Why Are There So Many Kinds of Nurses?

Nurses are the backbone of the health industry. They are the laymen that work behind the scenes that keep order in every medical facility around the world. They are in hospitals, private practices, clinics and home health agencies just to name a few. However, not every nurse you come across is equal to another. To get a better understanding of the nursing field and the reason why the different types of nurses exist, it’s best to categorize them by certification and then by specialty.

Like with any other field of study, nursing has various levels of certification or degree.  A LVN’s program requirements are going to be different then a RN’s program requirements. Each level in nursing has its own set of skills and courses needed to be mastered before they can be certified or graduate to the next level. The hierarchy begins with certified nursing assistants and advances to Nurse Practitioners. Below is a brief explanation of each level:

  1. CNA- Depending on where they work, they are referred to as Nursing Assistants, Patient Care Technicians and Home Health Aides. Their job is to help individuals to be as independent as possible, while assisting them with activities of daily living. Though they are at the bottom of the hierarchy, their job is no less important than the above classifications.
  2. LVN/LPN- Licensed Vocational/Practical Nurses- Though they carry two different titles they are one in the same. Their job function is to provide bedside care, administer medications and injections and monitor the overall condition of each patient assigned to them. They’re duties are limited as they cannot start any treatment and answer to the RN.
  3. RN- These are your Registered Nurses. They are found in medical facility around the country. RN’s treat patients as ordered by physicians. It’s within their scope of practice to administer drugs, start and discontinue IV’s, assess patients and instill care plans. They basically keep the institution running smoothly in the absence of a physician. Once you have obtained this level of licensure you can easily elevate to every subsequent degree offered. 
  4. BSN, MSN, NP- These are combined not to limit their value, but because their base is an RN. These are RN’s who have achieved a higher education and skill level. As a result they are employed to higher paying positions within the health industry and assume greater responsibility.

Specialty nurses on the other hand are not broken up by degree level. Instead they are distinguished by the field or department they work in. Just as medical practitioners further their careers by concentrating in a particular field of medicine, nurses do the same. By definition they're RN's who have acquired more training to specialize in particular classes of medicine.

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