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A Canadian's Guide to the Different Types of Nurses

Published on: Sep 21, 2018

There are over 360,000 nurses regulated to work in Canada.

Nurses are socially and economically important figures in our communities. They provide a wide range of care to an even wider range of patients.

But what are the different types of nurses?

If you're thinking of becoming a nurse, it may surprise you to know how many different types of nurses there are. In Canada, there are three main types of nurses and dozens of specializations.

Keep reading to decide which one is best suited to you.

The Different Types of Nurses

All nurses go through extensive training so that they're qualified to do more than crack your back.

In Canada, there are three main types of nurses. These are defined by their level of education. We've described each in detail below.

Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPNs)

RPNs and LPNs have a diploma in Practical Nursing. To become one, you must complete a college track that consists of four semesters. This takes about two years to complete.

To work as an RPN or LPN anywhere in Canada, you'll also be required to take a national licensing exam. Once you've passed this exam, you're able to enter the workforce.

Because it requires the least amount of education and training, RPNs and LPNs usually work with patients who have stable and uncomplicated conditions. To work with more complex conditions, you'll have to further your education and become an RN.

Registered Nurses (RNs)

An RN has gone to university either in Canada or an international equivalent. To be an RN, you must hold either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) or a Bachelor of Nursing Degree (BN). These can be attained through a college-university program or a 4-year university degree program.

An RN's education and training are significantly longer and more comprehensive than that of an RPN or LPN. They're trained as generalists and, by the time they graduate, have a comprehensive knowledge around a range of patient needs and treatments.

This means that RNs are better equipped for handling complex needs. They're also trained to react appropriately in non-routine situations.

An RN can build on these entry-level skills and choose a specialization. When and if you decide to do so, you can advance your career and become an NP.

Nurse Practitioners (NPs)

To become an NP, you first have to be an RN. You, then can advance your education with a Master's Degree. You may also choose to pursue an advanced nursing diploma.

An NP provides personalized and specialized care in the following areas, among others:

  • Cardiovascular Nursing
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Critical Care Nursing
  • Critical Care Pediatric Nursing
  • Emergency Nursing
  • Enterostomal Therapy Nursing
  • Gastroenterology Nursing
  • Hospice Palliative Care Nursing
  • Medical-Surgical Nursing
  • Nephrology Nursing

To receive a specialization, you go through the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA). You can complete the voluntary certification after taking the Initial Certification Exam. Remember that this has to be renewed every five years.

Do You Want to Be a Nurse?

Deciding between the different types of nurses is a big decision. At the very least, it requires two years of education. In order to advance your career and your professional development, consistent higher education is required.

If you're thinking of becoming a nurse or you're a nurse looking for employment, check out our job listings to see what's available to you.