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FAQ: Types of Nurses and What They Do


Curious about the different types of nursing? Brightwood College offers a Practical Nursing (LPN) diploma program, Vocational Nursing (LVN) diploma program and Nursing associate’s degree (RN) program.

Check out these frequently asked questions to learn more about the types of nursing and how to become a practical, vocational or registered nurse.

Q: What are the differences between an RN and an LPN or LVN?

A: All three types of nursing — RN, LPN and LVN — allow for fulfilling careers in nursing and healthcare. However, the job responsibilities and education for LPNs and LVNs are different than the responsibilities and education of a registered nurse.

A licensed practical nurse is responsible for providing more basic nursing care, and they usually work under the supervision of an RN. A licensed vocational nurse is the same as an LPN, but they are called LVNs in California and Texas1.

A registered nurse is responsible for giving medicine to patients as well as creating a plan for treatment in order to restore the health of a patient2.

Q: What training is required for a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or licensed vocational nurse?

A: RN programs can take from 18 to 36 months to complete. An RN must earn a professional nursing degree. An RN program focuses on different clinical and hands-on training experiences. Program courses include behavioral, social and physical sciences, leadership research and pharmacology2.

LPN/LVN programs take about 12 months to complete. The shorter time in school allows for those who are passionate to go into the workforce more quickly. LPN/LVN students go through supervised clinical training so that they will gain hands-on experience. An LPN/LVN will take a courses such as biology, chemistry, pharmacology and nursing1.

Q: What are the general duties of a registered nurse, LPN or LVN?

A: An RN focuses on:

  • Charting
  • Care plans
  • Wound care
  • Taking vital signs
  • Admitting and discharging patients
  • Giving patients their medication
  • Keeping physicians updated
  • Supervising LPNs/LVNs2.

LPNs/LVNs help the RN administer medication, assist with wound care, monitor patients and assist with the activities of daily living. LPNs/LVNs also provide basic nursing care, such as:

  • Changing and dressing patients
  • Inserting catheters
  • Checking blood pressure

Q: What certifications are required for nursing?

A: An LPN/LVN must have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). Once they have passed that exam, they will be able to work as a Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse.

To become an RN, a student must have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)2.

Students enrolled in Brightwood College nursing programs can start pursuing a career in nursing in as little as one or two years. Each program encourages students to get actively involved with their coursework through hands-on learning labs and practical experience in order to gain the skills needed to succeed. Request more information to learn more about becoming a registered nurse, LPN or LVN.

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Brightwood College does not guarantee employment or advancement.
The School cannot guarantee a student's eligibility either to take any exam or become certified, registered, or licensed. A student's eligibility may depend on his or her work experience, completion of high school (or its equivalent), not having a criminal record, meeting other licensure or certification requirements, or the program or School itself having appropriate accreditation or licensure. Externship sites may themselves require a criminal background check or medical examination. Please refer to the Certification, State Board, and National Board Exams section of the relevant campus catalog for further guidance. In the state of Indiana, the Board of Nursing requires licensure to work as a practical nurse. An application must be submitted to the Indiana Board of Nursing Professional Licensing Agency. The submission fee for the application is paid by the College. Applicants also must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Information is available at To practice as a registered nurse in California, students must be licensed by the California State Board of Registered Nursing (BRN): Applicants also must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).