Nurses work in doctor's offices, nursing homes, outpatient facilities, schools and hospitals. Depending on their education and training, they are qualified to perform a range of duties, from administering a sixth grader's TB shot to delivering a woman's first baby. There are three main types of nurses: LPNs, RNs and APNs, each with varying duties and career requirements.
Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), also known as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs), are employed in the entry level of nursing. LPNs provide basic, direct care to patients. Duties may include monitoring vital signs, preparing patients for certain procedures and tests, monitoring and administering patient medications, providing first aid, maintaining patient hygiene, dispensing food and water, and following instructions provided by physicians and other nurses.
Training programs for LPNs are available at community colleges, vocational schools and technical schools, as well as some universities and hospitals. Students need a high school diploma or GED certificate as an admissions prerequisite. Instruction lasts about 12 months, and includes supervised hands-on clinical experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, curriculum includes anatomy, physiology, pediatrics, obstetrics nursing, medical-surgical nursing, first aid, nutrition and pharmacology.
Registered Nurses (RNs) collaborate with physicians and other nurses to create and implement a patient care plan. Duties include educating patients, their families and the general public on health promotion and disease management, recording patient observations, maintaining IVs and administering medication.
RNs have the option of completing a hospital diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree program. Hospital diplomas and associate's degree programs take between 24 and 36 months to complete; bachelor's degree programs last four years. Nurses who graduate from bachelor's degree programs typically qualify for supervisory, rather than entry-level positions. All three programs provide curriculum on various types of nursing, such as pediatric nursing, medical surgical nursing, obstetrics nursing and psychiatric nursing. Students also are required to complete supervised patient care.
To obtain a license to practice nursing, graduates of LPN and RN programs must pass the NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN (National Council for Licensure Examination- Practical Nurse/ Registered Nurse). The test is computer adaptive; depending on how many questions LPN examinees answer correctly, they will be given anywhere from 85 to 205 multiple choice questions. RN examinees must answer between 75 and 265 questions. Both RNs and LPNs are tested on health promotion and maintenance, providing a safe and effective environment, and maintaining patients' physiological and psychosocial integrity.
Advanced Practice Nurse
Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) typically fall into one of four categories: nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and nurse anesthetists. APNs perform many of the duties previously exclusive to physicians, such as administering anesthesia, giving medical exams and prescribing medication and delivering babies. APNs are required to complete a two-year MSN program (Master's of Science Degree in Nursing); admission prerequisites typically include a bachelor's degree and an RN license.