Industry Abbreviations

With all the abbreviations used in the medical field, it is sometimes hard to differentiate the acronyms from each other. We hope this list is a helpful resource.

Advanced Generalist

A nurse with advanced nursing knowledge, typically an MSN. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing developed this title to create nursing clinicians with these specialty practice roles so that there is someone with the ability to address the complex needs of the healthcare environment.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN)

Nurses with a Masters, post-Masters, or Doctorates in Nursing that play a vital role in assessing and diagnosing patients. APRNs utilize their advanced education in pain and symptom assessment and management, and can generally practice without a physician present.

Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Typically a two year degree that prepares a student to become a Registered Nurse. Because the ADN typically does not include courses in nursing theory, getting an ADN is a shorter path to becoming an RN, and is cheaper as well.

Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Typically a four year degree that prepares a student to become a Registered Nurse, sometimes eighteen to thirty-six months in an accelerated program. The core curriculum normally involves adult health, maternal and newborn nursing, pediatrics, and nursing theory.  In some cases, psychiatric nursing, community health nursing, and gerontological nursing may be included as well.

Certified Nursing Assistance (CNA)

Also referred to as a Nursing Assistant (NA) and Patient Care Assistant (PCA), CNAs are the nurses that relay information between the patient and the RN or LPN. Because they are in daily contact with the patient, they are working a fast paced job to not only take care of the basic needs of the patient, but also gather information on the patient’s conditions. While a college degree is not required, certification is needed.

Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)

An advanced generalist with an MSN, who is directly involved in bedside care of patients. Utilizing their interpersonal skills and clinical competence, they have an unmatched expertise as they work with other medical professionals to provide patients the best quality care.  CNLs are accountable for applying evidence-based information to design, implement, and evaluate different models and techniques of care delivery in order to have the result of a desirable patient outcome.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

These nurses have a specialized area of practice, whether it be a specific population, type of care, or a particular problem. Examples would include pediatrics, mental health, or diabetes. Each state has its own licensing requirements, but generally the education level is a Master’s or higher.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA)

With an MSN degree, these nurses enjoy a high degree of autonomy and professional respect, providing anesthetics to patients in every practice setting, and for every type of surgery or procedure. They are the sole anesthesia providers in nearly every medical hospital.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

An alternative to a research-focused doctoral degree, the DNP is a terminal professional degree that builds on education gained at a masters-level. The DNP provides education in systems-leadership, quality care and evidence-based practice.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

LPNs are the nurses who take vital signs such as blood pressure, administer and monitor shots and medications, and fill out medical charts to compile patient information. They also provide care to patients with things such as personal care assistance or feeding infants. An LPN has to pass state certification in order to practice, no degree necessary.

Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Meant for nurses who want to advance their career, either through specialization or generalization.  The MSN shows dedication to the field, as well as expending on skills and knowledge.


Certification is needed by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), and may differ by state as well. Midwives typically deal with women and adolescents, as well as family planning, pregnancies, and taking care of newborns.  These trained nurses support women by providing individualized care utilized all over the world.

Nursing Administrator

Nurse that deals less with patients and more with administration aspects, such as work schedules, work policies, meetings, and employees. An MSN is the standard degree for this position. The nurse administrator position refers to the management side of nursing.

Nurse Educator (NE)

Nurses with a BSN, MSN, or PhD who are looking to train and teach other nurses. They serve as faculty members in nursing schools and hospitals, and may teach general or specialized courses.  Other than teaching, nurse educators may advance to administrative roles, as well as continuing to care for patients.

Nurse Practitioner

An RN who has additional education beyond the BSN that allows them to deal with the diagnosis and treatment of acute illnesses and chronic conditions. These clinicians utilize their expertise by preventing disease, diagnosing disease, and treating health conditions.

Registered Nurse (RN)

RNs advise and educate patients and their families about health conditions while providing and coordinating patient care. RNs have different licenses depending on where they are located, and require either an ADN or a BSN.  With their knowledge, RNs prevent disease and help patients cope with illness, as well as providing direct patient care to plan, intervene, and promote health.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nursing is among the top ten occupations with the largest job growth.