Nursing is a profession within the health care sector focused on the care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life. Nurses may be differentiated from other health care providers by their approach to patient care, training, and scope of practice. Nurses practice in a wide diversity of practice areas with a different scope of practice and level of prescriber authority in each. Many nurses provide care within the ordering scope of physicians, and this traditional role has come to shape the historic public image of nurses as care providers. However, nurses are permitted by most jurisdictions to practice independently in a variety of settings depending on training level. In the postwar period, nurse education has undergone a process of diversification towards advanced and specialized credentials, and many of the traditional regulations and provider roles are changing.
Nurses develop a plan of care, working collaboratively with physicians, therapists, the patient, the patient’s family and other team members, that focuses on treating illness to improve quality of life. In the U.S. (and increasingly the United Kingdom), advanced practice nurses, such as clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners, diagnose health problems and prescribe medications and other therapies, depending on individual state regulations. Nurses may help coordinate the patient care performed by other members of an interdisciplinary health care team such as therapists, medical practitioners and dietitians. Nurses provide care both interdependently, for example, with physicians, and independently as nursing professionals.
HOW TO BECOME A NURSE IN AMERICA
Individuals interested in entering the nursing field may become registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs), also called licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). Educational requirements differ by type of nurse. Becoming an LPN or LVN requires the least amount of formal education, a year-long training program; while individuals interested in becoming advanced practice nurses need to complete a master’s degree program.
LPN and LVN Training Programs
Entry-level training for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses can be obtained via 1-year educational programs offered at technical schools, vocational schools or community colleges. LPN/LVN programs involve both lecture-type classes and hands-on clinical practice in a hospital or clinic. Typical courses include anatomy, first aid, nutrition and physiology.
Associate’s Degree in Nursing
In order to become an RN, candidates need to have earned at minimum an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). Completing this degree program allows graduates to take the licensing examination to become RNs. Common courses include anatomy, nutrition, adult care and medicine practices.
Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree programs allow nursing students to learn about providing care and obtaining work experience in medical settings. Common courses include human development and healthcare, nursing theory, chemistry and infant care.
Master’s Degree in Nursing
Another type of registered nurse, known as an advanced practice nurse, must complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program. Some MSN programs accept applications only from licensed RNs. Advanced practice nurses include nurse-midwives, nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners. Courses in graduate nursing degree programs vary because they are usually focused on the area of concentration.