Nursing Degrees Explained: LPN, LVN, RN, APN, and NP

A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is a basic nursing degree that forms the foundation for further nursing courses. The course duration is of around one year and includes both theory and practice. An online LPN course trains students for jobs such as daily intake-outtake monitoring, changing dressings, and caring for patients. The requirements for awarding an LPN degree will vary with the state as this is a state-awarded degree.

A Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) is on par with the LPN. This program too is a stepping stone for more nursing degrees. Successful training for this one-year program leads to a diploma or a certificate and the student qualifies for the NCLEX-PN examination. Work opportunities exist in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and public schools.

A Registered Nurse (RN) degree is a very respectable one and experienced RNs are always in demand. In order to become a Registered Nurse, you can either take the 4-year BSN course or acquire an ADN. You can also clear a Nursing Diploma Program offered by hospitals. Apart from these there is the NCLEX-RN exam to clear. An advantage with an RN degree is that it is licensed for the country and hence has acceptance in several states. RNs are well suited for nursing jobs that require traveling.

APN stands for Advanced Practicing Nursing and includes masters and doctoral degrees. Job opportunities include clinical nurse specialists, researchers, faculty managers, etc. APNs can handle primary as well as tertiary care duties. The definition of APN changes from state to state and so do their rights and duties. APNs are eligible for a DEA number which gives them prescriptive authority.

Registered Nurses, who have acquired training in recognizing and managing medical conditions that are fairly common, qualify as Nurse Practitioners (NP). NPs execute duties similar to those of a physician and are often regular health care providers for people. Nurse Practitioners are trained toward wellness and preventive techniques. This means that the patient is educated and treated at the same time and is also spared the costs of expensive prescriptions.

Clarifying Critical Thinking for Nursing Students

Clarifying the Meaning of Critical Thinking in Nursing Education

The phrase critical thinking is one of the most frequent that nursing students are introduced to. These key words appear repeatedly in written form in all nursing educational materials such as syllabi, classroom and clinical objectives, and assignment guidelines. Nursing educators also take many opportunities to discuss and reinforce the importance of critical thinking in both classroom and clinical experiences. However, these actions only cover part of the process nursing educators can use to clarify the importance of the process as an expectation and stimulate this valuable process.

There are other important considerations which need to be part of the process during all educator- student interactions. These considerations center on both the characteristics of critical thought as well as how to demonstrate it. The considerations are as follows:

1. Define the term. Critical thinking has as many varied definitions as there are resources to list them and are usually non-specific to educational specialty. Nursing’s view of this concept and its application to practice differs greatly compared to that of philosophy, science, criminal justice or any other learning discipline. No one definition is able to meet the specific criteria of any learning domain or discipline. The term needs to be tailored to each nursing program, curricula and course. Defining the term in writing as well as reinforcing it verbally assists students in understanding the importance of cultivating this skill and also to assist them in recognizing its use as an expectation of nursing education. This important foundation serves to promote critical thought templates that can evolve along with both nursing education as well as nursing practice.

2. Define it according to educational goals. In nursing education, thinking critically is assessed by how knowledge is applied. Integrated into all program and course competencies, as well as evaluative rubrics and other tools, it is ubiquitous. Defining, demonstrating and reinforcing how critical thinking is to be achieved and evaluated not only promotes the critical thinking process, but also can lessen student anxiety.

3. Define how it will be achieved and demonstrated in theoretical knowledge. Many nursing students may feel that the only way higher level thinking is demonstrated theoretically is through academic testing. It may be difficult for them to envision that static classroom knowledge must later be applied to a non-static patient care setting. This process is intimidating to nursing students. Reinforcing the need for this process along with providing a critical thinking template may ease the transition and promote habits which foster the growth and evolution of critical thinking. This is the heart of nursing wisdom.

Another area within theoretical knowledge needing to be addressed is that of note taking and studying. Critical thought growth and development are both deeply dependent upon learning styles and brain processing. Educational progression from learning and understanding to application is accomplished with evolving critical thinking skills. Success begins with this step.

4. Define how it will be achieved and demonstrated in clinical practice. Although the clinical performance evaluation tool is used for this, it is helpful to fully explain, define and emphasize specific actions and characteristics both as expectations of as well as demonstration of critical thinking competency. Along with concepts such as the nursing process, holism, safety and communication which are integrated into nursing care, this would also include characteristics and actions such as information gathering, formulating a patient problem list and planning care.

5. Demonstrate and reinforce these principles. No matter the educational setting, the principles and characteristics of critical thinking can be demonstrated, discussed, reinforced and integrated into any activity. This process assists with providing various perspectives for students on what critical thinking is and how to apply it. Nurse educators also benefit as they gain valuable insight into both student needs and learning outcomes.