While you may be used to getting treatment from a health care provider with a medical degree, many studies show qualified, certified, and licensed nurses provide a continuum of care in many settings. It’s helpful to know the many positions nurses hold and how they can help with your care.
Nurse practitioner (NP)
Nurse practitioners have graduate degrees in nursing and can serve as primary care providers in many practices that serve adults, children, and older patients. Depending on which state they work in, NPs can work in clinics with or without a doctor’s supervision, handling a range of duties. They may diagnose, treat, and manage diseases; do physical exams; order procedures and lab tests; write prescriptions; and perform certain procedures, including some biopsies.
Registered nurse (RN)
These providers make up the greatest number of health care workers—some 2.6 million in the U.S. About three out of five RNs work in hospitals, where they treat and educate patients, offer advice and support to patients’ families, record medical histories and symptoms, help carry out diagnostic tests, operate medical equipment, give out medications, and provide patient follow-up and rehabilitation.
RNs can become specialists, allowing them to work in settings such as operating rooms, with a specific health condition, or with a certain group of patients, such as children or the elderly. For example, critical care nurses provide care to patients with serious, complex illnesses or injuries in intensive care units in hospitals. Home health care nurses provide nursing in people’s homes, often following hospital discharge. Psychiatric mental health nurses care for patients with personality or mood disorders.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses who provide care to patients that require anesthesia and pain management. They also monitor patients who are receiving and recovering from anesthesia.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
LPNs provide patient care in a variety of settings including nursing homes and extended care facilities, hospitals, physicians’ offices, and private homes. They work under the direction of the physician and provide basic nursing care. Their responsibilities include compiling patient health information, taking vital signs, administering medication and providing personal hygiene assistance to patients. In addition to being responsible for the comfort of their patients, they provide support to the entire health care team.