What is the difference between an RN, LVN, BSN and MSN?


I’m trying to decide what area of nursing to pursue.


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There is not a entry level nursing or chain that someone has to become or earn to become a RN. Here is the typical difference.


CNA = Certified Nursing Assistant, can take a high school course or around a year semester at a community college to obtain this degree. CNA’s assist with activities of daily living (bathing, feeding, grooming, etc). CNA”s can work in hospitals, nursing home, assisted living facilities, etc.

LPN/LVN = Licensed practice nurse/Licensed vocational nurse, are the same thing and are used interchangeable. LPN/LVN have a 1-2 year associate’s degree. They can, if specially trained administer IV medications and draw blood. They can carry out some nursing roles.


RN= Registered nurse. Can obtain Associates, Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees. Associates usually work in hospitals, nursing home, school, etc. Bachelors do the same thing as RN’s but bachelor’s degree opens it up to be able to do management role and more leadership roles. Master’s degree in nursing can allow the RN to teach or be a clinical nurse leader or a Advanced practice nurse (NP or Nurse practitioner). RN’s carry out doctor’s orders (example: give xyz blood pressure medication twice a day or change wound dressing every 6 hours, etc). The nurses are the physicians eyes and ears.


NP=Nurse Practitioner. Nurse practitioners are RN’s with a Master’s degree and at least 2-5 years bedside (caring for patients in hospital setting or patients in general) that go back to school for their NP degree. NP’s can specialize in Family practice, Acute care (hospital), Teach nursing school or NP students, CRNA (Certified registered nurse anesthetist (monitor patient under anesthesia or put patient to sleep for surgery), dermatology, orthopedics, cardiology, etc. If a nurse practitioner specializes they are usually trained on the job for the specialty.


NP’s and RN’s can also work in Information Technology (computer charting system ) as well.


DNP= Doctorate in Nursing Practice. There are two route for this, clinical and research. The difference is clinical is more beside based and hands on with patients. Research is more educational and research based.


If anyone has specific questions about any of these let me know.

Newbie Answered on October 23, 2018.
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