Help me understand terminology for nusing roles in the US

Nurses General Nursing


Hi all,

I'm currently doing the honours year of my nursing degree at University of Glasgow in Scotland. As part of that I have to write a dissertation in the form a literature review which involves looking at studies involving nurses and I have some queries relating to the structure of nursing roles in the US that I'm hoping you could shed some light on. 

As I understand it in the US you have registered nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). From reading around the subject I see that the roles differ in duties/ responsibilities. As such, I'll only be including studies that look specifically at a population of RNs as LPN isn't a nursing role we have in the UK. I'm just a bit confused around the terms used by studies situated in the US when referring to nurses. I guess my main questions are:

a) Does the term "registered nurse" always refer to RNs or can it also be used when referring to both RNs/LPNs?

b) Some studies just use the term "nurses", but I've noticed in their demographic data there are participants that have associate degrees and those that have bachelor's degrees. For example, in this table: . There is also on option there for those that have no degree. Does the type of degree someone has indicate what role they would have? I.e associate degree = LPN, bachelor's degree = RN, no degree=? 

Apologies for my ignorance, I'm not very familiar with how things work in the states. Any help is much appreciated. Thanks in advance.



Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development.

Registered nurses, or RNs, in the US have multiple entries to practice: diploma programs (becoming fewer and fewer and do not confer a degree in most cases), associate degree, and bachelors degree. All of these types of programs contain the required elements to become a registered nurse and relate to the scope of practice set by the state, and all who complete any of these education options take the exact same licensure exam and are granted the same license.

Licensed practical/vocational nurses, or LPN/LVNs, complete a program specific to their scope of practice, which is set by the state. Compared to an RN, there are typically things an RN can do that an LPN/LVN cannot, such as in some states giving IV push medications or hanging blood transfusions. 

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