Physician Assistant vs. Registered Nurse | Maryville online (2023)

Compassion, emotional stability, patience, and good communication skills are characteristics of people who are well suited for a variety of healthcare roles, including two that show promising job growth: physician assistant and registered nurse (RN).

Both professions offer opportunities to improve the health of individuals and communities. But when it comes to careers like a physician's assistant or a nurse, how can students determine the best option? An important aspect of the equation is the investigation of educational opportunities in care settings, eg. B. the search for aBachelor of Nursing.

Physician Assistant vs. Registered Nurse | Maryville online (1)

Definitions: Assistant Physician vs. Registered Nurse

Physician assistants and RNs provide many services, but physician assistant roles include business and clinical responsibilities. RNs are more likely to take a leadership role in patient care.

What is a Medical Assistant?

Medical assistants often receive cross-training in administrative and clinical roles. Healthcare professionals, who typically work in hospitals, doctors' offices and other healthcare environments, play an important role in reassuring patients.

What does a medical assistant do?

Medical assistants support doctors, nurses, and other clinical professionals. Their responsibilities range from administrative tasks to some patient-facing tasks. The attending physician's responsibilities may include:

  • Answer calls and make appointments
  • Greet patients and direct them to exam rooms.
  • Communication with insurance companies, medical supply stores and pharmacies
  • Maintenance of patient records and office financial records.
  • Prepare treatment rooms
  • Review of vital signs and health histories
  • Assist physicians in performing medical procedures and administering medications.
  • Review of follow-up instructions with patients

What is a Registered Nurse?

The American Nurses Association describes registered nurses as "the backbone of health care in the United States". RNs provide and coordinate patient care and share information about health conditions with patients and the public.

What Does a Registered Nurse Do?

The daily job duties of the RN include:

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  • Assess and record patients' condition, medical history, and symptoms.
  • administering medications and treatments
  • Create or provide information for patient plans.
  • Working with doctors and other healthcare professionals
  • Operate and monitor medical devices
  • Conducting tests and analyzing the results.
  • Teach patients and their families to cope with the disease
  • Explain home treatments.
  • Enter information and retrieve information from EHR systems

Steps to Becoming a Medical Assistant

Medical assistants usually have a high school diploma. They often complete a one- to two-year program that teaches the fundamentals of the profession, such as a certificate or diploma program from a college or technical school, or they may have an associate degree.

Some employers and states require medical assistants to be nationally certified, but this is not always necessary. The certification certifies that Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs) are competent and knowledgeable in administrative and clinical tasks in the healthcare industry. Since this is an entry-level career field, some medical practices even offer on-the-job training for aspiring medical assistants.

Successful skills include:

  • precision. Attending physicians must record the patient's vital data without errors.
  • Analysis capacity. Medical assistants must understand how to read charts and accurately encode patient conditions and treatments into billing software.
  • Technical abilities. Medical assistants must learn to use medical devices such as sphygmomanometers and technology such as electronic health record (EHR) systems.
  • communication and empathy. Interpersonal skills, such as effective communication skills and empathizing with patients, are critical to success in this role.

Steps to Becoming a Registered Nurse

RNs must have an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited university nursing program or a diploma from an accredited hospital nursing program. These educational programs prepare RNs to pass the national exam known as the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). Once approved in the NCLEX-RN, nurses must beApproval by the Department of Nursingof the state in which they practice to become an RN.

Nurses are required to maintain their licenses with ongoing professional development throughout their careers. When they earn advanced certifications, they often have to recertify after a certain number of years.

Additionally, RNs may specialize in a specific area of ​​nursing, such as: B. Critical care or gerontology. RNs who aspire to a leadership role in healthcare or are interested in an advanced practice role, e.g. B. As a registered nurse, you can continue your training with aMaster of Science in Pflege (MSN)or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Necessary nursing skills include:

  • clinical knowledge. Nurses should contribute their scientific training to patient care.
  • detailed guidance. RNs are responsible for accurately recording patients' vital signs and administering treatments correctly.
  • Communication and collaboration skills.. RNs need to communicate and collaborate with physicians, patients, other clinical staff, and healthcare managers.
  • compassion and empathy. A big part of a nurse's job is to be a patient advocate and support system.

Similarities Between Physician Assistants and Registered Nurses

The central role of physician assistants and RNs is to interact with patients and medical staff to improve health outcomes. Other similarities are:

Necessary Skills

Physician assistants and RNs work with patients, physicians and other healthcare professionals. You'll need strong interpersonal and communication skills to listen to patients and cohorts, interpret medical data, and accurately convey information verbally and in writing. And because they have access to confidential patient information, professionals in both professions must maintain discretion.

