Medical Assistant vs. RN

  1. Hi,

    First, thanks to the fine people on this website for informing me more about getting certified to be either a MA or an ADN/BSN, when I asked in the past, on another posting...

    I have researched the differences between being a MA and a RN/ADN/BSN on Google and it seems like being a MA is more of the 9-to-5 job in doctors' offices. I realize that MA's get paid less than what RNs get paid, but I also realize that nurses usually work long shifts and really have to move around the hospital and be on the go a lot (from what I hear). Not saying a MA's job is "easy", however.

    What would be a "layman's" way to describe the major differences between a medical assistant and a nurse?

    I understand that MAs may do admin/clinical work and usually have traditional work schedules, whereas nurses may have erratic hours and are more focused on patient care and doing what one would think a nurse does.

    Thanks again for any clarification! :-)
  2. Visit HTXTed profile page

    About HTXTed

    Joined: Oct '18; Posts: 9; Likes: 3

    14 Comments

  3. by   GeminiNurse29
    Do you have a primary care doctor? Next time you go see them, pay attention to the name tag of the person taking your vitals and giving you shots. Most doctors' offices now employ MA's to do things like vitals, EKGs, immunizations, etc. You won't see MAs in the hospital or nursing homes. RNs can and do work in clinics as well as hospitals and other settings. We can provide patient education, for instance. If you call me because your kid is sick, I can follow triage guidelines and help determine whether you should bring them in, go to the ED, or call 911 or give them Tylenol. MAs and LPNs cannot do symptom based triaging (at least not where I'm at).
  4. by   MamaBeaRN2b
    I have been both. I thought MA was a very easy job. I worked 9-5 in a family med practice. I was strictly back office. I took pt's into the exam room, got vitals, asked a few questions that the computer told me to ask. Then I told the doc they were ready. After the visit I would give them vaccines, wash out their ears, schedule future appts for them, did u/a's, ekg's. I was certified, but not everyone in my office was, they just did the schooling. I think my program was something like 9 mo. Nursing took me about 5 with prereqs plus 2 years of adn program. Now I get paid a little more than double what I made as an MA.
  5. by   Sour Lemon
    Quote from HTXTed
    Hi,

    First, thanks to the fine people on this website for informing me more about getting certified to be either a MA or an ADN/BSN, when I asked in the past, on another posting...

    I have researched the differences between being a MA and a RN/ADN/BSN on Google and it seems like being a MA is more of the 9-to-5 job in doctors' offices. I realize that MA's get paid less than what RNs get paid, but I also realize that nurses usually work long shifts and really have to move around the hospital and be on the go a lot (from what I hear). Not saying a MA's job is "easy", however.

    What would be a "layman's" way to describe the major differences between a medical assistant and a nurse?

    I understand that MAs may do admin/clinical work and usually have traditional work schedules, whereas nurses may have erratic hours and are more focused on patient care and doing what one would think a nurse does.

    Thanks again for any clarification! :-)
    A big plus in nursing is that you can move up and/or move around. MA seems more terminal.
  6. by   JBudd
    RNs have an enormously more amount of responsibility, far more duties, and do more than tasks. For example, an RN has to understand all the meds, not just make sure giving the "right one" that was ordered, but the interactions, when to hold, etc.

    There is a reason the education takes at least 5 semesters. Also, many opportunities in a variety of settings, not limited to clinics or LTC.
  7. by   Been there,done that
    Average nurse salary =70K Average MA salary=32 K.

    RN's are professionals, MA's are not.

    It appears that you are focused on the work schedule.
  8. by   HTXTed
    Thanks for answering, everyone! I think now that being a RN would be a better career choice (and would tie in well with my ultimate goal of becoming a school nurse). @ BeenThereDoneThat, that's definitely a huge salary gap ;-). I was partly curious about the work schedule, but with that said, I would work whatever hours were needed to succeed in my role as an RN. A bit trite of me to use that line, but I wouldn't let odd hours or long workdays stop me. I feel great when I work a long day and I pushed myself to be better.

    Thx again everyone! Also, sorry, I got a couple PMs, but allnurses isn't letting me respond to them, until I get at least 15 posts. You know what that means...Make some random and inane comments on other topics! Just kidding.
  9. by   Lipoma
    I worked as an MA in an urgent care and I was mostly 3 12s 7:45a - 8:15p. We didn't hire RNs so the majority of my scope was nursing interventions without the RN title or pay.

    I was making 32K as an MA after 2 years of experience (which included OT). As a new RN, that has more than doubled with a 72hr pp without OT. My MA job was not easy because I had multiple patients to triage for the provider and then do ancillary services/occ health like drug screens, pre-employment vaccines etc. I 90% of my job was patient care so I want to say I lucked out with that position.

    Becoming a RN was the next logical step. Now the only difference between my former experience and my current experience is that I am held liable since I now have a license...and the fact that I am MUCH more educated and can better handle emergent situations.
  10. by   KelRN215
    Of the 5 nursing jobs I've held, 4 of them have been Mon-Fri 8 hour days (varied start times between 7:30-9am depending on the environment, school starting the earliest).
  11. by   HelloWish
    I think of MA's as more clerical with some basic clinical aspects of care. I worked as as MA long ago and enjoyed it.

    As an RN, you are responsible for the lives you care for and are licenced to perform under the scope of practice as an RN. You can go the Board of Nursing website for your state and look up the scope of practice for RN's to get a better understanding. Nursing requires critical thinking which I cannot ever remember doing as and MA.
  12. by   calcgirl314
    Salary is one of the biggest differences between MA and RN. As other posters have said, there is a career ladder you can follow with RN, not true with MA. What I like about nursing is that there are just so many different paths you can choose and so many different hours you can work. You can work as many hours as you want or as few as you want. You can work 8, 12 or 16 hour shifts 24 hours a day. This is especially helpful if you have kids with planning childcare. Nurses aren't limited to working in hospitals, doctors offices or nursing homes. They can be case managers and work from home with a decent salary. You can be a travel nurse with housing expenses paid for, or you can do home health and set you're own schedule. MAs just don't have the flexibility that RNs have.
  13. by   JC_NC2019
    You can definitely work in an outpatient clinic as an RN. I have worked in an outpatient setting that employed both MAs and RNs. The RN was over the MAs, and was in charge of triage. As we also had many emergent situations, the RN basically took charge during the emergent situations. Both roles were needed and appreciated. The RN made a LOT more money.

    Have you tried to shadow both jobs? I feel that the RN is a little more versatile than the MA. But, this may not matter if your goal is to work in a clinic.
  14. by   kellymarie1537
    If you're looking at MA vs RN right now, a good median would be an LVN. At the hospital I work at, we can do all the same as a MA and RN. As an LVN, I can start an IV, but I cannot run it, unless it is NS and I cannot triage. I can take info and relay to doc, doc will get back to me and I can relay that info to pt. So it's triage with a middle man. As an MA, I made about 25k (this was 13 years ago), as an LVN, I'm at 70k (high for the National Average, but I'm in CA). LVN school for me was 14 months. I've worked both floor and clinic as an LVN and am currently clinic.

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