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Introduction to Nursing Careers

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Nurses and nursing assistants provide hands-on basic and specialized care to patients. Nursing careers are physically and mentally demanding. People working in the nursing field must have compassion, patience and the ability to deal with stressful situations. Although nursing careers are often challenging, many nurses and assistants find caring for patients to also be rewarding.

Nursing Assistant

A nursing assistant works under the direct supervision of a registered nurse or physician to provide basic medical and hospital care to patients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, regular duties performed by nursing assistants typically include helping patients use the bathroom, taking patients’ vital signs, serving meals and assisting patients with eating. In some cases, a nursing assistant administers medications. Nursing assistants must earn a certificate from an accredited nursing assistant program and must pass an examination to become a certified nursing assistant, or CNA.

Licensed Vocational Nurse

A licensed vocational nurse, or LVN, provides basic medical care to patients through monitoring patients’ health and vitals, inserting catheters, maintaining patients’ records and discussing health concerns with patients and other health-care professionals. The specific duties of a LVN vary per state, and in some places they are called licensed practical nurses, or LPNs. For example, some states allow LVNs or LPNs to administer intravenous, or IV, drips, while other states prohibit it. You must complete an approved program with an accredited technical school or community college and pass the specific National Council Licensure Examination to become an LVN.

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses often are responsible for directly supervising nursing assistants and licensed vocational nurses. Registered nurses work directly with physicians to treat patients. Common duties of a registered nurse include recording a patient’s medical history, establishing care plans for patients, operating medical equipment and monitoring stats. Some registered nurses may choose specializations within the field, such as oncology, critical care, genetics and rehabilitation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can qualify for an entry-level registered nursing position by earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, by earning a diploma from a hospital-affiliated nursing school, and by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for nurses.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Individuals who want to advance their nursing career commonly pursue positions as clinical nurse specialists. A clinical nurse specialist works with other health-care professionals to diagnose and treat diseases, injuries and disabilities. In many cases, a clinical nurse specialist also serves as an expert adviser for other nursing professionals. They work in a variety of specialties, which may include pediatrics, emergency care, critical care and rehabilitation. A career as a clinical nurse specialist requires earning a master’s or doctorate degree.

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