Understanding the Differences Between RNs and LPNs

Individuals who would like to pursue a career in nursing can choose between becoming a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Before you make the leap and choose which specific nursing profession to go for, it’s essential to fully understand the similarities and differences between the two roles.

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Individuals who would like to pursue a career in nursing can choose between becoming a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Before you make the leap and choose which specific nursing profession to go for, it’s essential to fully understand the similarities and differences between the two roles.

In this article, we’ll tackle the educational requirements, main duties and job responsibilities, salaries, and job outlook between RNs and LPNs so you can decide which profession to work toward.  

What are RNs and what are their job responsibilities?

A registered nurse (RN) is a healthcare professional who gives high-level hands-on care to patients, coordinates healthcare needs, and works directly with doctors and other healthcare professionals. RNs usually supervise LPNs, CNAs, HHAs, and PCAs.

RNs can work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities (LTCs), educational facilities, and prisons.

Typically, RNs perform a range of tasks to help control safety and infection, promote and maintain health, manage patient care, and provide care and comfort:

·  Helping patients get ready for exams and treatments

·  Makes assessments based on the results of exams and treatments

·  Records medical histories and symptoms

·  Administers medicine and treatments

·  Assists the doctor in creating plans of care

·  Teaches patients and families how to manage conditions and give post-treatment care

What are LPNs and what do they do?

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is a healthcare professional who dispenses basic and specialized medical care to patients under the supervision of RNs and doctors. LPNs typically supervise CNAs, HHAs, and PCAs, and like RNs, they can also work in various healthcare settings.

In terms of daily tasks and responsibilities, LPNs are responsible for:

·  Monitoring and recording patients’ blood pressure and other vital signs

·  Administering basic medical care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters

·  Providing basic comfort care to patients, such as helping them bathe, dress, and eat

·  Reporting patients’ health status and concerns to RNs, doctors, and other healthcare providers

How to become an RN and an LPN: Educational requirements and licenses

Now that you know what RNs and LPNs are and what they do, let’s examine the educational requirements for each profession.

RequirementRNLPN
EducationEither:


a)    A Bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN), which is usually a four-year program)   

b) An Associate’s degree in Nursing (AND), which is usually a two- or three-year program 

Individuals must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) test to become an RN. 
Completing a practical nursing program from an accredited community college or vocational school To become an LPN, individuals must also pass the NCLEX for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) test.
LicensureAfter completing and passing the NCLEX, individuals need to obtain nursing licenses in the state in which they wish to practice.

RN vs. LPN: Salaries and job outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for RNs in 2023 was US$86,070 per year or $US41.38 per hour. The demand for RNs is also high — with 193,100 job openings projected on average each year and a projected growth of 6% from 2022 to 2032 — new RNs will have no trouble finding work.

Meanwhile, in 2023, LPNs have a median salary of US$59,730 per year or US$28.72 per hour. Like RNs, LPNs also have a fast growth projection at 5%, with about 54,400 job openings on average from 2022 to 2032.

RN vs. LPN: Which nursing profession should you pursue?

The choice between pursuing an RN or LPN career would depend on your needs and goals. For example, if your schedule permits you to pursue a two- or four-year program, you may opt to get an AND or BSN to become an RN.

If you want a higher salary and more opportunities for career advancement, becoming an RN would be the ideal choice. However, the higher salary and better job opportunities require spending more time in school and having more job responsibilities.

Conversely, if you want to enter the healthcare industry more quickly, you may choose to study to become an LPN. 

Pursuing an LPN degree is faster and costs considerably less than an RN degree. But to advance your career, you’d need to become an RN. You can enroll in an accelerated LPN-to-RN program that can take into account your LPN degree and the credits you’ve already taken.

More To Explore

CNA vs. GNA: Differences and Similarities

For individuals who are interested in entering the healthcare industry, two entry-level roles to pursue come to mind: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Geriatric Nursing

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