If you are considering becoming a CNA, you may find yourself confused by the acronyms that define the different levels of nursing care providers: CNA, LPN, RN, and NP. Each of these acronyms represents a group of health care providers. So what’s the difference between each one? The answer lies in level of education and scope of practice.
To become a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), one must complete a program of classroom and clinical training which lasts 8 to 12 weeks. The student must then pass a state administered exam to become certified. CNAs measure blood pressures, body temperatures and pulse rates, monitor intake and output, assist patients with personal care, and report concerns to the LPN, RN or NP. They also provide education and instruction to their patients regarding treatments, use of the nurse call system, preparation for tests and lab studies, and dietary restrictions. CNAs are supervised by LPNs, RNs, and NPs.
Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) (known in some states as LVNs) must complete a 12-18 month program which includes classroom work and clinical training. They must then pass a state exam to become licensed. Duties of an LPN include administration of medications and skin and wound treatments, conducting patient assessments, providing patient education, and reporting problems to the RN or NP. LPNs often serve as charge nurses in long term care and assisted living facilities, reporting directly to the physician as needed.
Registered Nurses (RNs) must complete a 2 or 4 year program consisting of class work and clinical training. They must then pass a state administered examination. Duties of the RN include initiation and administration of IV fluids and medications, performance of multi-system assessments, formulation of care plans, reporting of problems to the physician, carrying out physician orders, and providing advanced patient education. RNs supervise CNAs and LPNs in the performance of their duties, and are supervised by physicians.
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice RNs who have completed a Masters Degree or other advanced education program in a specialty area. NPs must pass a board certification exam in a specialty areas of medicine, such as geriatrics, family practice, women’s health, public health, nurse anesthesia or midwifery, prior to practicing as an NP. NPs practice under the supervision of a physician, and are permitted to order tests, and prescribe medications and treatments.
Many LPNs, RNs and NPs began their careers as CNAs, where they discovered their strengths and passions in nursing, prior to moving into a more advanced or specialized area of medicine.
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