Choosing a healthcare career requires you to closely examine all your options. Among your choices is becoming a paramedic or a nurse. Both provide emergency care yet work in very different environments. You may be better suited to one than the other.
If you feel torn between the two, taking a closer look at the job responsibilities, work environments, and education required for each of these healthcare careers can help you decide.
In this article you’ll discover:
- What is a paramedic?
- What is a nurse?
- What are the similarities between paramedics and nurses?
- What are the differences between paramedics and nurses?
- What are the salary and job outlooks for paramedics and nurses?
- What should you consider when choosing between the two roles?
What is a paramedic?
Paramedics provide advanced emergency care to patients. If you’ve ever had to call for an ambulance, it’s been a paramedic who has responded.
It’s their job to attend to any immediate medical needs and get you stabilized before transporting you to a hospital (if necessary). Sometimes paramedics decide a trip to the emergency room isn’t needed and you can follow up with your regular doctor later.
During true emergencies, paramedics can administer drugs and perform some procedures like setting broken bones and administering intravenous fluids (IVs).
Types of paramedics
There are three types of paramedics. You can base the path you choose on your overall career goals and interests.
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Paramedics are what most people think of when they picture a paramedic. Working as part of a rapid-response unit, they often arrive in ambulances and deal with all kinds of emergencies. From car accidents to heart attacks, they often are the first medical responders on the scene.
- Firefighter Paramedics work with firefighting units. They are both trained firefighters and EMTs. Firefighter paramedics respond to the same scenes where firefighters are called to assist, including house fires and vehicle accidents.
- Flight Paramedics care for patients who must be air-lifted from accident scenes or other remote locations where an ambulance can’t move easily. They are skilled enough to provide high-quality medical care until they can get to a hospital or trauma care facility. Flight paramedics often are assisted by flight nurses.
What is a nurse?
Nurses are another type of healthcare professional. They assist doctors, surgeons, and other healthcare workers treat patients for a variety of medical issues. Most nurses can administer medications, check vitals, perform bedside care, and assist patients with basic hygiene. The level of care nurses can provide depends on their nursing licensure.
Types of nurses
There are several types of nurses. You can choose which kind of nurse you’d like to be based on your personal career goals and level of education.
- Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) are entry-level and work under the direct supervision of an RN or doctor. If you choose to become an LPN, you’ll need to earn your Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and pass the NCLEX-PN exam to earn your nursing license.
- Registered Nurses (RNs) are more advanced than LPNs. They can administer diagnostic tests, create care plans for their patients, and assist during medical or surgical procedures. Some RNs also serve in supervisory roles. To become an RN, you’ll need to earn either an ADN or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and then pass your NCLEX-RN exam.
- Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are RNs who have completed advanced training in one of four specialty fields: certified nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, and nurse practitioner. APRNs can prescribe medications and treat patients without supervision from a doctor.
|Work environment||On-site wherever medical emergencies happen||Hospitals and healthcare facilities|
|Duties||Assess and stabilize patients on-site/transport to hospital||Bedside care and other treatment protocol while in the hospital|
|Training||1,200 to 1,800 of intense, in-depth medical training||12-18 months for LPN/3 to 4 years for RN|
Expert advice from nurses like you
What are the similarities between paramedics and nurses?
Both nurses and paramedics help people who need medical care. Paramedics and nurses can assess and treat life-threatening issues. They stabilize patients until they can receive the life-saving medical treatment needed at a hospital, trauma center, or other medical facility.
Nurses and paramedics must act quickly because every second counts when a patient is experiencing a medical emergency.
What are the differences between paramedics and nurses?
There are more differences between nurses and paramedics than similarities. Some of the most obvious contrasts include:
- Nurses work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Paramedics treat patients on-site where emergencies happen.
- Paramedics have more medical training than LPNs, even though they only attend 1,200 to 1,800 hours of training versus the 12 to 18 months it takes to become an LPN.
- Paramedics are tasked with stabilizing patients and delivering emergency care before the patient gets to the hospital. Nurses must perform bedside care and a variety of other duties once patients get to a hospital or other healthcare facility.
What are the salary and job outlooks for paramedics and nurses?
EMTs continue to be in high demand, with a projected growth of 11% between now and 2030. Each year, the BLS expects 20,700 openings for new EMTs and paramedics. While also in demand, nursing professionals can only expect a growth of 9% between 2020 and 2030.
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What should you consider when choosing between the two roles?
Nurses and paramedics perform life-saving duties. When deciding between the two healthcare careers, you may want to consider the following factors:
- Education. Paramedics complete 1,200 to 1,800 hours of training while LPNs are in school for 12 to 18 LPNs. RNs and APRNs must earn a BSN or higher, which requires several years of nursing school.
- Salary. EMTs earn about $5 less per hour than LPNs and nearly $20 less per hour than RNs.
- Stress levels. Both work in high-stress jobs. However, as first-responders, paramedics are under a lot of pressure to quickly stabilize patients so additional treatment can be administered at a hospital or other facility.
- Work environment. Nurses work in the safety and security of hospitals and other medical facilities. Paramedics do most of their work on the scene of accidents, injuries, and other medical emergencies.
If you’re struggling to decide between becoming a paramedic or a nurse, you can talk it over with other nursing professionals who faced a similar situation. If you choose to become a paramedic and change your mind later, you can always go back to school to become an LPN, RN, or APRN.
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