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Difference Between a Paramedic & Nurse

Paramedics and nurses complete many of the same tasks when helping patients; however, they also work in very different settings. Learn about the similarities and differences of these occupations.

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Comparing Paramedics to Nurses

Paramedics and nurses are very similar, as these occupations revolve around helping patients with medical needs. The main difference between these professions is that paramedics provide emergency medical care before reaching a hospital, while nurses typically work in hospitals, physician offices, or in a patient's home. Here you can learn more about these two medical professionals and their job duties.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Paramedic Postsecondary Educational Program or Associate's Degree $32,670 24%
Registered Nurse Bachelor's Degree $68,450 16%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Paramedics vs Nurses

Paramedics and nurses provide medical care to patients in need. Paramedics assist patients in emergency situations, which typically includes managing care on the way to a hospital. On the other hand, nurses usually take over patient care when they arrive at the hospital, along with other medical professionals. Both paramedics and nurses assess a patient's condition and determine treatment. They also are responsible for documenting the medical care the patient received along with observation notes.

Paramedic

Paramedics answer emergency calls by rushing over to assist an individual with a medical issue. They must be prepared to help someone in need of first-aid or someone whose life may be at risk. This makes for a very stressful work environment, where paramedics must be ready for anything and available to work in a variety of conditions. They must act quickly and problem-solve to ensure they are giving the best medical care in the quickest amount of time. In addition, they must be able to have compassion towards patients, as it can be a very stressful situation for everyone involved. In addition to excellent medical skills, paramedics must be able to communicate effectively, listen carefully to how a patient describes their illness or injury, and then also report to the medical facility about any care provided while on the way.

Job responsibilities of a paramedic include:

  • Transporting patients to a medical facility
  • Driving an ambulance
  • Observing vital signs
  • Managing equipment and supplies used

Nurse

Nurses typically work with patients in medical facilities or in a patient's home. While they can work in emergency situations, many nurses work directly with patients to manage their medical care. Nurses are responsible for documenting a patient's medical history, noting symptoms, and developing a course of treatment. Nurses may work long and irregular hours. They must be able to recognize changes in a patient's health and act accordingly to help. Nurses must also be very organized, as they usually work with many different patients at the same time with different injuries or illnesses. Nurses can advance in their careers into supervisory roles.

Job responsibilities of a nurse include:

  • Developing patient care plans
  • Operating medical equipment
  • Performing tests
  • Educating patients

Related Careers

Individuals interested in being a paramedic may also like a career as a firefighter, where they would also respond to emergency situations and assist those who may be hurt or trapped due to a fire. Nurses may also be interested in a career as a physician assistant, where they would still help patients, but fulfill other duties closer to those of a physician.

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