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Different levels in nursing

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Knowing the different acronyms in nursing can be a bit for confusing. Some states will uses a different titles and this often leaves many not knowing who does what in nursing. Let’s decipher the various levels so that you can have a better understanding.

Nurse assistant

A nurse assistant or nurse aide is a person who has taken a course, usually 4 to 6 weeks and have learned the basic nursing tasks. There is usually a state test involved at the end of the class which than they become a certified nurse assistant (CNA). Other terms you may hear is patient care technician (PCT), patient care assistant (PCA), CNA's have a certification not a license so they must have tasks delegated to them by a licensed nurse.

Licensed Practical Nurse

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) holds a license and has taken a longer program of instruction, usually 18 months. After their program they will sit the the NCLEX-PN examination. LPN's can administer medication, complete assessments, delegate tasks to unlicensed personnel. However, to complete some tasks they need to have supervision by a Registered Nurse.

Registered Nurse

A Registered Nurse (RN) has completed an Associates degree or a Bachelors degree in Nursing. After course completion an RN will sit for the NCLEX-RN examination. RN's tasks includes all the tasks that a LPN can do, in addition provides supervision to LPN's, other unlicensed staff, manage units and departments.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

An Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) holds the highest level of licensure. However, there are different types of APRN's. Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP), Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) are the four types. We will delve deep into the different specialties at a later time. But an APRN has a Master's or Doctorate level degree and can assess, diagnosis, interpret and practice to the full extent of their license and certification.


Starting as a CNA I learned that all levels of nursing is important. We work more efficient when we work together. I've always said "A nurse and a CNA working together makes a powerful team!" That is because you have to appreciate your CNA's or other ancillary staff that may work with you because sometimes they can make or break your day! Yet although the roles expand with higher licenses we are all nurses who have committed to providing the very best care to patients. We are the most trusted profession for a reason!

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