a portrait of a nurse and paramedic
Nursing Career

Paramedic vs Nurse: Education, Duties & Salary

Becoming a nurse or a paramedic can be a very rewarding career.

If you’re trying to figure out the different education requirements, duties, and salaries of both than you’re at the right place.

If you’re trying to figure out which one is better, let me answer that right away. When it comes to which is better a nurse vs paramedic, the answer is both play different roles and are equally important to the healthcare system. Which one is “better” will be based more on your personality type.

…and how long you want to be in school or how much you want to make.

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Nurse and Paramedic Job Descriptions

Nurse Job Description

A registered nurse – or RN – provides treatment and health care to patients in a hospital, facility, and sometimes the home.

They’ll also provide teaching, advice and emotional support to patients and their family.

Nursing is a varied career choice and many specialties are available, including but not limited to pediatrics, oncology, geriatrics, addiction, and mental health.

Typically, a registered nurse can expect to engage in the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Build rapport with patients, their families, and friends
  • Work with a medical team that includes doctors, surgeons, specialists, and other nurses to provide health care support to patients 
  • Monitor patient well-being, health, and vital signs
  • Maintain notes and reports on patients
  • Evaluate patient needs in line with health needs
  • Order testing for patients
  • Administer medications and prepare IV lines, catheters, syringes, and so on

Paramedic Job Description

A paramedic is a first responder.

They respond to medical emergencies and are first on the scene to administer first aid and treatment.

Their goal is to stabilize a patient to the point that they can then be transported in an ambulance to the nearest hospital for further treatment.

Typically, a paramedic can expect to engage in the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Build rapport with patients, their families, and friends
  • Provide first aid
  • Maintain a calm demeanor and cool-headedness in emergency medical situations 
  • Assess for environmental dangers when arriving at an emergency scene
  • Monitor patient well-being, health, and vital signs
  • Stabilize patients for transport
  • Have the capacity to prioritize care, assess a patient in an emergency situation, and multi-task
  • Provide transportation to the nearest medical facility
  • Build and maintain relationships with other paramedics, nurses, doctors, and health staff
  • Communicate with a dispatcher over a two-way radio

Education and Training

Nurse Education and Training

The journey to becoming a registered nurse typically begins with earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing or an associate degree in nursing.

In some states, a diploma in nursing is all that’s required.

Requirements do tend to vary from state to state, but a person can expect to study for four years to obtain this qualification. 

Once the basic education has been completed, it’s necessary to pass the nursing licensing exam called the NCLEX.

Check with your state for their education and training requirements for nursing, as it may vary.

Ideally, a nurse should display the following characteristics and qualities:

  • The capacity to empathize with others and show compassion
  • A calm and stable personality
  • The ability to prioritize, organize, and multi-task
  • Excellent communication skills and the ability to build rapport with health care team members, patients, and members of the public
  • A respect for patient confidentiality
  • The ability to solve problems quickly and respond to emergency situations calmly

How long does it take to become a registered nurse? Training to be a nurse after high school could take anywhere between 4-5 years to get your registered nurse (RN) license.

Paramedic Education and Training

The education and training required to become a paramedic is not as long as it is to become a registered nurse, but there are numerous licenses and training that need to be obtained before a paramedic role can be secured.

Anyone wanting to become a paramedic must have received a high school diploma.

From this point, there are a number of training courses that need to be completed: EMT Basic, EMT Intermediate, and Paramedic (source).

In some cases, more advanced coursework is required in the form of an associate degree.

Once this foundational education has been completed, a person must be licensed by the state to practice as a paramedic.

In most cases, this is done via the NREMT exam.

How long do you go to school to become a paramedic? It can take anywhere between 8 months to 2 years to become a paramedic.

Paramedic vs Nurse Salary

Nurse Salary

A nurse’s salary largely depends on where they work.

For example, a nurse working in a hospital will be paid differently than one working in a private clinic.

Typically, a registered nurse can expect to earn a median salary of $71,000 per year.

Paramedic Salary

The salary of a paramedic varies by location and employer.

It may also depend on whether they work in the public or private health sector.

A paramedic can expect to earn a median salary of $43,364 per year according to Salary.com.

If you’re wanting to ensure you earn as much money as possible, registered nurses do earn more than paramedics (on average).

Where Do They Work

This is probably the most important question when comparing a registered nurse vs a paramedic because to me this is what fundamentally makes both jobs different.

Paramedic

Typically a paramedic works out in the “field.” It could be anywhere from an office building or church to being out in the woods near a river.

Their job is to stabilize the patient and than transport the patient to a facility.

Registered Nurse

The nurse works in a hospital or facility where they’ll receive the patient from the paramedics.

As stated above a nurse receives the patient from the paramedic at a hospital.

Therefore you might think well the nurse has it easier because the nurse works in a more controlled environment.

Which would be partially true.

The thing to keep in mind is that the paramedic is not responsible for delivering long term care to the patient.

That’s the role of the nurse.

If you’ve done any sort of triaging experience one of the things that will be apparent is that stabilizing and handing off a patient is very different than delivering long-term care to a patient.

I’m not necessarily saying one is better or harder than the other.

Just different.

Conclusion

So, which one is better?

Both.

Paramedics and registered nurses equally play crucial roles in our health care system.

The question I think you should be asking yourself is…“which one is better for you?”

  • Do you want to make more money? Registered Nurse
  • Do you want to be in school for a shorter amount of time? Paramedic
  • Do you want a more stable working environment? Registered Nurse
  • Do you want a more “thrilling and exciting” work environment? Paramedic

It all depends.

I picked being a nurse, because that’s what works for me.

What are you going to pick?

Frequently Asked Questions

Do nurses get paid more than paramedics?

Yes, on average nurses are paid significantly more than paramedics. On average nurses earn between 65,000-75,000 a year while a paramedic’s salary is closer to the $45,000-$50,000 range.

Which is better a nurse or a paramedic?

A nurse and a paramedic both play a vital role in our healthcare system. A nurse is not trained to do what a paramedic does and a paramedic is not trained to do what a nurse does.

Is an RN higher than a paramedic?

No, because they do not follow the same chain of command. A paramedic works out in the field and an RN works in a hospital/facility.

Is an LPN higher than a paramedic?

No, because they don’t follow the same chain of command. An LPN works in a hospital/facility while a paramedic works out in the emergency scene.

Can nurses ride in ambulances?

Yes, there’s a type of nurse that can ride in an ambulance. They’re typically called a transport nurse.

Can you go from EMT to RN?

Yes, an EMT can become an RN by going through an EMT-P to RN bridge program.

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