CNA, LPN, LPV, RN, NP — it sounds like stocks off of NASDAQ. With so many different options for a nursing career, it can be difficult to keep them all straight. For those interested in becoming a registered nurse or a certified nursing assistant, the amount of information can be a little overwhelming. Where should you start?
The so called bottom of the chain would be a CNA, or a certified nursing assistant. Becoming a CNA is a simple matter of taking a course, usually taking between 3 weeks and 3 months, depending on the school. During this time you must complete a combination of classroom and hands on practice sessions. Then there is an exam to test’s the candidates skills and ability.
A CNA works under the direct supervision of a RN or LPN, and is considered an introductory level nursing job. CNA’s are generally in charge of observing and reporting on the condition of patients, changing dressings and bandages, preparing patients for procedures, and measuring and recording vital signs and other data. The pay is relatively low, averaging between ten and twelve dollars per hour. Basically, you do a lot of the low level grunt work and are not considered a nurse.
The next rung in the nursing ladder is an LPN, or a licensed practical nurse. An LPN works directly under a medical doctor in a hospital or clinic. They are generally responsible for more aspects of patient care than a CNA. To become an LPN, you must complete an accredited LPN nursing program, pass a background check, and take a licensing exam. The programs can vary in length from just under a year to as long as 3 years, depending on your location and your area of specialization. An LPN coming in at entry level will generally earn around $16 an hour, though higher paying positions can be found on the coasts. A more experienced LPN can expect to make between $27-$28 an hour, and possibly more in states where there is a high demand.
How to become a registered nurse, the creme de la creme of the nursing field? RNs have a staggering variety of backgrounds, the main requirement being that you pass the National Council Licensure Examination. Some RN’s have an associate’s degree in nursing, some have a bachelor’s degree and receive better pay, and some even have their master’s degree and are eligible for jobs in management and administration. Many nurses will choose to become a CNA or an LPN while going through the schooling to become an RN, as the process takes around 2-3 years.
Currently, there are around 3 million people working as RN’s, a larger number than doctors. And even with this large number, it is still one of the most in demand positions in the healthcare industry. RN’s have more responsibility than a CNA or an LPN. They care for patients around the clock, administering medication, operating sophisticated equipment, and performing diagnostics. RN’s work days, nights, holidays and are on call for emergencies. Nursing, although very rewarding, is a very demanding profession.