Nursing careers have the flexibility that allows you to follow many career paths. Whether you want to become a chief nursing officer or a nursing assistant, nursing is the first step to both outcomes. If you look at the hierarchy of a nursing service, it may differ from one facility to another, but there are some basic features that should be present.
A CNA is a certified nursing assistant. Overseen by the state board of nursing, these individuals perform the uncomplicated and low risk duties of nursing care, like changing linens and taking vitals. A short class and an exam is all that is needed to become a CNA. Completing the requirements for a position as a CNA is a low-risk way of entering the health care field to see if it further sparks your interest.
An LPN, or licensed practical nurse, has the authorization to give medications, as well as perform assessments and venipuncture in most states. This requires about a yearlong course of study as well as a licensure exam, the NCLEX-PN. They are supervised by registered nurses.
A registered nurse must earn at least an associate's degree in nursing. Another licensure exam, the NCLEX-RN, is available, and this test must be passed successfully before you can practice. RNs form nursing diagnosis, develop care plans, perform initial assessments and supervise and delegate responsibilities to other nursing personnel, like CNAs and LPNs.
From this point, an RN can branch out into different areas. The nurse can get a certification in a specialized area and become a resource nurse, like a wound care nurse. An experienced nurse can become a nurse mentor and help precept new graduates. Also, the unit has a charge nurse, who is responsible for making patient assignments and supervising nurses while on the unit.
Nurse managers are responsible for the unit as a whole. They assist in hiring staff, managing the budget, setting goals and monitoring progress on the unit as a whole. Typically, these roles require a BSN, but associate degree nurses with experience can step into these roles.
Beyond the unit manager level are nurses who have responsibilities throughout the whole hospital but are in charge of one aspect of hospital operation, such as safe patient handling, infection control or education for nurses. There are some nurse managers that may have financial responsibilities as well. These nurses may have a BSN, but some may have a master's degree, as well. Finally, a chief nursing officer is responsible for all nursing operations in a hospital. They coordinate with the physician's side of things, advocate for the nursing staff and maintain professional standards set by outside accreditation agencies. These individuals typically have a master's degree in health care administration, as well as a nursing license to help them manage a vast area of operation.
For all of these roles, the core is a focus on patient care. An RN degree can be the first step to a variety of nursing careers and responsibilities.
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