Nursing Career Choices, Explained

nursing career

When it comes to building a career around caring for others, walking down this road isn’t always a straightforward path. In fact, with the advent of advanced training and schooling options, you actually have quite a few ways to go about entering this field.

From joining the ranks as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) to ending up as a registered nurse (RN) who plans to go a step further with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN), it’s no surprise that so many aspiring healthcare professionals feel overwhelmed by this process.

By using the information within this comparison as a guiding light, you will be well on your way to making an informed decision about the nursing career path that best matches your goals and interests.

Is climbing the nursing career ladder worth the effort?

Before we jump into the particulars of what goes into the daily workflow and other distinctions of each nursing career path, it’s important to take a moment and talk a little bit about compensation and upward mobility. After all, you still need to be able to pay the bills, regardless of whether you decide to stick with the LVN route or go a little farther with your education and training.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you can expect to make the following annual salaries based on each path:

  • LVNs make approximately $42,400 a year
  • RNs make considerably more at $65,470 per year
  • Earning your BSN (as an RN) pushes compensation up to a yearly average of $75,484

So, why the major differences in annual salaries between these nursing career options? The answer to this question is two-fold.

The first part revolves around the fact that each job has different daily roles and responsibilities – something that we’ll be discussing in greater detail in just a minute. Aside from the shifting of responsibilities and work requirements, the difference between LVNs, RNs, and those who obtain a BSN covers the varying amounts of time invested in educational pursuits.

Simply put, there’s a direct and positive correlation between how much time you officially spend learning about the finer points of this career and the top end of your future salary.

Understanding the LVN Route

Now that you understand the pay scale side of this discussion, it’s time to compare the differences in workflow and daily responsibilities for each of these nursing careers. With this in mind, there’s no better place for us to start than with what goes into being an LVN.

Typically, an LVN provides basic healthcare and comforts to the patients of a medical facility. Checking vital signs, changing bandages, discussing health care options and concerns with the patient, as well as inserting catheters all fall under this umbrella of responsibility. Additionally, LVNs can also help a patient bathe, dress, or otherwise take care of themselves before and after a procedure.

Outside of directly interacting with those requiring medical assistance, LVNs also handle several administrative responsibilities. For instance, the average LVN must be able to keep records of the health of a patient and be able to report this data to a doctor or RN in a timely manner.

In some cases, experienced LVNs will take the role of a supervisor and direct other professionals with the same designation, as well as unlicensed medical staff members. However, this opportunity usually only becomes available after years of experience handling the aforementioned duties and responsibilities.

Digging into the Life of a RN

Much like a LVN, a person who has risen to the position of RN must be able to record and monitor the medical histories and symptoms of various patients within the facility. However, the duties of a RN go beyond this point and enter into the realm of administering advanced care.

A RN must be able to accurately and safely provide medication to patients, in addition to operating medical equipment. From here, you’ll also be required to consult with doctors and other healthcare professionals regarding unique cases, all while helping perform diagnostic tests and analyzing the results of these selections.

Perhaps the most important part of being an RN comes in the form of educating these patients. Once the person in question is ready to be discharged from the facility, a RN often teaches the patient and his or her family members how to apply further medication and manage related illnesses and injuries.

Covering what comes with a BSN

In reality, a BSN doesn’t actually change your status as a RN – this achievement is simply an indicator of the advancement of your education. However, there are a few distinctions worth mentioning that separate RNs who have completed a BSN program from those who have not.

RNs who also hold the BSN designation have the choice to either maintain the same position as a standard RN, or move into the public health and education portions of the industry. Essentially, graduating with a BSN doesn’t alter your work duties and responsibilities as a RN, but this achievement can open the path to new and exciting career opportunities.

Speaking of furthering your personal development, the BSN route also opens up the door to take on a Masters in Nursing (MSN). Should you reach this tier of education, you’ll have the opportunity to eventually take on the role of a nurse practitioner (NP), certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA), certified nurse midwife (CNM), and a number of other advanced career paths.

At the end of the day, it’s easy to see that the potential for growth and development in the nursing field is wide open. From getting your feet wet in the healthcare industry as a LVN, to truly spreading your wings with all of the potential that come with a BSN or MSN, the options laid out before you are seemingly endless. The only question left to answer now focuses on your personal career goals and desire to advance in the field.

About the author

As owner of the higher education site , Joy Miller researches and reviews colleges offering accelerated classes and degrees, connecting students with programs that match their educational goals and career interests.


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