For centuries, nurses were largely unskilled laborers who provided comfort to the sick, performing simple duties, often assigned by a formally trained physician. It was not until the late 19th century that nursing began to be viewed as a calling worthy of formal training and education. In the modern era, nursing as we now know it was pioneered by luminaries such as Florence Nightingale, Lillian Wald, and Clara Barton.
Today nurses are skilled, highly trained professionals, recognized for their knowledge of healing arts and professional dedication to their craft. In fact, there are now many degrees and certifications available to men and women who desire to assume the mantle of the professional nurse. Academic degrees involve higher learning that can be used to prepare a candidate for licensure examinations.
Here is a list of potential degrees, explained.
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): This is an Associate Degree with a concentration in nursing. Occasionally called Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Associate of Arts in Nursing (AAN), these degrees are usually obtained through attendance at a 2-year community college. ADN graduates are eligible to take the Registered Nurse licensure exam. Upon successful completion, they will be eligible to work as registered nurses (RNs).
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): This more advanced, undergraduate degree is earned by attending a four-year college or university with a dedicated nursing program. Like the ADN, this degree prepares a student to take the RN licensure exam. Upon successful completion, candidates are eligible to work as nurses in a variety of roles. Generally, job prospects, job types, and salaries are greater for nurses with this more comprehensive training. This is also a stepping stone towards still more advanced graduate degrees, including Master of Science in Nursing.
Bachelor of Arts in Nursing (BAN): This degree is offered by some institutions of higher learning, but it is less common. Although nursing-related courses and learning are essentially the same, electives tend to be concentrated in the humanities. Effectively, there is a scant difference between this degree and a BSN.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): This advanced degree takes nurses down a particular career path towards specialized career niches, such as nurse practitioner, anesthetist, clinical specialist, educator, or researcher.
Master of Arts in Nursing (MAN): An advanced, graduate degree similar to the MSN, but more focused on subjects useful if you intend to go into administration or nursing education.
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): Typically taking two to three years of full-time study, this degree is fairly new, but it may become the standard eventually for nurses who wish to operate at the top of their game in advanced practice specialties. This degree does not require a dissertation but does require a final project in the area of selected sub-specialty.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): No, this degree is not intended to prepare you to spout Nietzsche all day. Rather, it’s appropriate for individuals seeking to conduct research, develop policy, work as a college professor, etc. Requires dissertation.
Doctor of Education (EdD): Similar to a PhD, this degree is for nurses who wish to work as college-level professors, or conduct high-level research. Requires a traditional dissertation.
In addition to possessing a degree, nurses must be properly certified in order to practice. Here is a list of certifications and licenses.
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): This certification entitles the bearer to work in a limited nursing capacity as a “nursing assistant”. Any care rendered is typically done under close supervision by a nurse or a doctor. In most states, at least 75 hours of training are required before this certification can be granted, but taking a competency examination.
Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN): Most states stick with the LPN designation, but it varies by state. Although this is arguably a step above a CNA, work is still closely supervised. In some states, LPNs may be allowed to conduct simple procedures, such as starting IVs, on their own.
Registered Nurse (RN): This is the certification that most of the public recognizes as denoting a trained, qualified, professional nurse. RNs are qualified to work in a variety of settings, from hospitals and clinics to doctors’ offices, schools, home health settings, and even private businesses. An RN gives a student access to many options in the healthcare workplace. Of course, pay tends to rise as evidence of specialized training increases. An RN typically commands a higher salary than an LPN, for instance.