Roles for Nurses

One role is the practical nurse, sometimes referred to as the technical nurse. This is the LPN/LVN. The other is the professional nurse. This is the R.N. Both play an essential part as members of the health care team. Their roles and responsibilities vary. An R.N. can perform any of the duties of an LPN, but the reverse is not true.

In some instances, an LVN's skills at specific tasks may be more refined than those of her supervising R.N. This can often be the case because the LVN has the primary responsibility for performing bedside nursing and tasks, while the R.N. is given a supervisory responsibility for the patient's care and often forgoes the hands-on practice of direct patient care.

Both the LVN and R.N. combine the knowledge they acquired in school with their own art of compassion and caring to provide excellent care. Beyond the basics of science and the treatment of disease that both LVNs and R.N.s receive, LPN training is primarily focused on bedside nursing and performing tasks such as changing dressings and Foley catheter care.

RN training involves more science, math, patient assessment, critical thinking, and theoretical aspects. This includes the nursing process, which encompasses the whole patient and his response to his illness as well as patient treatment.

LPN/LVN Training

The technical nurse attends a vocational school. Some community colleges and adult education schools provide LPN training. This is usually a one-year to fifteen-month program that includes classroom as well as clinical hands-on instruction. After graduation, the nurse must sit for a board exam to become licensed to practice.

In recent years, many nurses and professional nursing organizations have advocated for a mandate to require all R.N.s (professional nurses) to have a B.S.N. Those without this degree would be given a grace period to acquire the degree or an option to work at a newly designated level. There was also a movement to eliminate the LPN role altogether. However, the increasing nursing shortage has thwarted these efforts for the present.

R.N. Training

The R.N. has several options for education. Each level of education prepares the student for the role of a professional nurse. All nurses will sit for the same R.N. board exam in order to become licensed as a Registered Nurse. However, there are distinct differences in the programs and the level of preparation they provide. Consequently, salaries and opportunities for advancement are often tied to the level of education.

  • Diploma Nurse Program

    The Diploma Nurse program was once a primary option for R.N.s, but it is rapidly disappearing. This is because nurses no longer work primarily in a hospital setting. There are only about 50 such programs left in the United States today. These provide nurses with a three-year nursing education. Diploma programs are associated with a teaching hospital and nurses reside in a dormitory setting. They attend classes in the hospital and work regular shifts on the floors of the hospital to obtain their hands-on clinical training.

  • Associate's Degree

    Community colleges provide an Associate Degree in Nursing (A.D.N.) program option for R.N.s. This is typically a two-year associate's degree program. It includes the same general education courses required for any associate's degree. For nurses, this will include math (minimum: algebra) and science (chemistry, physics, anatomy, and physiology and microbiology). The nursing courses include classroom instruction and hands-on clinical courses that may be provided at several institutions as available within the community.

  • Bachelor's Degree

    The third option is a four-year program, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) in which the nurse completes all the general requirements for a bachelor's degree with all the above math and science, as well as a comprehensive program in nursing. The nursing courses cover the same materials as the other programs, but add a more intense study of the nursing process, nursing theory and models, and leadership skills. It is also a springboard for advanced degrees.

    As such, a B.S.N. is often required for leadership roles and management positions in the nursing profession. In some cases, the R.N. must make a commitment to obtain a master's degree in nursing within a timeframe. This is becoming more common again because of the shortage of nurses and the need to allow those with less education to advance more rapidly.

  • Advanced Degrees

    Advanced degrees for nurses include fields such as a master's or Ph.D. in nursing, health care, and health care administration. A Master in Business Administration (M.B.A.) in health care or health care administration is also a popular choice for nurses with an inclination for business.

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