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Top 5 Nursing Careers at a Glance

Dec 1, 2011 Hannah Robertson, Columnist | 3 Comments

If you’ve ever been to the doctor’s office or had to stay in a hospital for any length of time (even an emergency room visit), then you’ve no doubt been under the care of a nurse before you ever see a doctor.  Nurses play a critical role in today’s health care systems. The two most common licensed nursing fields are Licensed Practical Nurse and Registered Nurse.  However, there are dozens of sub specialties in the nursing field, which are available to registered nurses with further training and certification. Here’s a brief look at several top nursing areas:

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

A licensed practical nurse works under the direct supervision of registered nurses and doctors, and sometimes other highly experienced LPNs.  They commonly provide patients with bedside care in hospitals, providing comfort and care in a variety of forms. Some primary responsibilities will include dressing a wound, taking blood pressure, or handling injections. This is not limited, however, to other practices, and you may find a registered LPN assisting someone with bathing and personal hygiene. They also may keep records of a patient’s diet,
including food and drink consumption. In some states, an LPN
can even be authorized to use an intravenous or prescribe medication!

Male Nurse

All nurses, on top of any education, should be compassionate, patient, thorough individuals. The profession is not for those who aren’t detail oriented or people pleasers.



Registered Nurse

Registered nurses or RNs
are a bit more prevalent in a variety of other settings, though they still provide an expert level of care. They can be found in anywhere from hospitals to community centers, schools, and in doctor’s offices. There are a few levels of RN’s including Nursing home nurses, home health nurses, and the largest group, hospital nurses. Typically an RN provides care based upon the direction of the physician in charge. The responsibilities include a full assessment of patient systems, examinations, and rehabilitations.  Registered nurses work closely with patients to evaluate their needs and create a plan of care. RN’s also work with a team of other health care providers to implement health care plans and initiatives for individuals and communities.

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who is interested in not only providing care to patients, but also in diagnosing and treating illnesses. Many of you will know this name very well, as you likely have at one point opted to see a nurse practitioner should your primary doctor be unavailable. Individuals in this field are commonly equipped with a master’s degree in nursing, and are likely to experience a career that’s very varied, stressful, and inconsistent as far as working hours go. It is not a typical nine to five job in any sense, as the profession requires its employees to be on call regularly.

Nurse practitioners provide individualized care, and in some cases may practice privately, depending on the regulations of the area in which they live and practice.  Nurse practitioners are charged with diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of their patients, and providing care and management for chronic illnesses, as well as administering preventive health care and information to their patients. In addition to all aforementioned, they also perform more involved procedures such as skin biopsy or cryotherapy, depending on the scenario.  

Nurse Anesthetist

There are an impressive number of Nurse Anesthetists working in the U.S. today, over 40,000 in fact. The female skewered profession involves providing critical care to surgical patients. Most Anesthetists hold a bachelor’s degree, and there is over 100 school programs available pertaining to the profession. They are trained to provide patients with anesthesia before and during surgery, providing information to the medical team regarding the patient’s level of sedation, vital signs, oxygenation levels, and more. All things considered, they are the primary administers of anesthesia for the entire United States, dating back to the First World War. Nurse anesthetists today can work in a variety of settings, from hospitals to surgical centers and clinics.  They often work independently, contracting their services out.

Nursing Education

All licensed nurses must complete training and educational programs.  Licensed practical nurses can generally complete their education in about a year. Registered nurses have up to three degree avenues that can be chosen, including bachelor and associate degree options. There are hundreds of registered degree programs, but the diploma options are far scarcer. All candidates must complete either a two- or four-year degree program and sit for a national exam following graduation.  For administrative or teaching positions, a four year degree is often required.

Nurse practitioners must complete a graduate level of education and pass a national board exam in their area of specialty.  Nurse Anesthetists are required to be registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.  They are required to have at least one year of critical care nursing experience (sometimes more), before being accepted into a program, which takes about three years to complete.  They must also pass a national certification exam, and complete continuing education courses throughout their career.

Finally, all nurses, on top of any education, should be compassionate, patient, thorough individuals. The profession is not for those who aren’t detail oriented or people pleasers. There should also be a strong foundation in leadership and delegation skills.

Being a Nurse -




Sue Rogan Over a year ago

I'm retiring from UW Hospital in Madison, effective 12/16,after 20+ yrs, & am am looking for another full time job. I spent more than 20 yrs at U-W but relations with my last boss were intolerable. I need to put together a resume, but don't think lisrting what units I worked on what years is very enticing. Where should I go for help? When started at UW, everything was on paper. I'm plannng to retire & work at the same time to make ends meet. but computerized resumes are not in my list of specialties. -sue

Wyatt Earp Over a year ago

Nursing has changed a great deal over the last few years. However, in reality, nothing has really changed.

The nurse is still the main patient contact person with the patient. The same values and practices of caring persist....

mtdoonmeister at gmail dot com

Jennifer Wilson Over a year ago

Thank you for the great article. I have four children and my oldest is a Junior in HS and is looking at the medical field as a possible career choice.

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