Nurses are categorized by what they are licensed to perform and what degree level they have attained. The lowest nurse level that may be obtained is Licensed Practical Nurse. LPNs usually have a year of education but are versed in the basic nursing skills required for all types of traditional patient care.
You can become an LPN by attending a community or technical college. These are the most frequent institutions that offer this education. With just a year of education, the LPN learns a variety of skills that introduce them to the nursing realm. Nurses often use this degree as a stepping stone to become a registered nurse (RN) later in life.
LPNs work in hospitals, outpatients clinics, nursing homes and even mental facilities. They are given basic responsibilities for patient care, which include giving baths, taking vital signs, recording diagnostics, and providing wound care. These would differ from hospital to hospital, and clinic to clinic.
Usually LPNs are assigned half day shifts of 12 hours, but do not work past 40 hours a week. These shifts may be stressful because you can have too many patients per shift when the staff is occasionally short handed.
The Registered Nurse
Registered Nurse (RN) degrees are the standard in the nursing industry and majority of hospitals prefer their nurses to have earned one. About 3 out of 5 Registered Nurses work in a hospital versus other clinical environments, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So your best bet is to obtain a registered nurse degree if you seek employment in a hospital environment. Also, registered nurses may choose above and beyond specialties that could require more schooling and exams, sometimes upwards of two more years of extra study.
RN’s commonly become experts in a couple areas of patient care like trauma, critical care, oncology, respiratory and pain management. For each specialty, the educational requirements vary.
Above and Beyond the RN
Those nurses who go the extra mile and earn a masters degree in nursing will work towards an advanced practice nurse specialty. These are called APNs which are registered nurses that specialize as Nurse Practitioners, Midwives, Clinical Nurses and Nurse Anesthetists. These are very prestigious certifications and a few major organizations oversee which nurses obtain them:
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists
American Midwifery Certification Board