Paramedic vs Nurse: How to Choose What’s Best for You

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Paramedic vs nurse: which career should you choose? There are many aspects to consider when deciding which is the best fit. While both careers share a few similarities, many differences, such as job duties, work environment and projected salaries, can be the deciding factor as you weigh your options.

paramedics lift patient into ambulance

A healthcare career can be a rewarding choice for anyone striving to make a tangible, meaningful impact — but with so many career options, it can take time to determine which path to choose. For example, are you comparing the paramedic vs nurse career paths? If so, it’s beneficial to understand what each career entails, including their differences and job outlook.

If you are drawn to nursing after learning more, Averett University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program can help you accomplish your goal. If you have non-nursing college credits or a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, Averett’s ABSN can help you earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in as few as 16 months.

What’s a paramedic, and what’s a nurse? While both careers provide patient care and life-saving measures, they differ significantly. Below is an exploration of the paramedic and nursing careers to help you decide which to pursue.

What is a Paramedic?

Paramedics are healthcare professionals trained to respond to medical emergencies. They provide immediate medical care to patients on-site, often stabilizing them for transport to the nearest healthcare facility. However, not all emergencies require a hospital visit. In minor cases, paramedics administer care and recommend that patients follow up with their doctor.

Paramedics must be quick on their feet. To determine the most appropriate response, they must assess a patient’s injuries or illness and respond to various medical emergencies. They administer first aid and life-saving measures, such as CPR, advanced airway management, IV lines and cardiac life support.

Paramedics must always be ready for anything, so it is vital they consistently take inventory and maintain their supplies. They lead the emergency medical services (EMS) team while determining the most immediate care and appropriate healthcare facility to transport patients.

paramedics with patient in ambulence

Types of Paramedics

When you think of a paramedic, the first thing that comes to mind may be those who arrive in an ambulance, but other types of paramedics are essential in EMS. Three types of paramedics who can be called in an emergency include:

  • Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs): EMTs are often the first to arrive on the scene in emergencies. They are part of the rapid response unit that drives ambulances, equipped to treat various conditions.
  • Firefighter Paramedics: Firefighter paramedics double as both firefighters and EMTs. Working alongside the fire unit, they arrive when firefighters are called to provide emergency medical care during fires, car accidents and other emergencies.
  • Flight Paramedics: Flight paramedics are called when patients must be airlifted to a healthcare facility because an ambulance cannot reach a location, or a patient needs to be transported to an emergency unit faster than an ambulance can accommodate.

These three types of paramedics are essential to ensuring patients receive rapid, life-saving care during medical emergencies.

Medavac nurses transporting patient

If becoming a flight paramedic sounds exciting, read more to learn what it takes to become a flight nurse.

What is a Nurse?

Nurses are critical to the healthcare system. They work in various settings — not just hospitals — and are trained to provide direct patient care. Registered nurses (RN) provide patient care alongside doctors, surgeons and other healthcare professionals.

While RNs do not diagnose patients, they are instrumental in a patient’s treatment by creating and following patient care plans. They administer medications, monitor vitals, assist with activities of daily living (ADL) and treat illnesses and injuries.

Just like paramedics, RNs must be quick on their feet. They must closely monitor their patient’s condition, review medical history, and collaborate with other nurses and medical professionals to ensure patients receive quality, dignified, and effective care.

Nurses don’t just work at hospitals. Explore these alternative nursing careers to learn more about nursing away from the bedside.

close up of nurse using a test tube

Types of Nursing Personnel

There are many different types of nurses and nursing specialty areas that fall into four categories:

  • Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs): CNAs are an entry-level position. Their role in a healthcare facility is to support nurses by assisting patients with ADLs, such as bathing and eating. They also log patient information and maintain medical supplies.
  • Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs): LPNs work under the supervision of RNs and other healthcare professionals. Like CNAs, they assist patients with ADLs but can also administer medications, provide wound care and more.
  • Registered Nurses: RNs typically come to mind when considering a nurse. As mentioned above, they create and adhere to patient care plans, assist doctors and surgeons with procedures and can adopt supervisory roles.
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs): APRNs have a broader scope of practice than RNs and have completed advanced education in a specialty field, such as nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist or nurse anesthetist. In many cases, APRNs are primary care providers and can diagnose illnesses and prescribe medications.

