What Is the Difference Between a Nurse and a Caregiver?
As an employment counselor, I have the privilege of working with people from all walks of life. Sometimes it is a parent returning to the workforce after their children have all started school, while other times it is students who are preparing to graduate from high school.
When discussing potential career opportunities, I find some of my clients are interested in working with senior citizens. Two fields with a great demand for workers are professional caregiving and nursing. Both would give my clients an opportunity to work with the elderly.
What I’m not sure of is how to explain the differences between a professional caregiver and a nurse. Can you please help clarify these two career paths for me?
How Is a Nurse Different Than a Caregiver?
Thank you for asking this question! It gives me a chance to talk about both of these rewarding careers.
Nursing degrees and education.
Let’s first talk about the nursing profession since more people are probably familiar with it. Nurses provide skilled care in settings such as hospitals, urgent care centers, nursing homes, assisted living communities, and home health agencies.
Among the many skilled care duties performed by nurses are wound care and dressing changes, IV and infusion therapy, medication administration, injections, and tube feedings.
There are several types of nursing degrees a student could pursue:
- Licensed practical nurse (LPN): An LPN, also referred to as a licensed visit nurse (LVN), is a degree that is generally earned at a community college in about 1 year. While LPNs are limited in what types of care they can perform on a patient’s behalf, the degree can provide students with an entry into the nursing profession. After completing their degree, an LPN must pass the NCLEX-PN exam.
- Associate degree in nursing (ADN): These degrees take 2 years to complete and allow a student to sit for the all-important NCLEX-RN exam. Once a student completes the degree and passes the exam, they are qualified to work as a registered nurse (RN).
- Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN): This is the next step up on the nursing credential ladder. It is a degree that typically takes 4 years to complete. Some students who have earned an ADN return to school part-time to complete the BSN program. The degree usually opens more doors in the career world and helps a nurse earn more money.
Nurses can also go on to earn a master’s degree in nursing or the highest level of nursing degrees, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
Professional caregiver training requirements.
Caregivers provide hands-on assistance with tasks of daily life. Those tasks often include:
- Bathing, dressing, and grooming
- Medication reminders
- Light housekeeping and laundry
- Transportation services
- Meal preparation support
- Assistance with toileting and continence care
- Companionship and socialization
Professional caregivers who work as aides for in-home care agencies find the role very rewarding. Because most senior citizens would like to remain in their own homes, enlisting the services of a home care aide can allow them to remain safe and independent longer.
The good news is that the education requirements aren’t as lengthy for a caregiver as they are for a nurse. However, it does require a little research to learn what type of training a professional caregiver is required to complete.
Each state has different requirements for professional caregivers. For example, in the state of California, a home care aide must complete 120 hours of education and training. Of those 120 hours, there is a required minimum of 20 hours of clinical experience.
Home care aides in Florida, however, are only required to complete 40 hours of training. The state requires 2 of those hours to be training for assisting with self-administered medication.
I recommend you visit “How to Become a Caregiver by State” to learn more about the requirements in the states where your clients reside.
Hope these resources are useful, Tim!