CNA, LPN, RNWhen deciding on a profession in nursing, individuals need to understand the difference between CNA, LPN and RN positions so that they can choose which of these options best suits their personal goals. These positions form three rungs of the nursing profession’s hierarchy, with CNAs requiring the least training and holding the least responsibly of the trio, LPNs falling in the middle, and RNs having the most training and the most responsibility.

Becoming a CNA

While the exact requirements vary from state to state, becoming a certified nursing assistant generally begins with completing an approved training course. These vocational courses are offered by high schools, community colleges and hospitals and can be completed in a matter of months. They include academic courses that prepare students for basic nursing duties and clinical experience. After completing their course, students must pass their state’s licensing exam. Certified nursing assistants are expected to assist with patient care and carry out basic duties under the guidance of the nursing staff. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the median annual wage for certified nursing assistants is around $24,000. It predicts the need for certified nursing assistants will grow by more than 20 percent in the next decade, creating lots of opportunities for new professionals to launch their careers in nursing homes and hospitals.

Becoming a LPN

To become a licensed practical nurse, individuals must first complete an appropriate training course that covers practical nursing and pharmacology coursework. Programs accredited by the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission provide the necessary training. Requiring roughly a year to complete, these programs are offered by community colleges, universities and hospitals. Graduates will next need to pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Practical Nurses. Working under the direction of physicians and registered nurses, licensed practical nurses can perform most nursing duties. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed practical nurses can expect to earn approximately$40,000 each year as they work in doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals.

Becoming a RN

There are many paths to becoming a registered nurse. In most states, students can attend a college or university to earn a two-year associates degree in nursing or explore the field in greater depth with a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing. Once they earn their degree, they must sit for the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses. Capable of performing all regular nursing duties, registered nurses are responsible for delivering quality patient care. While they do follow doctor’s orders, they are able to perform more tasks independently without direct oversight from another professional. Registered nurses are employed by doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, correctional facilities, insurance companies and educational institutions. Annual earnings are typically around $65,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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As the United States’ aging population and new health care legislation create an increasing demand for health care services, opportunities in the field of nursing are blossoming. Many professionals who begin their career as certified nursing assistants or licensed professional nurses will eventually return to school to become registered nurses. Registered nurses can choose to specialize in areas like critical care, telemetry, geriatrics and informatics. They can also transition into management or teaching roles. Comprehending the difference between CNA, LPN and RN positions allows aspiring nurses to choose the best career path for them and opens the door to many intriguing professional possibilities.