Their shared approach to working with patients also prioritizes compassion and empathy for attending physicians and nurses, roles that require a strong desire to help others. Professions also require the ability to multitask and use critical thinking to administer and support treatment.


Medical assistants and registered nurses are in high demand in the job market, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicting above-average growth for both between 2020 and 2030. Medical assistant and RN jobs will grow by 18% and 9 %, respectively, in this period, according to BLS projections.

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The BLS attributes these positive prospects to an increasing emphasis on preventive health care, as well as the increasing medical demands of the aging baby boomer population.

Differences – Attending Physician vs. Registered Nurse

Despite the similarities, the comparison between the professions of medical assistant and nurse presents significant differences. From the work to the necessary training, the functions of medical and nursing assistants have many characteristics that differentiate them from others.


According to the BLS, more than half of physician assistants (57%) work in doctors' offices, but also in hospitals and outpatient clinics. RNs, on the other hand, are more likely to work in hospitals, with 61% working in those facilities. RNs also work in places like clinics, homes, schools and nursing facilities.

Annual Salaries

Salaries are another area where medical assistants and RNs differ, mainly due to educational requirements and area of ​​responsibility.

medical assistant annual salary

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for medical professionals in 2020 was $35,850, with the highest-paid 10% earning more than $50,580.

Annual Salary as a Registered Nurse.

Registered nurses, who typically have higher educational requirements and often hold management positions, had an average annual salary of $75,330 in 2020, with the highest-paid 10% earning more than $116,230, according to the BLS.

Education and Certification

Most medical assistants have post-secondary education such as B. Certificates, diplomas or associate degrees. Some employers and states require medical assistants to be nationally certified. However, registered nurses usually earnAssociate or Bachelor's Degrees, and all RNs must be licensed by the state.

Benefits of Becoming a Nurse

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the nursing profession has been in the spotlight. News about overworked nurses and other health workers fueled sympathy for these frontline workers. According to a 2022 Gallup poll, nurses are still considered the most ethical and honest professionals.

Here are some of the benefits of a career as a Registered Nurse:

helping patients and families

Nurses often talk about the satisfaction they feel for being health professionals. They know they have an immediate impact on patients and their families. This is one of the main reasons why many nurses enter the profession.

several careers

RNs have many options when considering a career. Nurses can choose critical care, pediatrics, geriatrics, or another specialty. You may work in a hospital, private practice, surgical nursing unit, assisted living unit or other healthcare facility. RNs can choose to become advanced nurses, for example. B. Registered nurse, anesthetist, or faculty member at a nursing school. You can also choose a career as a high-paying travel nurse.

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career advancement

Nurses can have administrative or executive roles in a hospital or organization. Many nurses earn advanced degrees, which can lead to options, for example. B. a Director of Nursing or the opportunity to conduct research to advance the field of nursing. Nurses have a scientific background that is also sought after as consultants and other specialists.

Find out what's next on your path to health

Physician Assistant Versus Registered Nurse: Which Is Right For You? If you are pursuing your career goals in healthcare, explore a bachelor's degree in nursing. The University of Maryville is onlineBachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN).it can be a great way to hone your skills and open up opportunities for advanced roles. With constant updatesyllabus, a flexible schedule, and options for eligible credit transfers, Maryville's online RN to BSN degree program can help you build an already rewarding career - even more rewarding.

Literature recommendations

Importance of valuing nurses: supporting health professionals

How nurses affect the quality of care

Your future in nursing: RN vs. BSN vs. msn


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice

American Association of Critical Care Nurses, Get Certified

American Association of Medical Assistants, What is a CMA (AAMA)?

American Association of Medical Assistants, What is a Medical Assistant?

(Video) Why I Chose to Go to PA School | Registered Nurse to Physician Assistant | PA v NP | GirlsLikeYou

American Nurses Association, What is Nursing?

American Center for Nurse Credentialing, Clinical Nurse Specialist Certification in Adult Gerontology (AGCNS-BC)

Gallup, "Military Chief, Judge Among Professions in New Low Images"

Houston Chronicle, "Personality Traits for Successful Medical Careers"

The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, "PhD or DNP? That Is the Question"

O-Net OnLine, medical assistants

O-Net OnLine, qualified nurses

PracticalAdultInsights, "What Does a Physician Assistant Do?"

US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Physician Assistants

US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses


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