3 Nursing Jobs Explained: CNAs, LPNs, and RNs

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Written by
Miranda Kay, RN
March 31, 2023

Table of Contents

In the vast world of healthcare, countless professions are available. Nursing alone has quite a hierarchy of levels. It ranges from entry-level nursing jobs requiring minimal experience to the highest possible nursing professions requiring years of education and internship to obtain the licenses. Here you can learn about three common levels of nursing, the importance of keeping up with nursing education, and more information regarding the nursing professions you can choose from.

Learn How the S.M.A.R.T. Model Can Help You Set Nursing Career Goals

3 Common Nursing Jobs: CNA, LPN, and RN

1. Certified Nursing Assistant

First, on the list, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are healthcare professionals in charge of aiding nurses and coworkers. These professionals often assist with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as feeding, bathing, dressing, and other essential tasks. 

To become a certified nursing assistant, individuals must have a high school diploma or a GED and complete a state-approved CNA program. On average, these programs take three to eight weeks to complete and have a handful of requirements of their own. Please refer to your specific state's guidelines for obtaining CNA licensure.

2. Licensed Practical Nurses

If you are asking the question, what's an entry-level nurse? This is the answer you're looking for. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), which are also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) in certain areas, are healthcare professionals responsible for providing hands-on basic patient care and typically are primary communicators in-between the rest of the healthcare team and patients.

To become an LPN, you must complete a practical nursing program. These programs can be completed often in just one year. However, you must pass the NCLEX-PN examination to obtain licensure as an LPN. Every state has accredited programs for this type of nurse training, so be sure to check the specific requirements in the state where you live.

Find Out How Much Licensed Practical Nurses Make

3. Registered Nurse

The registered nurse or RN is likely the most commonly known of these three nursing professions. RNs are in high demand, and market experts predict the trend will continue to rise.

These healthcare professionals have many different responsibilities and tasks depending on where they work in healthcare. This is because registered nurses can take many pathways to specialization and offer a highly-trained unique set of skills needed by many hospitals, healthcare facilities, schools, institutions, and countless other settings where RNs find jobs.

To become an RN, you must obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN). After achieving the proper education, registered nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN examination to gain licensure to practice healthcare. Each state has unique licensing and education requirements, so you must check the specifics of where you live.

Advancing Your Nursing Career

Although these are the three levels of nursing, you can take countless other routes to further your nursing career, such as becoming leaders, managers, and more. The possibilities in nursing are endless.

Read How to Choose a Nursing Specialty You'll Love

Remember the pros and cons of each position in nursing that you are considering to make the best-educated decision for you. In general, healthcare professions altogether are not for the faint of heart. However, responsibilities vary depending on the specific position you are looking into, so it's essential to remember your boundaries and what exactly you are looking for when weighing options. Many nurses enjoy picking up per diem shifts nearby to help them get a feel for various roles and responsibilities.

What Are the Highest Levels of the Nursing Profession?

What are the highest levels that one can achieve in nursing? The highest levels you can reach in clinical nursing are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs). Subsets of these professions may include nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), or clinical nurse specialists (CNS). Registered nurses may also pursue a doctorate in nursing (DNP) to advance their careers.

The Importance of Nursing Education

Although some only aim to obtain nurse licensing to work in healthcare, it's highly recommended that nurses and medical workers stay updated on their education as healthcare is everchanging with new practices and care methods being introduced frequently. That is why continuing education hours are required for licensure renewal.

Blog published on:
March 31, 2023

Miranda is a Registered Nurse, Medical Fact Checker, and Publishing Editor at Nursa. Her work has been featured in publications including the American Nurses Association (ANA), Healthcare IT Outcomes, International Living, and more.

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