What is the Difference Between a Nurse and a Caregiver? (2023)

Every industry has its nuances, and the healthcare industry is no different.

If you’re not in the healthcare industry, it can be difficult to differentiate between treatment plans, diagnoses, and even healthcare professionals.

Whether you are looking for private home care or are embarking on a new career, you may be wondering what the difference between a caregiver and a nurse is.

Let’s break down three main differences between a nurse and a caregiver and then dive further into what these professions do.

How is a Nurse Different Than a Caregiver?

1. Job Duties and Responsibilities

At a very baseline level, it is important to note that job responsibilities and tasks differ greatly for nurses and caregivers.

A caregiver does not perform any medical duties for their clients. Typically, a caregiver will assist patients who need minimal care.

Instead, they provide care in a variety of other tasks, such as dressing, cooking, cleaning, hygiene, and even running errands.

The caregiver adds companionship and assistance in the day-to-day life of their client without offering explicit medical care.

On the other hand, a licensed and certified nurse can accomplish all of a caregiver’s tasks and provide medical care.

While a nurse will not provide a diagnosis or perform any particular treatment without a physician’s documented clearing, a nurse can measure a patient’s vitals, and provide medication management, wound care, and hospice care.

With a doctor’s approval, a nurse can also complete tasks such as medical injections and IV therapy.

In addition, nurses can provide assessments and be an advocate on your behalf when presenting information to your physician.

Summary: Caregivers may provide assistance with daily tasks, chores, and errands but cannot complete medical duties. Nurses can provide these daily tasks and complete medical duties with a doctor’s approval.

2. Training and Education

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Particular training is subject to specific states, but most caregiving requires 40 hours of training. This involves first aid skills and how to successfully perform CPR.

Additionally, caregivers may learn safety protocols that protect their patients during daily tasks such as walking, bathing, and eating.

To become a caregiver in California, you must:

  1. Take an online training course that meets the California 10-hour and 5-hour training guidelines (this can be completed online)
  2. Show confirmation that you took the course and then passed the exam
  3. Register your name and all training information with the state of California

Nurses, both RNs and LVNs, must go through extensive training and certification to provide expert medical care.

When attending nursing school, prospects have options such as:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADA) – 2 to 3 years
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – 4 years
  • Entry Level Masters Program in Nursing (ELM) – additional 1 to 2 years

To obtain an RN in California, a prospective nurse must meet all education requirements, pass a criminal background check, and pass the national licensing exam.

In addition to completing the initial training and certification, nurses must also recertify their license every two years.

In California, RNs must complete 30 hours of continuing education to maintain an active license and LVNs must complete 30 contact hours of continuing education every 3 years to renew their license with an active status.

Summary: Caregiving requires 40 hours, or more, of training such as CPR training and safety protocols. Nurses must attend nursing school to earn their Associate, Bachelor, or Masters degree and complete a national licensing exam. Continuing education and license renewal are critical for nurses, as well.

3. Work Opportunities

For the most part, caregivers find themselves working in clients’ homes where they can provide the non-medical assistance that these patients need—particularly our senior population.

Again, this involves assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as walking, cleaning, bathing, and eating.

Registered nurses can work in a variety of settings. RNs and LVNs may work in:

  • Hospitals
  • Client homes
  • Skilled nursing facilities/nursing homes
  • Hospice centers
  • Surgery centers
  • Eating disorder centers
  • Drug and alcohol rehab facilities
  • Schools
  • Psychiatric facilities
  • Infusion pharmacies

Due to being able to provide medical care and the additional education and training, nurses have significantly more work opportunities than caregivers, especially per diem nurses.

However, it is also important to note that the barrier to entry is much more difficult for RNs and LVNs compared to caregivers.

Summary: Caregivers often work in their client’s homes and offer assistance with daily tasks. Nurses find themselves in a multitude of work environments, such as hospitals, client homes, skilled nursing facilities, medical centers, and more.

Nurse vs. Caregiver: More Details

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Now you have a better understanding of how job responsibilities, education, and work opportunities differ between caregivers and nurses.

Do you still want a little bit more information in terms of what a caregiver is and what a nurse is? Let’s dive a little further into each profession.

What is a Caregiver?

Professional caregivers are a benefit to folks, often elderly, that do not require medical care but need assistance in their day-to-day tasks to continue living a high quality of life.

Rather than medical care, caregivers often provide a personal touch and may develop a strong bond with their clients over many days, weeks, and months of assistance.

