LPN, RN, APN – What these Nursing Acronyms Mean

By Brenda on November 3rd, 2011


Nurses make up the largest portion of healthcare workers in the country. As of 2008 there were approximately 2.6 million nurses according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over 60 percent of nurses were employed by hospitals. The remainder worked in doctor’s offices, clinics, home health, nursing home facilities, and schools.

The job outlook for nurses is expected to be excellent. The number of nurses is expected to increase 22 percent during the period of 2008-2018. This rate is over twice as fast as the typical occupation. The new number of jobs is expected to be over 580,000.

Many students are confused about the job duties, salary, and educational requirements of nurses because there are different types of nurses. The three main types of nurses include:

Registered Nurse (RN) – Registered nurses are the most common types of nurses. They provide care in a variety of settings. Registered nurses work under the supervision of doctor’s in most instances. Their main duties are to provide generalized care for people including administering medication, and helping the patient feel as comfortable as possible. The level of education also has to do with the level of care an RN can give. There are three different educational pathways to become an RN:

Bachelor’s Degree (BSN) – A BSN is a four-year bachelor’s degree that is earned at a four-year college or university. Nurses with BSN’s typically go into administration and management.

Associate Degree (ADN) – This is an associate’s degree in nursing that is usually earned at a community or career college.

Diploma Program – These are very rare, but three-year diploma programs are earned at a hospital.

All RN’s are required to pass the NCLEX Registered Nursing Licensing Exam. RN’s are paid more than LPN’s, but less than APN’s.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) – LPN’s work under the supervision of registered nurses. To become an LPN you must earn a one-year LPN certificate from a community college, technical school, or nursing school. LPN’s are required to pass the NCLEX-PN exam upon completion of their studies in order to become licensed.

Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) – APN’s are the most advanced nurses, which means they have the highest pay, most education, and can provide the highest level of care. There are several types of APN’s including:

Nurse Practitioners – Nurse practitioners can prescribe medicine and even practice independently in some states.

Clinical Nursing Specialists – Clinical Nurses specialize in an area of nursing such as emergency room, and pediatrics.

Certified Midwives – These professionals provide prenatal care and help women deliver babies in hospitals, birthing centers, and even homes.

Certified Nurse Anesthetists – These nurses administer anesthesia to patients who are about to undergo a medical procedure. They work independently or with a physician anesthesiologist.


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