A group of nurses in blue scrubs

Different Types of Nurses and Career Options

What Are the Different Types of Nurses?

Many people do not realize that there are different types of nurses. The level of education you receive will dictate what type of nurse you can practice as, and so will any specialties you focus on. Many people go in to nursing and then decide where they want to focus. In this article, we'll outline six options to help you decide where to focus your career goals.

First, let’s go over the differences:

1. Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse

An LPN/LVN is an entry-level licensed nurse. They are required to pass rigorous licensing requirements regardless of the state in which they practice. Their job is to provide basic care to nursing patients while working under the direction of nurses with more advanced titles, such as RN or Nurse Practitioner.

2. Registered Nurse

A registered nurse is a healthcare provider that has graduated with a degree in nursing and has passed the NCLEX-RN exam. The duties of an RN vary depending on the environment in which they work but often include patient care as well as administrative tasks.

3. Nurse Practitioner

This type of nurse is an advanced practice registered nurse. This typically means that one must have at least 1.5 years of post-baccalaureate training including 500 hours of clinical training. Once a graduate program is completed the candidate must pass a board exam specific to their specialization and then apply for licensure. Licensure for a nurse practitioner varies depending on state regulations.

6 Career Options for Different Types of Nurses

Now that we have gone over the nursing tiers, let’s discuss some of the job opportunities. Please keep in mind that many of these positions require RN licensure. Even though this is the case there are many opportunities in the field of nursing and this is just a snippet of what is out there.

1. ER Nurse

The primary responsibility of an emergency room nurse is to identify medical issues, assess the severity of the trauma, and provide treatment to reduce negative long-term effects to the patient. To be an emergency room nurse you must have an ADN or BSN and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

2. Hospice Nurse

The job of the hospice nurse is to keep patients comfortable at the end of life. This could mean providing medications, checking and monitoring vital signs, and regularly checking on the health of the patient. To be a hospice nurse you must be a registered nurse and pass the Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurses exam.

3. Pediatric Nurse

A pediatric nurse is responsible for the care of children from birth up to adolescence. As a pediatric nurse, you may work in a doctor’s office, clinic, hospital, surgical center, or other healthcare settings. Pediatric nurses are responsible for the direct care of patients, conducting assessments, administering medication, and providing support to the families to address concerns, fears, or options.

To pursue a career as a pediatric nurse, you must have an ADN or a BSN as well as pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Once you are licensed as an RN, you will need to achieve certification as a pediatric nurse by continuing your education in the selected specialty area.

4. Correctional Care Nurse

As a correctional care nurse, you are responsible for the care and treatment of inmates and other detainees in correctional facilities. This population of people is often seen as vulnerable and underserved in medical care. They enter the system with pre-existing health conditions and may also be injured or become ill while incarcerated. Nurses are typically the first point of contact as they perform the intake exam, distribute daily medication, and assess if further medical attention is needed.

To become a correctional nurse you must complete your ADN or BSN, then pass the NCLEX-RN examination and earn your certification from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.

5. Home Health Nurse

As the name implies, a home health nurse cares for patients outside of a medical center. They typically work in the home of a patient who requires ongoing care. This patient could be elderly, critically ill, disabled, or just recovering from surgery, injury or accident. Some in-home nurses also assist pregnant women and new mothers with ongoing care and support.

Nurses in these positions are responsible for assisting with daily living, administering medication, performing physical assessments, and other task-based nursing care based on their credentials. Unlike many other nursing positions that require you to have a nursing degree, nurses working in the home can be registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, or nurse assistants. Both licensed vocational nurses and nurse assistants report to registered nurses regarding patient status and concerns.

6. Surgical Nurse

Known by many other names, a surgical nurse is a registered nurse that has been trained to assist before, during, and after surgical procedures. These nurses work in hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, clinics, and physician offices. Surgical nurses need to be detail-oriented, flexible, team players, and able to think critically in a fast-paced challenging environment.

Within the field of surgical nursing, there are many subspecialties including trauma, dental, urology, and pediatric, just to name a few. A surgical nurse must have a degree in nursing, pass the NCLEX-RN exam and become certified in one of three areas offered for perioperative nurses.