Did you know that there are over 130 million emergency room visits made by patients in the U.S. annually? That is 40.4 people out of every 100. Over 16 million of those emergency room visits result in hospital admission. Can you imagine the workforce required to sustain care provision for so many millions of people?
Many frontline healthcare staff that attend to people in the ER or hospital include Medical Assistants, Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), and Patient Care Specialists or Technicians (PCS or PCT). Between the 657,200 LPNs, 743,500 Medical Assistants, and 1,389,900 CNAs (an employment option for Patient Care Technicians and Specialists), the healthcare support team in the U.S. is 2,790,600 people strong.
If you wish to break into the field of healthcare, you might be wondering: Which career path is right for me? Consider what role you want to play in patient care and whether you would like to learn just the foundations of nursing for now, or devote more time to your education. There is no wrong answer!
Learn the differences – and similarities – between a Medical Assistant vs. LPN, a PCT vs. LPN, and a Medical Assistant vs. PCT.
What are the job duties of a Medical Assistant vs. LPN vs. PCT?
Of all three careers discussed, Medical Assistants spend the most time doing administrative duties, including scheduling appointments, processing billing, recording patient history, preparing blood samples, and measuring vital signs such as blood pressure. However, Medical Assistants also support physicians in examination rooms and keep the office running smoothly—in the waiting room and behind the scenes. As a Medical Assistant, it is possible to angle your skillset more towards the clinical or administrative side, however, the capability to work with both patients and computers is an asset.
Licensed Practical Nurses are qualified to administer slightly more advanced patient care duties, such as changing bandages, inserting catheters, interpreting patient feedback, and communicating concerns or changes in their health to registered nurses (RNs) or physicians. LPNs often work closely with RNs to educate a patient’s loved ones, such as demonstrating how to administer medication or care for a dressed wound once the patient goes home. LPNs, like PCTs, interface closely with patients and help them with basic comforts. Both medical assistants and LPNs monitor and record patient health.
The role of a Patient Care Specialist or Technician can be implied by their title – These caring professionals help patients with activities related to daily life and functioning, such as eating, bathing, going to the bathroom, and moving about their room or facility. By nature of this job, and the fact that they spend quality time with patients, these professionals often develop relationships, bonds, and friendships with patients, particularly those on long-term stays. PCTs collaborate least with physicians and instead operate under instruction from LPNs and RNs. Note that both PCT and PCS titles can vary by workplace and state, but are used interchangeably in this article.
Though each job function is distinct, all three careers are similar in several recommended qualities. In any of these three roles, you will need to draw on the following in your day-to-day life at work:
- Compassion and empathy
- Ability to pay attention to detail
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Physical stamina and capability to walk, bend, and lift as needed
- An analytical mind
- Lots of patience
How quickly can I become a Medical Assistant vs. LPN vs. PCT?
To pursue any of these careers, you will need to obtain training (typically through a postsecondary program).
Stone Academy offers three fast, hands-on diploma programs for prospective care providers: the Medical Assistant program, Practical Nursing program, and Patient Care Specialist program. All three programs are offered with flexible scheduling options so that you can choose day, evening, or weekend classes to complement your lifestyle and current priorities. For all three programs, you can get your diploma fast!
- Medical Assistants can earn their diploma within a year, after ten months of on-campus training, plus two months in an internship. Medical Assistants might choose to become certified with an additional exam, such as the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA), Certified Phlebotomist, or Certified Medical Assistant (CMA).
- Licensed Practical Nurses must complete 16 months of on-campus classes to gain their diplomas. Eligible graduates can sit for the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health NCLEX-PN exam to gain their licensure as an LPN.
- It takes just months for Patient Care Technicians to complete their diploma program. Stone Academy students stand out from other PCTs because they graduate with a Home Health Aide Certificate, besides being eligible to sit for the State of Connecticut CNA certification exam.
In addition to earning a diploma, you can expect that on-the-job training will be provided, to orient you to the facility and functions of your position within the healthcare center. Stone Academy is passionate about offering a career-focused education to motivated adults, and therefore, we aim to put nothing unnecessary between you and program admission. A high school diploma or equivalent is required for admission, along with an eagerness to learn about medical science and the human body, including the basics of disciplines like biology and anatomy.
What is my salary potential, plus job environment prospects, as a Medical Assistant vs. LPN vs. PCT?
More education and certifications, unsurprisingly, equate to higher pay rates. Patient Care Technicians and Specialists can be trained most quickly, and they make on average, $30,310 annually. Medical Assistants make $37,190 annually, while LPNs make $48,070 annually.
Certain environments are more lucrative than others for these professionals. For example, both PCTs and LPNs can make more money in government jobs than in all other environments. PCTs can see an increase of $7k over the national average in government workplaces, while LPNs see at least $4k more than average.
This being said, LPNs and PCTs both work in nursing and residential care facilities most commonly. Second most commonly, LPNs vs. PCTs are found in hospitals. Medical Assistants, in contrast to LPNs and PCTs, work overwhelmingly (58% of them!) in the offices of physicians.
Don’t make the mistake of only considering salary when choosing to enter healthcare through one of these pathways. Consider the work environment which you most enjoy, and the time and attention that you have available to spend studying, as well as what your future goals are in the field.
Choosing Your Caring Career Path
In summary, Medical Assistants, LPNs, and Patient Care Specialists are all kind, sympathetic professionals who want to make a positive difference in people’s lives by supporting their health care and well-being. Explore more on all of Stone Academy’s nursing programs in CT by visiting us online, requesting information, or applying today! It’s never too early or late to start your medical career.