What are the Different Types of Nurses?

NursingJanuary 06, 2023

The nursing profession offers different types of nursing careers that can help students join the profession at a level that best meets their needs and interests. Sometimes students assume they need to complete a 4-year degree program, but nursing offers opportunities to become an entry-level nurse without the financial commitment of a 4-year university education. Nursing degrees can also be completed as a progression or a student could join the field in a more advanced role—for example, completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to begin a hospital career rather than becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse first. 

Here’s a look at the different types of nurses in order of progression. 

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

To become a licensed practical nurse, sometimes simply called a practical nurse or PN, you need to complete an entry-level nursing program that may take just 12-18 months. These nurses generally work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or a doctor and perform basic patient-care tasks. Types of duties for LPNs include taking and recording patient vital signs, collecting specimen samples, performing standard lab tests, and administering some medications. LPNs may work in hospitals, physician offices, or long-term care facilities. This nursing degree is a relatively quick way to enter the field.  

Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

A licensed vocational nurse is, for all intents and purposes, the same position and training as an LPN. The term tends to be tied to regions. Both Texas and California both refer to their entry-level nurses as LVNs rather than LPNs. 

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

ADN programs set you up with an associate’s degree in nursing, typically requiring two years of study. Once you’ve received the degree, you are able to sit for your NCLEX licensure exam, and a passing score qualifies you to be an entry-level registered nurse. For many people, an ADN is the quickest way to become an RN. However, hospitals may require a bachelor’s degree to work in that setting, which means your ADN may require more education to access to the kinds of positions some nurses are looking for. Many ADN nurses go on to earn a BSN through a bridge RN to BSN program designed to accommodate this pathway. 

Registered Nurse (RN)

You can become a registered nurse through a two-year program such as an ADN program detailed above, or a BSN program, detailed below. Both paths prepare you to sit for your NCLEX licensure exam that licenses you as an RN. The main difference is the amount and breadth of education. A BSN requires more time to complete a more comprehensive education. 

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A bachelor of science in nursing offers the greatest breadth of nursing curriculum, usually through a comprehensive 4-year program at a traditional university. But it’s possible to obtain a BSN through a bridge program if you’re licensed as an LPN or RN. Here at Fortis, for example, we offer a fully online RN to BSN program at our sister school, Denver College of Nursing, which is designed for nurses who already have their RN license but whose employer may now require them to hold a BSN. A BSN allows greater career flexibility and growth, preparing you to specialize if you choose to and take on more nursing responsibility. 

Depending on the program, students may be able to complete their coursework online or on campus while gaining clinical experience at a local hospital or another medical facility. Denver College of Nursing, for example, offers an RN-to-BSN program, along with an ADN program, BSN, and MSN. For graduates of a Fortis ADN program who are currently licensed as an RN, you can be accepted to enroll in DCN’s fully online RN BSN program. 

If you’d like to explore your options more fully, visit our website or give us a call at 855-436-7847 to connect with a nursing admissions advisor at your local Fortis campus. We can help you explore your education path based on your specific situation.