May 26, 2012By Dr. Kim Baily

Sim Tech Series – The Profession of Nursing

This article is part of a series of posts written by Nursing Educator Kim Baily for Healthcare Simulation Technology specialists (Sim Techs) who may have plenty of IT experience but little or no experience in the healthcare field.  The articles cover various topics such as understanding healthcare professions, theories that govern practice and basic physiology.

Image of Nursing:

What images do you conjure up when you hear the word “nurse”? Perhaps you envisage Florence Nightingale pictorialized in the newspapers as the “Lady of the Lamp”, flitting from one Crimean War victim to another bringing hope and healing.  Or perhaps you see Nurse Ratched, from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, hassling Jack Nicholson. Or perhaps you see the more contemporary junky Nurse Jackie from SHOWTIME.   What ever your image, plenty of stereotypes abound.

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The International Council of Nurses definition of Nursing:

“Nursing encompasses autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings. Nursing includes the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care of ill, disabled and dying people. Advocacy, promotion of a safe environment, research, participation in shaping health policy and in patient and health systems management, and education are also key nursing roles” (1).  As you can see from this lengthy definition, Nursing encompasses many different roles for the modern nurse.  Nurses care for patients at the bedside, in the emergency depart, the OR, physician’s offices, home health care setting, schools, camps, correctional facilities, military facilities, and national, federal organizations and so on.  Some nurses continue their education and obtain masters degrees becoming nurse practitioners or nurse anesthetists, others clime the ranks of academia with masters and/or doctoral degrees. (Continue reading through the link below).

Worldwide there are about 19.3 million nurses. The World Health Organization estimated that that is about 4.3 million short!  There are 2.9 million Registered Nurses in the United States (less than 6% are men). Fifty-six percent of all RNs work in the hospital setting and another 10.7 % work in public/community health setting.

In general terms, Registered Nurses (RNs) provide direct care to patients as well as manage the care patients receive from other health care disciplines.  Nurses educate patients and the general public about health issues, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members throughout the lifespan.

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Nursing Education

United States:

In order to practice as a Registered Nurse (RN) in the US, a student must complete a course of theoretical and practical training at an approved nursing school. Each state has a state board of nursing that regulates nursing practice within the state.  These regulations are known as the “Nurse Practice Act” and they vary from state to state. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) provides education, service, and research through collaborative leadership to promote evidence-based regulatory excellence for patient safety and public protection.  Any person wishing to practice as a Registered Nurse must complete the training specified by a particular state board and pass the NCSBN ‘s licensing exam (NCLEX).

In the United States, Registered Nurses usually take one of three education paths: a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program.  Some authorities believe that a bachelor’s degree should be the minimum preparation into nursing.

Canada:  A BSN in nursing is required for entry level into practice

United Kingdom:  2013 all entry level nurses will require a degree.

Japan:  Either a 3 year or a 4 year degree program, all students take a common licensing exam.

Licensed practical nurse (LPN)

Licensed practical nurse (LPN) is the term used in much of the United States and most Canadian provinces to refer to a nurse who cares for “people who are sick, injured, convalescent, or disabled under the direction of registered nurse and physicians. In California and Texas, the term Licensed Vocation Nurse (LVN) is used.

In the United States, vocational/technical schools and community colleges offer training programs that last about one year. LPNs must complete a state-approved training program and pass the NCLEX-PN exam.

In Ontario, Canada an LPN must complete a two year training course.

In the United Kingdom, practical nurses (State Enrolled Nurses) are being phased out.

In Australia, a practical nurse receives 12 months of training. Most practical nurses continue their education to become registered nurses.


1. International Council of Nurses.  Retrieved May, 2012. 2. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor

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