Caregiver duties are often completed in the patient’s home and can include tasks such as:

  • Cleaning surfaces and dusting
  • Preparing meals
  • Vacuuming, mopping, and sweeping
  • Washing dishes
  • Watering plants
  • Laundry
  • Bathing, grooming assistance, and personal hygiene
  • Assistance walking
  • Transportation to and from appointments
  • Running grocery errands

Caregivers are instrumental in allowing senior citizens to stay in their private residences and live happily in their homes rather than moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility.

This type of freedom and agency that senior patients can keep in their daily life is invaluable.

As we previously mentioned, the education requirements for a caregiver are not extensive, especially when compared to a nurse.

Pay close attention to what your individual state requires to become a professional caregiver. Requirements tend to change across the country.

Types of Caregivers

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Private duty caregiver

Private duty caregivers are hired through an agency.

Usually, the agency screens, insures, and bonds these caregivers. In the event that their scheduled caregiver is unable to work a shift, families can obtain a backup caregiver by working through a care agency.

Since an agency is involved, these caregivers may face a more rigorous interviewing process to test qualifications before they are hired compared to other caregivers.

Family caregiver

Family members who opt to care for a loved one are known as family caregivers.

These caregivers offer very personal care and could be spouses, children, or other relatives. In addition to their duties, they might have another job, and they typically aren’t paid for their work.

Independent caregiver

Independent caregivers can also be known as private caregivers, but should not be confused with private duty caregivers.

Independent caregivers typically work through an agency with a set care plan and may be a cheaper option than a private duty caregiver, however, the family takes on the liability should anything happen while the caregiver is in their home.

Respite caregiver

A respite caregiver offers care for a period of time so that a family caregiver can take a rest and resume their daily activities for a while.

These caregivers may be independent or on private duty, but the job description suggests that they are not long-term caregivers.

What is a Nurse?

Nurses are healthcare professionals that offer skilled care in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, urgent care centers, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities, hospice centers, mental health centers, and more.

Nurses can complete the daily tasks that caregivers perform, along with additional medical duties after earning their licensure.

Common duties and types of care performed by nurses include:

  • Wound care
  • Medication administration
  • Medication reminders
  • Tube feedings
  • Injections
  • IV and infusion therapy
  • Physical exams and assessments
  • Health counseling and education
  • Collaborate with patient’s physicians
  • Light housekeeping in an in-home setting

Nurses have much stricter educational requirements than caregivers.

There are several types of nursing degrees, including a Licensed practical nurse (LPN), an Associate degree in nursing (ADN), and a Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN).

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Types of Nurses

There are many variations and types of nurses depending on the workplace location. Let’s take a look at 3 common types of nurses.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

A certified nursing assistant must enroll in a state-approved education and receive on-the-job training. Typically CNAs are found in nursing care facilities, assisted living facilities, and hospitals.

Duties may include monitoring vital signs, bathing patients, and assisting with their daily tasks and walking.

Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) / Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

An LVN/LPN is a nurse that typically earned a degree in about 1 year at a community college. An LVN/LPN is more limited than an RN, but still supports the core health care team and often works under the supervision of an RN, APRN, or a doctor.

LVNs/LPNs will perform general care for patients, address wounds, check vital signs, check patient comfort, and in some settings may administer medication.

Registered Nurse (RN)

Registered nurses provide critical care and are the backbone of the healthcare industry.

RNs must earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), along with state certification.

Registered nurses perform physical exams, provide health education, administer medication, coordinate care with physicians, and may provide additional care in the form of wound care, injections, and IV therapy.

Choose the Right Care For Your Situation

If you find yourself in a situation where your or a loved one needs assistance with daily tasks and medical care, look no further than NurseRegistry for all of your nursing needs.

We only work with highly qualified RNs and LVNs and ensure your loved one receives the care and medical attention they need from the comfort of their own home.

You don’t have to settle for hospitals, institutions, and assisted living facilities. Instead, choose:

  • Exceptional scheduling flexibility – whether you need 24/7 care or a few hours
  • A handpicked nurse by our diligent Client Services team that considers skill, age, and gender
  • Only the most qualified nursing professionals
  • The opportunity to continue living your day-to-day life at home

If this sounds beneficial to you and your loved one’s quality of life, click below and discover how a private duty nurse from NurseRegistry can help today.

What is the Difference Between a Nurse and a Caregiver? (5)

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