Sarah, don't worry about being confused! Actually even our patients in the US are confused and don't, in most cases know the difference in our training. It is quite complicated. We have LPNs( Licensed Practical Nurses), who are generally trained for about a year after high school ( that is secondary education). After completing the course work, LPNs take a national exam called the NCLEX-PN to become licensed to practice. Registered Nurses can train in 3 different kind of programs, that emphasize different aspects of the nursing role There is the Diploma trained RN, who is trained in a hospital based program. This RN training is probably closer to the one you have in the UK. There is an associate degree RN, who studies for about 2 years, generally in a community college. There is a University prepared RN, who studies for 4 years and obtains a Bachelor in Science in Nursing. We all must sit for the same national exam, called the NCLEX-RN to become licensed to practice. The difference between a diploma/associate degree RN and a Bachelor of Science RN, is not so much in the patient care aspect but in the theory aspect. Bachelor of Science RNs take such courses as Research in Nursing, Statistics, Nursing Management and Leadership, one full semester of Physical Assessment, one full year of Anatomy and Physiology ( as opposed to 6 months), in addition to 2 years of liberal art courses( hystory, psychology, english litt, mathematics, 1 year of organic and inorganic chem, 1 year of biology, art, etc.). The Bachelor in Science RN, is the only one among the 3 RNs that can go on for her Master Degree. At this level you specialize in a particular area and become a clinical specialist or with a little more training a nurse practitioner. Nurse Practitioners (NP) are allowed under the supervision of a physician to care for patients, order tests, make diagnosis and in some States prescribe medications. Finally, with a Master Degree ( which generally takes about 2 to 3 years) you can go on to obtain a PhD in Nursing. Generally, this is the preparation required to be a researcher or a Professor of Nursing in a University program. It takes about 2 years and requires a research dissertation/thesis to complete. So as you can see, it is quite confusing and the education of an RN can span from 2 years to 8 years depending on our degrees. Some hospitals in the US will only hire Bachelor of Science RNs, ( for example New York University Medical Center in New York). Also, as you advance beyond a staff nurse position, you are often required to have a Master or PhD. To add to the confusion we also have non-licensed nurses, such as nurse technicians, nurse aides and medical assistants, Generally, their duties range from providing comfort measures to the patient ( bed making, feeding, bathing) to obtaining vital signs, performing phlebotomy, obtaining EKGs and some specimens. Hope this has shed some light on your confusion!