Nursing degrees and certifications come in various levels, as well as a variety of specializations and employment titles. As a result, a nursing degree isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. To pursue the job you want, you’ll need to follow a specific route and fulfill various nursing education criteria.
We’ve put up a basic summary of the various levels of nursing below to assist you with your nursing career. This should give you a better knowledge of your choices in the profession. Nonetheless, these examples barely dent the surface of the many career paths accessible at each level.
Guide to The 4 Levels of Nursing Credentials
1. Nursing Assistant (CNA)
Nursing assistants are sometimes known as nursing aides or CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants). While these individuals are not nurses, they are on the front lines of communication between medical personnel and patients. The position may serve as a stepping stone for many nurses.
Nursing aides assist patients with bathing, dressing, eating, using the toilet, and other everyday tasks. They take vital signs, listen to their patients’ worries about their health, and transport them between beds and wheelchairs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), several CNAs may be allowed to give medication, depending on the state, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They explain that CNAs are often the primary caregivers in nursing homes and residential care facilities, having more contact with patients than other staff members.
You must finish a state-approved school program to become a CNA. A nursing assistant training program may last anywhere from three to eight weeks. To obtain their CNA designation, prospective nursing assistants must pass an exam after completing the curriculum. CNAs are state-certified after completing the program.
There are several free CNA training and courses you can try to make the start of the journey affordable to you.
2. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
LPNs, also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), are in charge of various patient responsibilities. They keep track of patients’ health and provide essential treatment. They may take blood pressure, implant catheters, start IV drips (in certain states), and change dressings, among other things.
They interact with patients and the patient’s families to educate them about the treatment plan. The criteria for providing medicine and supervision for LPNs differ by state.
A Practical Nursing Diploma program is required for LPNs to begin their careers. Technical schools, community colleges, and professional colleges offer these programs, which may finish in as little as 12 months. To obtain your state license and be eligible to work, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) after graduation.
At the LPN level, further certification is also possible for nurses. According to the BLS, certifications demonstrate that an LPN or LVN has a high degree of expertise in a particular topic. LPNs may obtain certification in specific areas, including IV treatment, developmental impairments, delivery, and more, to gain an advantage in the job market or gain specialty training.
3. Registered Nurse (RN)
Most people think of registered nurses (RNs) when they hear the word “nurse.” In inpatient care, they play several gain responsibilities. They’re in charge of keeping track of a patient’s medical history, evaluating symptoms and medical equipment, giving medication, putting together or contributing to a care plan, doing diagnostic tests, and working with physicians.
According to the BLS, some RNs are in charge of supervising LPNs, CNAs, and other healthcare workers. Depending on the location and the kinds of patients you care for, your job title and responsibilities will change. There are additional options for RNs to specialize in specific patient groups, such as pediatric nursing, emergency nursing, newborn nursing, psychiatric nursing, and so on.
From outside direct care, RNs have a wide range of options. RNs may also seek to raise public health, conduct medical checks or blood drives, or operate school-based health clinics, according to the BLS.
Earning an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) are the two levels of nursing education that may lead to a job as an RN (BSN). In as little as 18 months, you may complete an ADN program. On the other hand, earning a BSN might take as little as 18 months if you already have a bachelor’s degree.
When deciding which path to follow, it’s essential to consider the educational requirements for the kind of job you wish to do. Certain companies, particularly hospitals, prefer rNs with a Bachelor’s degree. Most working RNs with an ADN choose to return to school later to complete their Bachelor’s degree through an online RN-to-BSN program.
When you wish to work as an RN, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) regardless of your nursing degree level. Additional criteria may apply according to your state, so be sure to check statewide RN prerequisites as well.
4. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)
Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are nurses who have earned a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) (APRNs). When it comes to job possibilities, these nurses have a lot of alternatives. According to the BLS, they may operate both alone and in cooperation with doctors.
They may execute all of the responsibilities of an RN and more complex activities like ordering and interpreting test findings, referring patients to experts, and diagnosing and treating illnesses.
Aside from these APRN positions, MSN nurses have a few more unique career options. One alternative is to work as a nurse educator, assisting in the education of future nurses. Another option is to rise through the ranks of management, such as obtaining a director of nursing.
How to Become an APRN: Becoming a registered nurse is the first step toward being an advanced practice registered nurse. According to the BLS, MSN schools generally require applicants to obtain an RN license, most preferring a BSN degree over an ADN or Diploma.
The next step is to apply for and get accepted into an approved MSN program. There may be additional prerequisites depending on the specialization you want to pursue, such as clinical experience or additional certification.
According to the BLS, you have to pass a national certification test in your field of competence after graduation. State requirements differ somewhat, so check your state’s National Council of State Boards for Nursing for details. Some advanced practice certificates may need to be renewed after a specific number of years to keep their validity.