Most home healthcare companies hire a variety of different caregivers, ranging from CNAs and LPNs to RNs and NPs – are you confused by all the abbreviations yet? All four of these designations are those who have had some level of medical training but, when it comes to caring for your loved one, some have the training necessary while others do not. Of course, you may not even need to know which designated level of medical help you need; your home healthcare provider and your doctor will coordinate and send the best home health aide depending on your (or your loved one’s) specific needs. If you want to learn more about the care options available – or you’re interested in becoming a nurse yourself – start here with the basic differences between these four designations.
CNAs are not actually fully trained nurses; they are nursing assistants (a CNA is a Certified Nursing Assistant). The training to become a CNA averages four to six weeks, and is generally earned through a community college, though both duration and certification-awarding institutions vary by state. In Colorado, CNAs must go through a state-approved CNA course, take the state exam, and apply for certification before applying for CNA jobs. If coursework was done in another state, they will need approval before they can take the exam and receive certification.
At this level of training, common responsibilities include moving patients, collecting samples, assisting with ambulation, helping patients with personal hygiene care, and record their health information on their medical chart. All of this is done at the direction of and under the supervision of a medical professional with more training, generally an LPN or RN. Predominantly, CNA jobs are in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and for home healthcare providers.
An LPN, or Licensed Practical Nurse, is the next step up in terms of training and responsibilities. Where a CNA has to be registered as a nurse aide, an LPN has to go through additional training (usually a year-long program for the certification, or two for an associates degree), take the state-approved exams, and be registered as a nurse. LPNs generally have more specialized courses like geriatrics, pediatrics, and obstetrics and are trained to take on more responsibilities than a CNA – and, as we mentioned above, are often responsible for supervising CNAs.
At the LPN level, common responsibilities include everything the CNAs handle plus dressing wounds and handling minor surgeries (like giving stitches), helping with laboratory testing, giving injections, and caring for catheters. LPNs are most predominant at long-term care facilities, as they are afforded more opportunities to gain additional experience and move up the ladder.
Registered Nurses (RNs) are what most people are thinking of when they think about the term “nurse” and are the next step up after earning an LPN certification. The biggest differences between an LPN and an RN are the amount of education needed and the workplace settings. Like LPNs, RNs can earn their license with an associates degree but, where the associates is not required for an LPN, it is the minimum level of education for an RN; most RNs earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Unlike LPNs, RNs are licensed to suggest diagnoses and treat patients, so they work in a wider variety of medical facilities. Where 30 percent of LPNs choose to work in long-term care facilities and a further 29 percent work in nursing care facilities, only 5 percent of RNs choose to work in long-term care facilities. Most RNs choose to work in hospitals or for home healthcare companies.
Because they work in a much wider range of different facilities and specializations, an RN’s responsibilities vary more than can be given in a succinct list. Their role can include everything from diagnosing and treatment to patient education and supervision of LPNs and CNAs, but will vary based on what they chose to specialize in almost as much as doctors.
Nurse Practitioners are undoubtedly at the top of the nursing hierarchy. In order to receive this designation, NPs need a master’s degree at minimum, as well as passing the state’s exam and licensing process. Unlike RNs, many nurse practitioners do not work under the supervision of physicians and can prescribe medication. Because of this, many NPs go into private practice, work at research hospitals, and become university faculty members.
Like RNs, NPs focus on a medical specialty like neonatal, adult gerontology primary care, psychiatry, or women’s health. However, the difference is that, in most states, NPs are not required to have physician supervision, so they are more likely to go into private practice or serve as the supervisors for home healthcare providers.
At Evergreen Home Healthcare, we want our patients to receive the best care from passionate and compassionate individuals. Contact us today if you’re interested in CNA jobs in Westminster or Fort Collins!