In the health care field, there are nurses working at every level, from basic care as provided by licensed practical nurses up through advanced practice nurses like practitioners, midwives, and anesthetists.
There is some crossover in the tasks performed by the various levels of nurses. All of them take medical histories, operate medical equipment, examine patients, and monitor patient health. All of them must be skilled in communication techniques such as active listening and disseminating information. Nurses generally work with other medical professionals so they need to be strong team players.
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses perform more basic care for patients, such as changing bandages and helping them dress. They may also collect samples.
Registered nurses routinely perform diagnostic tests on patients and interpret the results. They are often responsible for teaching patients and their families how to manage an illness or injury. Some RNs choose to specialize in a certain field, health condition, or a part of the body.
In addition to the duties already listed, advanced practice nurses – i.e., nurse midwives, anesthetists, and practitioners – also prescribe and administer medication, diagnose and treat ailments, and refer patients to other specialists as needed. Anesthetists provide anesthesia and pain management. Midwives care specifically for women, especially during pregnancy and childbirth. Practitioners serve as primary and specialty care providers.
Here's a look at how wages vary among nurses:
To see how you can become a registered nurse, and to learn more about the profession, read Brooke Jackson's full article: A Nurse for All Seasons.