Historically, nurses provided care for injured soldiers and looked after women during and after childbirth. Today, nursing has evolved to include nurses of all genders, and the range of services nurses provide has expanded significantly.
Individuals interested in nursing can enter the field with a certificate, diploma, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. There are also multiple opportunities for nurses with a master’s degree in nursing.
Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs)
An FNP is a highly trained nurse with a Master of Science degree in nursing (MSN) equipped to serve as a primary care provider. FNPs treat patients of all ages, including infants, young children, teens, and older adults. FNPs assess patients, order tests, diagnose patients with illnesses, and develop treatment plans. They can prescribe medication and are responsible for evaluating their patients’ responses to medications. FNPs typically need to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing before entering a master’s degree program. MSN programs include instructional courses and clinical hours to ensure MSNs graduate with the knowledge and practical skills needed to be effective healthcare providers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that nurse practitioners earned median annual incomes of $109,820 as of 2019. The BLS also indicated that nurse practitioners’ opportunities should increase by 52 percent between 2019 and 2029, making this one of the fastest-growing career options at this time.
Like FNPs, nurse anesthetists are advanced practice nurses (APNs) with an MSN degree. Nurse anesthetists work with patients who need anesthesia and help patients manage their pain. Before a surgical procedure, the nurse anesthetist evaluates the patient’s medical history to determine if there are risk factors that could affect which medication they use and ensure they monitor the patient for potential side-effects.
As of 2019, nurse anesthetists’ median salary in the United States was $174,790, per the BLS. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported opportunities for these nurses are projected to increase by 14 percent between 2019 and 2029.
Nurse-midwives are APNs with a master’s degree in nursing. These nursing professionals provide prenatal care and guide their patients through their pregnancy. Nurse-midwives deliver babies and are qualified to assist surgeons when patients need a cesarean section.
According to the BLS, nurse midwives’ opportunities in the U.S. are expected to increase 12 percent between 2019 and 2029. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported nurse midwives earned a median annual salary of $105,030 as of 2019.
Registered Nurses (RNs)
RNs evaluate and monitor patients, update patient charts, give patients medication, assist patients with their treatments, and assist with medical tests. A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, associate’s degree, or nursing diploma is required to become an RN. Like APNs, RNs must complete classes and clinical hours to prepare for their career.
RNs can specialize in different fields of medicine. Those who choose pediatric nursing may work with a pediatrician to evaluate and care for infants and young children. Nurses can also work with audiologists and help perform hearing tests to determine if a patient has suffered hearing loss. Nurses in this field learn about common hearing problems for children, how to identify the type of hearing loss affecting a patient, and signs of potential hearing loss, such as delayed language development in children or an infant’s lack of response to loud noise. These nurses may educate an older adult with permanent hearing loss about their condition, different communication methods, or how to use a hearing aid.
RNs may work in hospitals, ambulances, medical offices, or schools. The BLS expects opportunities for RNs will increase seven percent between 2019 and 2029. In 2019, the BLS reported the median annual income for an RN in the U.S. was $73,300.
Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs)
LPNs and LVNs have a certificate or diploma in nursing. LPNs and LVNs monitor patients, check patients’ vital signs, provide direct patient care, and update medical charts. Some states allow these nurses to give patients medication.
The BLS expects opportunities for LPNs and LVNs to increase by nine percent from 2019 and 2029. Their median annual income in 2019 was $47,480, per the BLS.
Nursing assistants complete a few months of postsecondary training and provide primary patient care. Typical duties include helping patients dress, bathe, use the bathroom, and eat. They update patient records and check patients’ vital signs.
The BLS reported the median annual income for nursing assistants was $29,640 in 2019 and that nursing assistants could expect an eight percent job growth rate from 2019 and 2029.
Nurses provide healthcare for patients of all ages. Nurses with graduate degrees may deliver babies, give patients anesthesia, or be patients’ primary care providers. Nurses with undergraduate degrees or diplomas provide patient care, monitor patients, and perform other crucial tasks, such as giving patients medication.