There are Registered Professional Nurses = Registered Nurse = RN and there are
Licensed Practical Nurses = Licensed Vocational Nurses (depends on what state you are in) = LPN or LVN
RN's can do everything for patients, LPN's usually do not give injections into veins or call doctors for orders for the patients. Again, it depends on where you work (the state, the employer), also on whether or not the LPN has received special advanced training in certain procedures and thus is authorized to, for example, give shots into veins. (That particular procedure is called "pushing" IV (intravenous) meds.
A personal support worker would not be passing out medications or be responsible for examining (asssessing) the patient's heart, lungs, abdomen, and other body parts for normalcy or lack of it. The support worker would be doing what is known today as direct care or bedside care. It means things like bathing the patient, changing the bed, helping the patient to the bathroom, brushing teeth and hair, helping the person be comfortable in bed by turning and repositioning him or her, feeding or helping the person to feed himself - this type of thing. This is demanding physical labor. You will be on your feet, you will be working with very heavy (obese) patients and might hurt your back and arms if you don't use what's called lifting devices and good body mechanics. School will teach you how to minimize the risk of hurting yourself.
Vitally important is for the worker to inform the nurses immediately of any problems the patient has - like shortness of breath, pain, bleeding, weakness, falling, and things like this. The support worker is there to support the nurse, to aide the nurse, to be the nurse's eyes and ears. The nurse is in charge, is the leader of the team, the nurse has the most legal liability and responsibility, therefore, must be respected and trusted as the leader. In an emergency, such as a patient having a heart attack or stroke in a nursing home, the nurse will need to worker to drop everything and help prepare the patient for transport to the Emergency room. That means paperwork, phone calls, staying with the patient and making sure the oxygen is on, checking the blook pressure every few minutes, and whatever else the nurse might say to do. You can be a great source of help for the nurse and reassurance for the terrified patient.
Workers with advanced training might draw blood, pass medications in some settings, administer feedings into stomach tubes if the patient cannot eat normally, adminster breathing treatments, and things of this nature. They might take blood pressure and temperatures, measure blood glucose levels and blood oxygen levels and chart these in the chart. They would immediately give to the nurse the written results of these tests, whether the results are normal or abnormal.
A support worker might word as a private duty sitter or home helper, might help with laundry, light housekeeping and meal preparation for the patient, might run errands, such as to the grocery,doctor's office, beauty or barber shop, might drive the patient in his own car or the workers's car if properly insured and approved by the employer (not advisable in case there is a car accident).
Why not speak to someone at a local school of RN nursing, LPN nursing, and a local school for support workers?
I hope this helps some and wish you good luck in whatever path you wish to pursue. Right now, the job market is very tight for new nurses. Also, all of these jobs require that you love people and care about people, and that you be very patient with them when they're sick, scared, and not at their best. Some patients and their family members can be extremely rude and disrespectful. Some might be violent (like in psychiatry).
It means that you will have to work on holidays, weekends, in the evening or night hours. You will not have Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. off to be with your family too often. You will miss your kids' concerts, sports events, meal times, and bedtimes. That's really hard.
These professions aren't very well respected by everyone, like a doctor is respected. Also, the pay isn't very good. And you can pick up nasty illnesses, get stuck with needles that are contaminated with AiDS and other illnesses. So be aware of everything before you enter into this type of work. Oh, and if you can't deal with urine, BM, vomit, pus, blood, nudity, mucous, and bad smells, health care is not the line of work for you.
Good luck, keep us posted.