, some programs require that you attend orientations, seminars, clinical rotations, etc. in a specific location. You may also have to have your exams proctored by someone at a local college or library, and this may incur additional costs. Sometimes meeting these conditions can be accomplished by traveling to a near-by satellite location, but not always. Check to make sure that the program meets your needs.
In online education, it is of the up most importance that your instructors be available to you, as you will likely never meet in person. So selecting a program with a low faculty-to-student ration is your best option for a successful online academic career. For faculty who teach in online programs, the time commitment is often greater than that of traditional class room teaching. In addition to developing the course content, they then have to make it available online.
Also, almost all online courses require some sort of weekly (or even more frequent) posting on a discussion thread, which is an additional time consuming task for the instructor to read/grade – and for the student to complete. In general, completing an online course requires more, not less, time out of your day to manage successfully.
Another time consideration is the number of credit hours it will take to complete the program. Good RN to BSN online programs will have an easily understandable and readily available list of criteria for transfer that will give you as much credit as possible for the licensure that you already hold.Making yourself aware of the specifics prior to beginning the program can save you both time and frustration.
Enrolling in a fully accredited RN to BSN online program is a must! Some colleges will tell you that they are in the accreditation process, which may be true. However, unless they achieve that status prior to your graduation date, it will be inconsequential to you. No matter how well you perform as a student, if your college or university program, as well as the institution itself, is not accredited, your degree will be worthless in the work world. All colleges and universities must make public their accreditation status and give the name and contact information of their accrediting board. These boards govern by region and can be easily found via the Internet.
A well thought out search and a reasonable time investment can yield a wide variety of programs for your review. Use your colleagues and supervisors as additional resources. They will likely have first-hand information about the best available programs and can help you narrow down choices that will be perfect for you.