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The profession of nursing is unique in the spectrum of health professions with multiple levels at which to enter the profession (Nelson, 2002).
The first level of the nursing team is the certified nursing assistant (CNA). The CNA is a high school graduate who has training received in a vocational program within a secondary or in a post secondary setting.
The next level in the nursing team is a licensed practical nurse (LPN). The LPN is educated in a post secondary setting. Educational requirements include 1,500 hours of study, half of which are in direct patient care.
Traditionally the education of registered nurses has occurred in diploma programs (D), community college programs (ADN), or baccalaureate programs (BSN).
The nursing shortage has fostered new programs to educate registered nurses. These rapid entry programs allow people with existing bachelor degrees to obtain a BSN after 12 to 18 months of education. Other programs allow a person with a bachelors degree to obtain a certificate and sit for the licensure exam in 12 to 18 months and continue on to obtain their MSN as their entry degree in nursing.
Nurses can continue their education once they have achieved their entry. A nurse who enters as an LPN or an ADN can receive their BSN through bridge programs that give credit for some educational credits already attained.
The registered nurse with a BSN can then pursue education at the master’s level with focuses on education, administration, clinical specialization, or advanced practice nursing (APRN).
These nurses with masters degrees can further their education by pursuing a doctorate. Doctorates can focus on clinical practice (Doctor of Nursing Science) or can be focused more on education and research (Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing). Some nurses who choose to become nurse educators also pursue a Doctorate of Education. This degree prepares individuals to teach in nursing programs.