A Lesson in “Nurse”

***I’m re-posting today because, ironically, I am at a mandatory class for my license!***



I am a red-blooded American Registered Nurse.

I earned the right to call myself a nurse when I passed the NCLEX (which is a fancy name for the worst test you will ever take in your entire life) and was granted a license–which coincidentally begins with the letters R and N.

There are a lot of other professions which somehow get lumped under “nurse.”

And, you see, this sort of makes me really mad. I worked my tail off to study and research and learn the clinical and intellectual aspects of my field. I do not appreciate it when others are flippant and refer to a nurse as “just a nurse” or “ugh, the nurse”— because 9 chances out of 10, she’s probably not a registered nurse.

So, how can you tell?

Let me give you a little lesson, OK?

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): this is a person who has taken mandatory state classes (usually 4-10 weeks) and passed a state exam which grants them a certificate (not a license) to work in long term care or nursing homes. Often, they will also do home care. Their scope of practice is narrow and often revolves around general patient care such as hygeine needs, vital signs, and simple tasks.

Patient Care Technician (PCT) (tech) (Nurse extender): this is a person who has slightly more training than a CNA. They are usually taught either in a brief class setting or on-the-job within the hospital. They can do all the things of a CNA, but they can also draw blood, run glucose testing, place catheters, and perform EKGs (among other things). Usually, PCTs are found in hospitals only.

Medical Assistant (MA): MA’s are usually found in physician’s offices. They often serve multiple purposes. Not only do they perform clincial tasks as delegated, but they can also assist with histories, injections, vital signs, and minimal assessments. (these folks are often the “nurses” you see at the doctor’s office)

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): This is a licensed. practical. nurse. She goes through some training to learn the basic skills of nursing. She is overseen by a registered nurse. They may deliver medications. They may not deal with blood products, and in some states, insulin. An RN often co-signs her charting and provides her direct guidance. These nurses often are found in smaller hospital units, nursing homes, and home care.

Registered Nurse (RN): This nurse has at least an Associate’s Degree in Nursing, but the trend is to actually require them to have a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. This is the nurse. She is prepared to assess, develop, plan, implement, and evaluate all aspects of patient care.

(I could go on, but I think at this point, you get it, right?)

Why do I say all this?

I often hear other SN Moms talk about nurses–from the ones at home to the ones at the doctor’s office. But, are you really getting nursing care? Have you checked? Lots of states allow LPNs to work in homes. If you aren’t satisfied with the care you are receiving–complaining will not get you very far! If your child is medically fragile enough to require nursing care…insist that you get the highest level of care available to you! I know there are boundaries with insurance and things like that…

…but you can investigate. Look around. There are more than one nursing agencies in most towns and cities. Find the one you feel comfortable with. Find the one that you feel gels with your family needs.

We do not get nursing care because: a) we have insurance, and b) as a nurse, I would trust no one other than myself to take care of my son the way I do. That said, if I were not a nurse, I would be asking for help. And believe you me, I would ensure that whoever came in to my home, was top notch.

After all, the guy who graduated last in medical school is still called “Doctor.”

And the next time you hear someone call themselves a “nurse” who isn’t—correct them. It’s actually against the law to call yourself a nurse without having a nursing license.

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