People have always cared for the sick and injured, but the modern profession of nursing wasn't developed until the mid-1800s. The modern nurse is a well-educated and nationally licensed professional. Different types of nurses include the RN (registered nurse), the BSN (professionals holding a bachelor's of science in nursing), LPNs (licensed practical nurses) and the NP (nurse practitioner). Nurses play a wide variety of roles within the health care system.

History

Traditionally, nuns and military medics nursed the sick and injured. However, during the Crimean War (1853-1856) Englishwomen such as Florence Nightingale chose to nurse the soldiers, establishing the modern nursing profession. Nurses.info reports that Linda Richards, who graduated from the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston in 1873, was the first American woman to earn a professional nursing credential.

Education

Nursing education is challenging.
Nursing education is challenging.

Most nurses today have either a RN (registered nurse) diploma or a BSN degree (bachelor's of science in nursing). An RN trains for two to three years. A BSN trains for four years, Medical-Colleges.net reports.

All nursing programs include a combination of classroom instruction and supervised clinical experience. All nurses in the United States must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination, the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Nurses often choose to upgrade their education from an RN to a BSN. Doing so expands their responsibilities and increases their pay. Many universities offer RN to BSN programs in which RNs get credit for prior school and work experience.

RNs

StateUniversity.com describes the RN's job as educating people about their health and specific medical conditions, treating the ill or injured and assisting in their rehabilitation. An RN may provide emotional support to both patients and family members. RNs administer medications under a medical doctor's supervision, record their patients' progress and oversee all aspects of patient care in the hospital, supervising LPNs, nursing aides and orderlies.

BSNs

BSNs have science degrees.
BSNs have science degrees.

BSNs learn the same skills as RNs and also study subjects such as pathophysiology, statistics, biochemistry, health assessment and health care budgeting in greater depth. Graduates may continue their education with a master's of science degree or nurse practitioner designation. According to StateUniversity.com, a BSN is essential for nurses seeking to perform at the case-manager or supervisory level.

Nursing Careers

Both RNs and BSNs can choose from a variety of specializations. A nurse may work in the community--such as a public health nurse or school nurse--or in a hospital setting. Nurses may specialize in surgery, critical care, neo-natal, geriatric, obstetric, pediatric or psychiatric medicine, to name just a few options.

The U.S. Department of Labor expects employment of nurses to grow by 22 percent by 2018.