Both medical technicians and nurses are integral parts of the health care industry. Although some of their duties are similar, there are more differences than similarities. Their roles and responsibilities, work areas, daily routine, educational requirements and certification requirements are different. Even their salaries and career paths are different. However, both share a common goal to provide quality health care.
After completing high school, a person can enter a formal medical technician program. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), three progressive levels are included in the program: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic. The coursework deals with a wide range of emergency skills, such as respiratory, trauma, cardiac emergencies and patient assessments. A student spends time in an emergency room and ambulance to learn to use and maintain common emergency equipment. A medical technician can train for a period of one to two years leading to an associate’s degree.
On the other hand, an individual can take a two-year vocational course from an accredited school to train as a certified nurse aid or licensed vocational nurse. To become a registered nurse (RN), a person can complete a four-year college degree leading to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. A nurse can pursue higher learning in the field of nursing by taking a Master of Science in Nursing.
All 50 states require that an EMT obtain and pass a certification. An EMT should register with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technician (NREMT) for some or all levels of certification in most states. In addition, some states provide an option to take a state administered test or NREMT. As a requirement, all EMTs and paramedics should be re-certified every two years.
Depending on the type of nursing field, a nurse can take a certification in order to qualify to practice for that specific field. For example, an LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse), also known as LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse), should pass the NCLEX-PN (National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses). In order to become an RN (Registered Nurse), a nurse should pass the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurse). All 50 states require a certification for each level of nursing. Most states require a re-certification for nurses.
Duties & Responsibilities
People who are in life-threatening emergencies often receive the services of EMTs. An EMT’s primary duty is to react immediately to provide emergency care in different scenarios where a person’s life may be at stake. In addition, an EMT responds to 9-1-1 dispatch calls. Some of the cases that require immediate medical attention may include car accidents, heart attacks, slips and falls, childbirths and gunshot wounds. EMTs care for and transport sick or injured patients to medical facilities.
Nurses care for inpatients (patients admitted into hospitals) and outpatients (patients not admitted into hospitals). Patients who are bedridden at home sometimes utilize the services of travel nurses who provide the care they need. Nurses work closely with doctors in caring for sick patients by monitoring their conditions, such as checking and recording their vitals and administering medications. Nurses assigned to work in emergency rooms often accept patients brought in by EMTs.
EMTs are usually on the road. Often, you will find two EMTs riding an ambulance. EMTs are some of the first responders to arrive in emergencies, along with firefighters and police officers. EMTs make sure that they equip their ambulances with the necessary equipment and medications needed to support patients. Often, they transport patients who are in need of further medical attention.
In contrast to an EMT, a nurse’s job is stationary. You would often see a nurse assigned to one location only, as opposed to going to different locations at a given day. Nurses work in hospitals, nursing homes and medical clinics. Some of the medical clinics may be in different locations, such as doctor’s offices and school clinics. Some nurses who work in larger facilities work only in one department where they care for patients closely. Some nurses, known as travel nurses, go to their work locations as required, but unlike EMTs, they do not stay on the road often. In addition, nurses who work in smaller facilities may only treat minor injuries or provide minor medical help. When needed, nurses at these locations call EMTs to transport patients with emergencies to larger facilities that have better equipment to treat major conditions.
Salary and Potential
According to indeed.com as of 2009, the average salary of a medical technician is $52,000 per year while a nurse can expect to earn at least $58,000 per year. There are opportunities for advancement in both fields. Medical technicians can become supervisors, operations managers, administrative directors or executive directors of emergency services. According to bls.gov, some EMTs may become instructors, dispatchers, physician assistants and sales representatives of medical equipment. Some EMTs further their healthcare career paths to become registered nurses, physicians or other healthcare jobs.
Nurses can proceed to become APNs (Advanced Practice Nurses) or nurse practitioners, CNS (Clinical Nurse Specialists), educators or case managers. Some of them proceed to become medical office managers or directors as well as pursue doctorate degrees or become physicians.