A guide to nursing degree programs
Once upon a time, there was only one kind of nurse: the kind that wore little white hats and sensible shoes. Now, nursing is a vast, specialized and fast-growing field. If you’re tough, compassionate and don’t quaver at the sight of blood, a nursing career might be right for you. Let’s take a look at the different types of nursing jobs and degrees.
Certified nursing assistants perform the most basic kind of nursing care: bathing, dressing, monitoring and helping patients. No degree is required to become a CNA – all you need is certification from a CNA training program.
A quick path to a nursing career is getting a degree as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). The training to become an LPN typically takes only one year, which means you can get to work sooner. Online LPN degrees are a fast and flexible way to do this. LPNs work under the supervision of a doctor or a registered nurse monitoring patients, administering medication and injections and assisting with tests and procedures. LPNs, who are called licensed vocational nurses in California and Texas, often work home health care jobs and jobs in nursing facilities.
If you want to take on more responsibilities and make more money, you can become a registered nurse, or RN. RNs do everything LPNs do, but they also supervise other nurses and may take a more active role in planning patient care. There are about 2.5 million registered nurse jobs in America and the number of RNs needed is only expected to grow. You can become a registered nurse with a two-year associate degree, a nursing diploma or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Many colleges offer an online LPN to RN degree program for working LPNs.
If you find you love nursing, you may want to become an expert in your field by studying advanced practice nursing. With a master’s degree, RNs can become nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners diagnose and treat illnesses and help patients manage chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
There are several other kinds of advanced practice nurses. Certified nurse midwives handle mothers’ prenatal care and deliver babies. Clinical nurse specialists focus on specific areas of health care, such as oncology, mental health, obstetrics and gynecology or neonatology. Like watching people sleep? You could become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). These nurses monitor patients in the operating room to make sure they’re safely unconscious and stable during surgery.
Not sure exactly what kind of nurse you’d like to become? Start with the basics and get your CNA certification or LPN degree online. You’ll soon figure out what you love most about nursing – and then you can continue your nursing education.