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Health Care Providers: Nurses

What Is Nursing?

Nursing is an area of medical care that promotes health, helps people get better from illness, and educates people about healthy living. Nurses work closely with doctors to provide the best care for patients.

What Do Nurses Do?

Nurses provide much of the day-to-day care in hospitals, closely checking a patient's condition and doing jobs like giving medicine and educating patients about self-care.

Different kinds of nurses provide various levels of care:

  • Licensed practical nurse (LPN): LPNs provide basic care and assistance to patients with tasks like bathing, changing wound dressings, and taking vital signs. An LPN has at least 1 year of training in this kind of care.
  • Registered nurse (RN): A registered nurse gives medicines, takes vital signs, does procedures such as drawing blood, and closely follows a patient's condition. RNs can have different educational backgrounds including:
    • a 2-year program for an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN)
    • a 4-year program for a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN)

      All registered nurses must pass the National Council License Exam (NCLEX) and be licensed in the state they practice in.
  • Advanced practice nurses (APN): An advanced practice nurse is an RN who has had advanced training beyond nursing school. APNs have a college degree, a master's degree in nursing, and special training in an area of nursing. APNs include:
    • Nurse practitioner (NP): A nurse practitioner has additional training in a particular area, such as family practice, women’s health, psychiatry, neonatology, or pediatrics. NPs do physical exams, take a patient’s medical history, do some tests and procedures, prescribe medicines and treatments, and treat minor illnesses and injuries.
    • Certified nurse midwife (CNM): A certified nurse midwife provides gynecologic care and obstetric care for low-risk pregnancies. CNMs attend births in hospitals, birth centers, and homes.
    • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS): A clinical nurse specialist provides a wide range of care in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, private offices, and community health centers. A CNS may also work in administration, education, or research.
    • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA): CRNAs give and monitor anesthesia. They prepare patients before procedures, give the anesthesia medicine, supervise pain management, and oversee a patient’s recovery from anesthesia.