Here’s How an Associate’s Degree in Nursing Can Help Achieve Your Goals
Explore the career options that come with an ADN or LPN-LVN certificate.
What can I do once I earn this degree or certification?
If your career plans include becoming a nurse one day, starting out as an LPN/LVN is a great way to figure out your own interests in the field. For example, if you love working with kids, your career goal may be to work in pediatric nursing.
When you’ve completed your ADN or LPN/LVN program, you’ll be well equipped for a wide range of job duties. As an LPN/LVN in just about any type of health facility, you can expect to:
- Provide comfort for patients by helping them bathe, dress, or walk around
- Maintain patient health records
- Monitor patient health by doing things like taking temperature or blood pressure
- Assess patients’ status and report to RNs and doctors
- Give basic nursing care, like changing bandages or inserting catheters
- Discuss how patients are feeling and address any issues
One of the biggest advantages to working as a LPN/LVN is the amount interaction you’ll have with a variety of patients. This experience gives you a solid knowledge base on where your strengths and weaknesses are.
With an ADN, you’ll have a set of responsibilities that differs from an LPN/LVN. A typical set of duties for a nurse with an ADN looks like this:
- Observe patients and report on their wellbeing
- Keep a thorough record of patients’ medical histories and symptoms
- Perform diagnostic tests on patient samples and analyze the results
- Operate medical equipment
- Administer medicines and treatments to patients
- Come up with treatment plans for patients’ care
- Teach patients how to manage their illnesses or injuries at home
While these are general tasks you can expect on the job, your role may include other responsibilities depending on what type of facility you work in or the types of patients you’re in contact with. For example, caring for an infant will offer unique challenges that won’t be associated with adult care, and vice versa. Many nurses who hold an ADN find themselves drawn to a particular specialty and eventually move on to that area of nursing.
Where can I work?
Once you’ve earned an associate’s degree in nursing or an LPN/LVN certification, you’ll have the credentials to explore different career paths. While many entry-level nurses find work in hospitals, several other types of health care facilities need skilled LPNs/LVNs and RNs. After becoming a registered nurse or LPN/LVN, the following settings may offer a good job opportunity:
- Nursing care facilities: Working in a nursing care facility often involves treating elderly patients, but it can also include long-term rehabilitation and care for patients recently discharged from a hospital.
- General medical and surgical hospitals: Hospital nurses usually work in a specific department, or they may rotate between departments. Some of the most common settings include surgery, the maternity ward or the emergency room.
- Physicians’ offices: One benefit of working in a physicians’ office is regular hours (compared to a hospital shift). You’ll spend your time preparing patients for exams, giving injections, dressing incisions and conducting clerical duties, like keeping patient records.
- Home health care nursing: Home health care nurses provide patient comfort in the home, rather than in a facility, and also help manage any medical equipment that the patient needs.
- Community care facilities: Community care facilities differ from nursing care facilities in that no medical care is given to patients at the facility. Responsibilities at a community care facility generally have more to do with patient comfort, like bathing, dressing and assisting with daily life.
Will I need more certification or continuing education units to continue to practice?
Once you complete your ADN or LPN/LVN program and before you begin working, you’ll need to become certified. The appropriate tests are listed below.
For those who complete an ADN program: National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN
For those with an LPN/LVN certificate: National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN
Both exams cover a wide range of material, and the test-taker is scored on their ability to think critically and solve nursing care questions. Passing the test certifies you to practice nursing in your state.
Continuing education is a means to ensure nurses stay up-to-date on the latest medical trends and methods. These courses are usually required every few years in order for a nurse to remain certified. Always check with the state you work in because regulations can differ with some states having no requirements at all.
How do I advance in my career? What are my next steps?
Education is often the best way to advance in your career. Although you don’t need to return to school once you’ve become an LPN/LVN or RN, it can help if you’re looking to make the next step toward leadership roles. Nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing often get the chance to supervise other nurses.
Advancing in your LPN/LVN career can also be done in hospitals. Often, LPNs/LVNs are asked to take on more duties in critical care settings.
Today, many hospitals offer tuition reimbursements or financial aid for members of their nursing staff who want to further their education while still working in the field. Additionally, returning to school as a nurse is easier than ever; online education programs make it possible for nurses to keep their jobs, while still working toward a higher degree at their own pace.