Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Titles like RN, LPN and CRNP mean little to those outside of the nursing profession.
But for patients, their families or anyone in need of health care, it can be important to know what different types of nurses are trained to do, and what they can do to help you.
In a hospital setting, nurses follow a chain of command, explained Ro Gibson, RN and clinical recruiter for Altoona Regional Health System. An RN, or Registered Nurse, is responsible for doing assessments of patients, analyzing issues and carrying out a doctor’s orders for treatment. The LPN, or Licensed Practical Nurse, is more “task oriented,” Gibson said, and responsible for taking blood pressure, giving medications and hanging IVs. But only RNs can “push” IVs, she added, or decide the dosage.
“For the most part, the RN does the initial assessment and formulates a plan of action for care,” she said. “The LPN carries out the plan.”
The first nurse a patient sees when entering the emergency room will usually be an RN, Gibson said. In a private doctor’s office, the initial assessment could be made by either an RN or an LPN, she added.
Deanna Richardson, an RN with Altoona Regional, said other duties she performs daily include assessing the status of stroke and trauma patients, handling admissions and discharges and reviewing notes and charts created by LPNs.
“The only thing we really can’t do is give reports,” Richardson said. “No RN or any nurse is permitted to give test results.”
RNs and LPNS aren’t the only types of nurses a patient could encounter when receiving healthcare. As a CRNP, or Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, Kay Adams, CRNP manager in the Vascular Institute at Altoona Regional, has undergone additional education that allows her to practice with an extended license, she said. Though CRNPs must work with one or more collaborating physicians, they can do things like write prescriptions, make diagnoses, order diagnostic testing and refer to specialists.
Adams started her nursing career as an RN, but went on to get her master of science degree and earned the CRNP title.
“I just decided that I wanted to be autonomous,” she said. “As a nurse practitioner, you can do that.”
Adams said patients usually mistake her for a PA, or physician’s assistant. Though the education for CRNPs and PAs is similar, she said the theory is different, with a CRNP’s training falling under the nursing model and a PA’s training falling under the medical model.
Patients also frequently mistake her for a doctor, Adams said, but she finds it important to correct them and give them the opportunity to see a doctor if they wish.
“If patients want to see the doctor, they should see the doctor,” she said. “I’m not offended.”
No matter what the level of schooling, there are many nursing jobs available around the country.
Becky Kelly, the coordinator for practical nursing at the Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center, said they see 100 percent job placement for graduates of the Nurse Aide and Practical Nurse training courses offered at the center.
“Most of the time, I have on my desk a list of employers who call seeking LPNs,” she said.
The eight-week course to become a nurse aide and the one-year full-time or two-year part-time courses for LPN training have seen a 96 to 100 percent state board pass rate in the last five years, Kelly said.
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