As we mentioned, there are three primary categories of nursing. Each level has its own requirements and responsibilities. For example, non-degree nurses like CNAs and LPNs usually perform health assistant duties and are often needed in home health care and assisted-living settings.
Registered nursing, which requires an academic degree, is a large, flexible occupation that allows RNs to specialize in a particular medical field, like pediatrics or psychiatry, for example.
Nurses who have advanced degrees are able to take their training even further. APNs, who have master's degrees, generally serve as primary or specialty care providers; whereas DNPs and PhDs often focus on the research end of health care.
When it comes to the duties a nurse is able to perform, the standards are produced and governed by each state's board of nursing. For RNs and non-degree nurses, the certification guidelines and job duties tend to differ only slightly from state to state. APNs, however, can face a wide variety of practice regulations [source: Citizen Advocacy Center]. This is because advanced-degree nurses often provide care without the assistance of a doctor. NPs, for example, can serve as primary care providers in many areas, and in some states they can even prescribe medications to their patients.
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