The Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks the nursing profession down into two broad categories. The largest, with almost 2.9 million practitioners as of May 2009, is composed of registered nurses. The other category, with 728,670 positions, consists of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses. They take care of patients who are sick or disabled, educate them and their families about medical conditions, and consult with doctors and other healthcare professionals about the best treatment methods. Because the field can have many specialties, their salaries depend on their job title and duties.
Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses
Licensed practical nurses, called LPNs, and licensed vocational nurses, called LVNs, undergo training programs that last about one year from technical schools or junior colleges. The education covers classroom subjects and supervised clinical practice, typically in a hospital. Subjects studied include patient care, anatomy, surgical nursing, pediatric, nutrition, first aid and pharmacology. All nurses, including registered nurses, require a license. According to a May 2009 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed practical and vocational nurses made median salaries of $19.14 per hour, with a low of $13.89 at the 10th percentile, to a high of $26.49 at the 90th percentile.
Registered nurses receive their education from diploma programs and associate degrees. Those interested in advancing to specialized fields graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This training covers communication, leadership, management, research and critical thinking, which are all needed as the occupation become more complex. Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs are available for those who already hold a degree in another field. As of May 2011, the middle 50 percent of RNs nationally, from the 25th to the 75th percentile, earned hourly rates of $22.00 to $30.64, with overtime of $30.84 to $45.67 per hour, according to salary tracking website PayScale.
Emergency nurses work in trauma centers and emergency rooms. They must be able to quickly diagnose and treat a patient, whose life may be in grave danger. With accident victims, RNs may need to respond to multiple traumatic conditions. They must quickly stabilize the patient and must show a high degree of independence. As of May 2011, the middle 50 percent across the country earned $23.32 to $32.66 per hour, with overtime rates of $32.13 to $48, according to PayScale.
Operating Room Nurse
Operating room nurses work as members of a team in well-planned procedures performed on a surgical patient. Their duties also include pre-operative and post-operative care. They work under the direction of surgeons and often supervise other surgical staff such as scrub nurses. They also ensure that all surgical equipment is sterilized, available in the correct quantities and easily accessible to the surgeons. They may also be responsible for orienting new surgical personnel. According to Payscale as of May 2011, they made $24.26 to $33.43 per hour, from the 25th to the 75th percentile of survey respondents, with overtime of $34.23 to $49.47 per hour.
Nurse anesthetists can manage patient pain before, during and after surgeries. They are authorized to administer anesthetics, and monitor the patient throughout the procedure to ensure he suffers no adverse effects. Nurse anesthetists require specialized training for their specialty, and must receive a specific license for this function, over and above the RN license. PayScale reported an annual salary range for the middle 50 percent of the field at $100,462 to $146,898 as of May 2011. Dividing this by 2,080, the number of working hours in a year, yields an hourly rate of $48.29 to $70.62.