The Different Types of Nurses

A nurse is a nurse is a nurse. Right? Not so fast. Just like there are many types of doctors, there are different types of nurses – all with unique levels of education and job duties.

Although we all have a similar goal – helping patients have the best outcome – there are many different levels of nursing. Here are some of the most common types of nurses you may encounter during your care journey:

Certified Nursing Assistant – These team members support nurses in the daily care of the patients. At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we call them “patient care technicians.” A few of their many tasks include checking patient vital signs, assisting with meals, walking patients and helping with daily care activities.

Licensed Practical Nurse – These nurses work under the direction of a physician, advanced practice nurse or registered nurse. They can do basic nursing tasks and typically work in physician offices or nursing homes.

Registered Nurse – These nurses have an associate degree or bachelor’s degree and can work in many different nursing roles within healthcare. They can be found in a variety of settings, including hospitals, physician offices, nursing homes, and schools, just to name a few. They coordinate and implement the plan of care, follow through on physician orders, administer medications and are a key player on a patient’s care team.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse – There are four types of nurses that make up this category. All have a master’s degree or higher, receive certification in their area of specialty and are licensed to diagnose and treat patients, including the ability to prescribe medications.

Nurse Practitioner – These nurses often specialize in an area of medicine, for example – family practice, cardiology or geriatrics, and work in hospital and office settings. They generally work under a collaborative agreement with physicians but can also practice on their own.

Clinical Nurse Specialist – These nurses function in a similar way to nurse practitioners but generally include a focus on quality metrics and program management, in addition to diagnosing and treating patients..

Nurse Midwife – These nurses work in hospitals, medical offices and in-home settings to provide care and education for women before, during and after pregnancy. They can deliver babies in hospital and home settings, and generally work collaboratively with obstetric (OB) doctors.

Certified Nurse Anesthetist – These nurses have undergone training and certification to give anesthesia to patients during surgery and other procedures. They work collaboratively with anesthesiologists.

Clinical Nurse Leader – These nurses have a master’s degree and pass a certification test. They focus on project management, supervising and coordinating care based on evidence-based practice and are often on the leadership track or an advanced educator role.

Doctorate of Nursing Practice – These nurses have obtained the highest nursing degree and generally work as advanced practice nurses, in a clinical setting, leadership role, research or education.

Now that we have covered different education levels for nurses, let’s talk about some of the different roles a nurse can play in healthcare. Nurses can take many paths in nursing, from the hospital bedside to the office or clinic setting to the emergency room and into the community at a skilled nursing facility or even your home. We cover a few of these roles here, but there is an endless list of opportunities for nurses.

Critical Care Nurse – These nurses care for patients with more complicated care needs. They can specialize in adult care, pediatric care as well as care of the smallest babies in a hospital setting.

Surgical Nurse – These nurses work in operating rooms and procedural areas to assist and monitor patients. They may work in a variety of surgical settings and can specialize in different types of surgery.

Medical Nurse – These nurses may work in a hospital or office/clinic setting. They can specialize in many areas of medicine, for example – cardiology, cancer care, post-surgical care, behavioral health care, to name a few.

Emergency Room Nurse – These nurses work in the emergency room or immediate care clinics and assist to triage and treat patients in urgent or emergent need of care.

Labor and Delivery Nurse – These nurses work with patients in active labor and provide support and care during delivery. There are also nurses who specialize in the care of the mother and baby following delivery.

Nurse Case Manager – These nurses work with patients to meet their social, financial and emotional needs. They can be found in hospital and office settings and support patients to meet their needs at home and in the community.

Nurse Educator – These nurses are focused on education. They may be professors or teach new nurses at the bedside. They also help support leadership with introducing new initiatives at a hospital and provide education on using equipment, medication, documentation and procedures.

Home Health Nurse – These nurses provide care to patients in their homes, usually following a surgery or hospital stay.

To learn more about nursing at Edward-Elmhurst Health, visit us online.