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When it comes to nursing, there are a variety of specializations, each with its own set of school prerequisites, job descriptions, and salary ranges. At the entry level, nurses in the United States must complete a 75-hour vocational course, while those at the highest level must complete an advanced degree program lasting six years or more. There are tiers within each group that vary primarily concerning years of experience and quality of work.
Finding the right nursing degree or certificate program depends on your circumstances, financial situation, area of specialization and interest, income requirements, and long-term professional ambitions. The five tiers are as follows:
1. CNA or Certified Nurse Aide (CNA)
If you’re thinking about a career in nursing, being a certified nursing assistant is a terrific first step. Seventy-five hours of vocational training are needed to get started in this position. To become a certified nursing assistant in the United States, you must finish a state-approved training program and pass the state certification exam.
2. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
To become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), you must enroll in a training program and complete the requirements within one year. These nurses provide care in institutional settings, including hospitals and long-term care centers. If a patient needs a CNA’s hands-on care but a nurse’s evaluation skills, an LPN is qualified to provide in-home care in most states. LPNs are also called LVNs (Licensed Vocational Nurses) in some regions (LVNs).
3. Registered Nurse (RN)
RNs can be found in various settings, including but not limited to hospitals, nursing homes, care facilities, universities, the military, outpatient clinics, correctional facilities, and doctors’ offices. Home health care is another service they offer nationwide.
Registered nurses are expected to hold degrees from accredited institutions. To become a registered nurse (RN), you can pursue either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) (BSN). If the degree is equivalent to the ADN, it can be accepted in place of the ADN. To work as a registered nurse (RN), you must earn your degree and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
4. Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
When a nurse earns a post-degree, bachelor’s, particularly a Master of Science in Nursing, they are categorized as advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) (MSN). Other common advanced practice nursing specialties are certified registered nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, nurse educators, and nurse managers. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree and another 18–24 months of graduate school to earn your APRN certification.
5. Ph.D. or DNP in nursing
A bachelor’s degree in nursing is required to enter this Ph.D. program. Then students must spend an additional four to six years completing doctoral-level coursework and research at an approved institution. A doctoral or doctor of philosophy in nursing requires the candidate to demonstrate unique research that significantly advances the nursing profession.
Leadership positions in the nursing field often necessitate being accessible outside of regular business hours for matters about personnel. High-paying but precarious, advanced practice nursing jobs include certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA) and nurse practitioner (NP). Consider the difference you want to make in patients’ lives and how it connects with your professional goals as a nurse while deciding on a nursing specialization.
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