Each category has specific job duties and education requirements, so choosing your nursing path depends on your goals. Fortunately, you can advance your career by pursuing higher education and certifications.

Differences Between Paramedics and Nurses

Paramedic vs nurse: what are the differences? While both provide patient care, many differences can significantly impact your chosen career.

Averett ABSN student in simulation lab

Most notable is the environment in which paramedics and nurses administer care. While nurses work in hospitals and a wide range of healthcare facilities, paramedics work wherever an emergency occurs, such as in patients’ homes, commercial buildings or outdoors.

Another difference is the required education and training. While it takes less time to become an EMT than a CNA or LPN, EMTs have a broader scope of practice and receive more intensive training.

Additionally, becoming an RN can require up to four years of education before you become licensed. However, accelerated BSN programs such as Averett’s ABSN can expedite the process if you have existing college credits.

Lastly, paramedics and nurses administer different types of care. While RNs adhere to a patient care plan and provide bedside care, paramedics are tasked with stabilizing patients quickly to transport them to a healthcare facility as fast as possible.

Paramedics vs RNs: Three Things to Consider

You should also consider projected salaries, education and career outlooks when deciding whether you want to become a paramedic or nurse.

1. Projected Salary

You might want to consider the projected salary for each career as you decide. While specific wages depend on the state, healthcare facility and education, paramedics and nurses have significantly different projected salaries, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The median salary for paramedics is $49,090 and $36,680 for EMTs (BLS). Conversely, the median salary for RNs is significantly higher at $81,220 (BLS).

2. Education and Training

Paramedics and nurses also have different education and training requirements. To become a paramedic, you must first receive EMT-Intermediate certification, according to the BLS. EMT-Intermediate training programs confer a certificate and can take up to two years to complete.

Eligibility and qualifications vary by state, but most EMT-Intermediate programs require a high school diploma, CPR and basic life support certification before you can start the education process. Upon receiving this certification, applicants can enroll in a paramedic postsecondary program and earn either a certificate or an associate’s degree.

Averett ABSN student standing outside with backpack

Nurses, on the other hand, undergo more intensive education. To become an RN, individuals must earn a nursing degree before pursuing licensure. There are two types of nursing degrees: an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), which is typically a two-year program, or a BSN, which is usually a four-year program. However, if you are a career changer or transfer student, you may be eligible to enroll in an accelerated BSN program.

Accelerated BSN programs build off your previous education while delivering a high-quality education on par with a traditional, four-year BSN program.

After earning a nursing degree, you must take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to earn your nursing license. Upon passing, you can start practicing as a registered nurse.

While both nursing degrees qualify you to take the NCLEX, a BSN is preferred by many healthcare facilities. This is because BSN-educated nurses receive a comprehensive education that leads to improved patient outcomes, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

If you want to change your career or transfer to a nursing program, read more to learn how an accelerated BSN program works.

nurses in simulation lab working with tools

3. Career Outlook

Career stability brings peace of mind, especially when entering a new profession. According to the BLS, paramedics and EMTs are projected to grow 5% between 2022 and 2032, higher than the national average for all occupations. About 18,100 job openings are projected for paramedics over the next decade. If you decide to become a paramedic, you can rest assured that there are opportunities.

RNs also have a promising career outlook with a projected 6% growth over the next decade. With a nationwide nursing shortage due to retirement and increased population needs, the BLS projects 193,100 job openings over the decade. With such a high demand for nurses, now is a great time to become a nurse.

Averett ABSN student walking outside

Earn Your BSN with Averett University

If you feel called to become a nurse after comparing the paramedic vs nurse careers, you can take the first steps with Averett’s ABSN. Our ABSN builds off your previous education, allowing you to earn a BSN on an accelerated timeline. The program combines online coursework with experiential learning through nursing simulation labs and clinical rotations, preparing you to take the NCLEX confidently.

Contact our admissions advisors to discuss your next steps. Our dedicated team will support you through every aspect of the admissions process, from the first call to applying to the program.