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Have you considered pursuing a career in nursing but feel intimidated by the complex relationships between education, training and certification in this field? We are here to help.
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Aspiring nurses can use this guide to research the various roles, responsibilities, and specialties available to nurses, as well as the education and training required.
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For healthcare facilities to function effectively, each level of nursing must perform a variety of patient care responsibilities. Nurses begin their careers by obtaining a nursing degree and performing basic patient care duties, allowing them to gain clinical experience. Responsibilities may include planning and implementing treatment plans, administering medications, and recording vital signs. Nursing responsibilities include nursing assistants or vocational/vocational nurses.
Over time, after gaining hundreds of hours of clinical experience and a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited school, they can work as registered nurses (RNs). Many registered nurses gain experience, along with an advanced degree, and become a registered nurse (APRN).
Once a nurse has advanced, they may pursue specialized roles in nursing or continue their education to pursue careers in education, administration, or political advocacy.
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are not nurses. Instead, they are professional nursing assistants who provide basic patient care, such as transferring beds, feeding, and changing clothes.
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CNA certification does not require a college degree. Instead, CNA candidates must complete a 3- to 8-week CNA program, which includes 75 hours of experience. Candidates then apply to their state boards to take the CNA exam and be approved.
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), have higher level of care responsibilities than CNAs, such as administering medications and taking patient symptoms. They interact daily with doctors and nurses, usually working in hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics.
This position requires between 500 and 750 clinical hours completed through a state-approved program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) through the National Board of Nursing (NCSBN). .
Registered nurses (RNs) maintain a high level of patient care by performing health assessments, counseling, and providing care for a variety of conditions. They typically work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and nursing facilities. In some states, they must work under the direction of an APRN or physician.
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Registered nurses require at least an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), although some employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Clinical hours are required depending on the state, but most registered nurses complete between 200 and 400 hours. They must then take the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed.
APRNs have more responsibilities than registered nurses and often work independently and develop treatment plans. They also typically see more patients in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other health care facilities.
Becoming an APRN requires a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and 500 clinical hours, as well as passing an exam given by the American College of Nurse Practitioners (ANCC) or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). A specific test depends on the skill, which may include any of the following:
The lowest level of certification, a bachelor’s degree in nursing, can take four weeks to complete and prepares graduates for a pre-nursing degree. Meanwhile, an MSN typically takes two years to earn, plus the time it takes to earn a degree. Master’s degrees offer more career options and higher salaries than a nursing degree.
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The “best” type of nursing is one that fits your educational needs and meets your professional and personal goals.
A nursing degree usually takes less than a year to complete, with only a few weeks to complete. Most nursing degree programs include less than 100 hours of experience. Acquiring the certification prepares the candidate to work as a CNA or LPN/LVN, performing basic care tasks and serving as a bridge between patients and nurses. Nurses at this level typically work in hospitals, nursing homes, or nursing homes.
The ADN takes at least two years to complete and requires students to complete 300 hours of clinical experience. This qualification provides the minimum level of education required to work as a registered nurse in hospitals, clinics, and schools. Associate’s degree programs qualify individuals for more responsibilities in patient care than a degree.
A BSN takes about four years to complete, although some programs allow students to complete their courses as quickly as two years. The program requires between 300 and 400 hours. Having a BSN is a competitive advantage when looking for a job as a registered nurse, especially in a job market where many employers prefer candidates with a four-year degree. Nurses with a BSN work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and clinics.
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MSN usually takes at least two years to complete. In the MSN program, students complete a minimum of 500 hours of work experience. The MSN prepares graduates to work as APRNs, which include specialized roles such as nurse practitioners (NP) or certified nurse midwives (CNM). Master’s degree nurses work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, or private practice settings. In some states, private practice may be open.
A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree takes 3-6 years and 1000 clinical hours to complete. This certification qualifies graduates to work as APRNs, teachers, or nurse researchers. DNPs typically work in hospitals, health clinics, or in their private practice, but may also work as educators and researchers in academia and health policy.
A Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.) takes between 3 and 6 years to complete. As part of the degree, students also complete 1,000 clinical hours. These nurses work as educators, researchers, and decision makers. A nurse with a doctorate degree can find professional employment at colleges, universities, and health care organizations.
Professionals can use nursing certifications to practice a specific nursing profession. Most nursing degrees are designed for APRNs, but some certifications only require a BSN or RN license.
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The AIDS Nursing Accreditation Board (HANCB) certifies registered nurses who provide physical and emotional care for HIV patients. The certificate covers basic aspects such as laboratory testing, immunization and HIV health status.
Registered nurses who work in the care of patients with HIV infection can obtain AACRN certification, which is also offered by HANCB. This decision emphasizes emotional and psychological support for HIV/AIDS patients.
CDN certification certifies registered nurses with 2,000 hours of experience in nephrology (kidney care), specifically caring for patients on dialysis. The CDN exam consists of 150 questions.
The CHPCA is a certification for nurses who perform administrative duties in hospice or palliative care. However, this certification is only issued through registration, which means that new nurses cannot obtain the certification.
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Nursing assistants often want to get this certification. It allows the wearer to perform basic patient care tasks in many healthcare settings.
The CNE credential is for doctoral nurses who wish to teach nursing at a college or university. Nurses with the CNE designation have skills in curriculum development, teaching, and counseling in addition to general nursing knowledge.
CNL certification for clinical APRNs demonstrates expertise in quality improvement, risk assessment, and coordination. CNL certified nurses use their leadership skills to improve the quality of care.
CENP, sometimes called chief nursing officer (CNO), is a certification available to APRNs with extensive experience in management roles.
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CRNA certification provides credentials to APRNs who administer anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery, childbirth, or trauma.
OCN identifies registered nurses who provide care and counseling to cancer patients. The certification requires registered nurses to accumulate 1,000 clinical hours in oncology practice.
Nurses typically specialize in a specific population or health field, such as obstetrics or gynecology. Finding a focus in your nursing career can lead to higher income and employment opportunities, especially if you obtain a related degree. The following list represents some of the most common forms of nursing practice, although it is not exhaustive.
Future registered nurses can take several paths to enter the workforce. They can go from getting an ADN to taking the RN exam or they can move to online, hybrid, and associate degree programs. Many students take the traditional route, only completing the BSN program by preparing for the exam and certification.
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Other students can work as CNAs, allowing them to gain on-the-job experience. They can then apply for a CNA to BSN program to prepare for an advanced degree.
All registered nurses and above must take the NCLEX-RN exam at some point in their nursing careers. The NCLEX is a comprehensive exam required to obtain RN certification. The NCSBN administers the exam through each state board of nursing, which may also have the necessary qualifications to administer the exam.
APRNs can perform many different roles in nursing, often with progressive pay. Special careers available to APRNs are nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse practitioner (CNS), certified nurse midwife (CNM), and certified nurse practitioner (CRNA). All of these careers offer high salaries and professional careers.
Licensing requirements for each of these activities vary from state to state, with only some states maintaining reciprocity agreements.
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