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What are the Different Classifications of a Nurse?

There are different ways to classify a nurse. One is by the educational degree the nurse holds. This is likely the most common way non medical people understand the nursing profession. Three of the common terms are RN (registered nurse), LPN (licensed practical nurse), and CNA (certified nursing assistant). You might know LPN as LVN (licensed vocational nurse). The differences between these classifications are by education and responsibility.

• An RN has the most education and responsibility. The RN has to complete at least an associate's degree, pass an exam, and get a state license. They administer medications and supervise LPNs and CNAs. They have responsibilities for developing nursing care plans and communicating with patient families. They often have the responsibility to educate patients and their families on various care requirements.
• The LPN (or LVN) has less education. In most cases, the LPN completes a 12-month program, pass an exam, and get a state license. Their job includes monitoring vital signs and providing direct medical care. They prepare patients for tests. They monitor and change out various pieces of equipment like catheters and naso-gastric tubes.
• The CNA has the least education of the three. In most states, a CNA completes an 8 to 16 week program and obtains certification. The CNA helps with patient care and hygiene. They help patients with getting around. This position involves engaging the patients personally and monitoring for any changes.

Another way to classify a nurse is by the specialization. Nurses can specialize in certain medical areas, much as a doctor can. There are programs that offer special training in areas like mental health, neonatology, oncology, cardiology, surgery, nephrology, and acute care, among others. Specializations usually require special training and working in the area of interest for a certain period.

A third way to classify a nurse is by what population the nurse serves. When a nurse works exclusively with children, they usually have a specialization in pediatrics. On the other end of the age scale, nurses who work with the elderly have a specialization in geriatrics.

A final way to classify a nurse is by where the nurse works. Nurses work in all sorts of medical locations. There are nurses that work exclusively in doctor's offices providing acute care. Other nurses work in emergency rooms working in critical care situations. Other nurses do their work in various hospital wards providing post-surgical and recovery care. Some nurses travel with patients. Other nurses visit the homes of patients. Some nurses work in hospice situations.