Types of nurses in Canada

Contrary to popular belief, there’s more than one kind of nurse. Learn more about the some of the main types in Canada and what you’ll need to become one.

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs)

Also known as registered practical nurses, nursing assistants, and operating room assistants/technicians, LPNs make up the second largest regulated healthcare profession in Canada. They’re generally directed by medical practitioners, doctors, and registered nurses. LPNs have multiple duties, including: provide nursing services and interventions (such as collecting specimens, taking vital signs, monitoring nutritional intake); cleaning and sterilizing operating rooms and instruments; preparing patients for and assisting in surgery; administering medication; and more.

Education and licensing: Aspiring LPNs must complete a one-year (at least) related college program. For licensing information, contact the regulatory authority in your province or territory.

Registered nurses (RNs)

RNs provide direct patient care, create and run educational programs, and counsel on subjects related to nursing. The duties of RNs vary depending on where they work, but generally include: assessing patients to determine appropriate care and interventions; monitoring changes in patient conditions; administering medication; supervising LPNs and other nursing staff; teaching and counseling patients and families; and more.

RNs can specialize in areas that interest them, such as critical care, pediatrics, emergency care, rehabilitation, geriatrics, palliative, obstetrics care, oncology, or surgery. Those interested in mental-health care can become registered psychiatric nurses, who primarily work in the western provinces. You can learn more from the Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Canada.

There’s plenty of advancement opportunities for RNs. With experience and higher levels of education, RNs can enter advanced/extended practice and become clinical nurse specialists or nurse practitioners, which allows them to diagnose conditions, order and interpret tests, and even perform some procedures. RNs can also become head nurses/supervisors. “You can travel high up in institutions,” says Laurel Plewes, a nurse at Starship Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand who started her career at a Canadian hospital. “My previous hospital’s CEO was a nurse. I was surprised to learn that nursing really is what you make it.”

Education and licensing: Most provinces and territories require potential RNs to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing. For information on licensing, contact the regulatory authority in your province or territory.

Published on January 19, 2012
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