What's the Difference Between a Nurse Aide and a Nurse?

According to the American Nurses Association, “Nursing is the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human responses and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations.”

Being a nurse is not limited to just one job, but it means that you have the training to do much more. It is the pathway to a whole host of careers. But what’s the difference between a Nurse Aide and a Nurse?

Both programs are offered at Community College of Denver (CCD), so how do you choose between the two? To begin, both nurses and nurse aides can work in a number of facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, ambulatory care centers, community health centers, schools, retail clinics, and more. These are just a few options. Nurses and nurse aides are incredibly employable and often can make a decent living regardless of their employers.

About Nurse Aides

Nurse aides, also known as nursing assistants, are heavily involved in a patient’s life and assist their patients with daily activities such as dressing, bathing, feeding, taking vital signs, helping patients walk and assisting with exercise, and much more. Nurse Aides also play a key role in keeping the nurse up-to-date on the patient’s well-being.

Becoming a Nurse Aide

All states require nurse aides to reach a state-approved certification. To discover your love for nursing, an excellent starting place is to obtain your nurse aide certification (CNA). This is a certificate program at CCD, which offers courses as short as four weeks. Immediately upon certification, you can start working with an average salary of $25,620.

In addition, you can get your CNA license and start working in the field to gain clinical hours, with the end goal of becoming a competitive applicant for nursing programs. Most programs in Colorado currently require some level of clinical experience prior to matriculation into their programs. The best way to obtain these hours is through the CNA licensure. Learn more and apply today to get certified!

About Nurses

Nurses must gain wealth of knowledge in the healthcare field to succeed. Nursing as a profession has definitely changed over the years. What began as primarily caring for wounded soldiers on the battlefields during the Civil and Crimean wars has now morphed into a very technological and sophisticated profession where nurses diagnose, provide treatments, and make assessments that inform the plan of care for the patients they serve.

Nurses working at the bedside take care of patients, check vital signs, give medications, perform treatments, and make sure that the patient is getting everything he or she needs in order to get well. They utilize a computerized medical records network of documentation of patient care and are well trained in various computer skills. Nurses work under the orders of the physicians who are the primary directors of the care of the patient. 

Nurses in hospitals and clinics are also trained to assist doctors in surgery, to start IV’s, to do CPR, to interpret lab work, and influence the care of the patient as they confer with the physician about making changes to that care. Nurses are the ones who continually observe the progress of the patient and are valuable to the physicians as supervisors of the overall condition of their patients. Nurses usually choose to work with one special type of nursing, for example, with children, with cancer patients, in surgery, or even emergency departments. Since there are many types of nursing, each job will have its own specific training for that job.

Becoming a Nurse

Nurses can be either Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), Associate Degree Nurses (ADNs), or Bachelor of Science Nurses (BSNs). ADNs and BSNs are Registered Nurses (RNs) and their responsibilities are far greater than an LPN's responsibilities. LPNs spend less time in training and therefore have less of a knowledge base about disease and illness than the RNs do and are limited to the types of treatments and skills (such as starting IV's) they can perform.

Here in Colorado, LPNs receive certificates that allow them to practice, but RNs receive degrees and are licensed to practice. This allows the RNs to supervise both Licensed Practical Nurses and Certified Nurse Aides, and they have more responsibility for the patient’s care. RNs have had more time in school to learn more about disease processes, human anatomy, and physiology and how to assess patient situations. Because of this level of education, they are more in demand in most clinical settings.

Most nurses in hospitals today have received either an ADN or a BSN. The ADN training programs are two years in length and are offered at many community colleges in the state. Most BSN programs are four years in length and are offered through many universities. CCD and the University of Colorado College of Nursing have a unique partnership where you can begin your prerequisites at CCD for less money, then, if accepted into the program, you will transition to the College of Nursing at Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora to take their nursing classes and obtain their BSN. Learn more and apply today!

What Makes Nursing Stand Out as a Great Career?

The thing that makes nursing interesting is that once a person has been educated as a nurse, he or she is able to work in such a variety of settings and therefore has great mobility in his or her career, from setting to setting. A nurse may start out in a hospital, but then after a few years, can go to a clinic or outpatient care center and work in a specialty field there. Higher educational attainment—such as master's degree nurses working as Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Anesthetists—allows for different responsibilities and workload but also provides a higher income. Salary varies depending on the location, type of nursing, and years of experience. Although nurses are in demand for the future, getting into nursing programs remains a very competitive endeavor. Nursing is one of the future careers with lots of demand and job satisfaction.

Information for this article was researched and gathered by CCD's Integrated Nursing Pathway Program Chair and the Nurse Aide Program Chair. We encourage you to read more about these two programs on our website and at NursingWorld.org and ExploreHealthCareers.org or contact us, we're here to help throughout the pre- and post-application process.