PracticeQuiz content is free on an ad-supported model.

Unfortunately, we can't support ad-blocked usage because of the impact on our servers. If you'd like to continue, please disable your adblcoker and reload page.

Thanks for understanding.

Reload page

RN? PN? NP? Understanding the Different Types of Nurses

Types of nurses

People in the field of nursing work together to accomplish one goal: taking care of patients. Nursing teams may contain nurse practitioners, practical nurses, registered nurses, medical assistants and nurse's aides. These individuals may perform care such as dressing or bathing, or they may diagnose and prescribe treatment to patients. The salary, responsibilities, and licensure requirements of these individuals directly relates to the role they have in patient care.  

Nurse's Aide

Nurse's aides provide basic care to clients, such as bathing, clothing, and feeding. They also check vital signs and report to nurses any changes in patients. In some states, the nurse's aides administer medication depending on their training. A majority of nurse's aide positions are in nursing homes and hospitals.  


A nurse's aide must earn his or her high school diploma or equivalent to be eligible to be a nurse's aide.  Some nurse's aides are trained on the job. However, to become a certified nurse's aide (CNA), a person must complete a CNA course, which only lasts a few weeks. You can find CNA classes in vocational schools, technical schools, or community colleges. To further your career, you can also earn your Medication Aide Certification Examination (MACE) to be able to administer medication.  


On average, a nurse's aide makes about $11.54 per hour. This is the same as $24,010 per year.


Medical Assistant

A medical assistant (MA) has the important job of assisting physicians or other healthcare providers with clerical work and direct patient care. Whether you work in a podiatrist's office or a pediatrician's office, a medical assistant is responsible for taking a patient's vitals and medical history. As an MA, you will be able to give injections and draw blood in addition to helping the physician.  


Currently, there isn't a set standard for MA training in every state. Some MAs are trained on site, while others attend a program through a technical school, vocational school, university or community college. The program lasts about one year. These programs will help you to earn a certificate or diploma. Some schools offer two-year programs that allow you to earn your associate's degree. The education requirements vary based on your state. Some states require you to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam.  


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average yearly salary of an MA is $28,860. The top 10 percent received over $40,000 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,000 annually.  

Practical Nurse

Practical nurses (PN) assume an important role in the healthcare field. They provide basic nursing care such as monitoring patients' health by checking vital signs. They administer medications, insert catheters and complete wound care. They also educate patients and their families. Additionally, they conduct tests and collect specimens. They're under the direct supervision of registered nurses or doctors, and they may supervise nurse's aides and other practical nurses.  


A practical nurse must complete a program that lasts about one year. It includes subjects like pharmacology and biology. Training includes a clinical portion as well. Programs are usually available in technical schools, community colleges, and nursing schools.  


As of 2010, the median salary for PNs was $40,380, which is the same as $19.42 per hour. The highest paid individuals earned $56,010, while the lowest paid earned less than $29,680 annually.  

Registered Nurse

A registered nurse educates patients, gives medication and other treatments, and helps perform diagnostic tests. As a registered nurse, you will need to monitor patients and help patients and their families manage their disease or injury.  


If you want to become a registered nurse, you must at least complete an associate's degree in nursing (ADN). However, most research or administrative positions require you have at least a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). A BSN takes about four years to complete, while an ADN only takes about two to three years and so do diploma programs. During your time in school, you study topics like anatomy, chemistry, physiology, pharmacology,  psychology, microbiology, and nutrition. To be licensed as an RN in the US, you must take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).  


The average annual salary for an RN is $64,690. This rate is the same as $31.10 per hour.  

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner provides healthcare services like diagnosing and treating patients. In some states, nurse practitioners can be primary care providers like physicians. A nurse practitioner is able to give IV treatments, administer medications, and even deliver babies, depending on their medical specialty. They're able to interpret lab results and counsel patients on preventative measures and living a healthy lifestyle. In certain states, a nurse practitioner is able to write prescriptions.  


A nurse practitioner (NP) must first complete a registered nursing program. Once you have obtained your RN, you must then complete at least a master's degree. Doctoral programs are available as well. When you select a master's degree program, you'll be able to specialize in certain areas of medicine. To be licensed as a Practical Nurse in the US, you must take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).  


According to the Mayo Clinic, the average nurse practitioner makes about $95,000 per year when working full time.