Understanding the Difference between LPN and RN

When you are interested in having a career in the nursing field, knowing the different nursing degrees will help you in making intelligent choices as to what career path to follow. When you know the difference between LPN and RN, then you will be able to choose the degree that suits your needs without any regrets. To have a better understanding on the difference between LPN and RN, it would be best to learn about the educational requirements, scope of duties, responsibilities and the career paths for both.

Education and Licensure
A registered nurse or simply referred to as RN is a graduate of a four-year nursing program from a college or university. RNs usually finish an associate degree that takes two years before continuing to a Bachelor’s Degree which will then take another two years. On the other hand, a licensed practical nurse or LPN is a graduate of a one-year practical nursing program. Both of the degrees are focused on studying nursing arts and sciences with backgrounds on humanities and other areas of science. However, since RNs spend more time studying the different topics that are required for their job, they are more knowledgeable on physiology and pharmacology, clinical practice, management of resources, delivery systems, utilization of research and functioning appropriately with a team. Both RNs and LPNs are expected to maintain physical and psychological competence so that they can continue with their jobs but for registered nurses, they are strongly encouraged to acquire more knowledge and skills that they can utilize when working.

Before RNs and LPNs can practise their profession, they will need to have a license. This will be provided upon passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Registered nurses will need to pass the NCLEX-RN while for licensed practical nurses, it’s the NCLEX-PN. Upon passing these examinations, an RN and LPN will be registered with their state board of nursing, allowing them to work as a registered nurse or as a licensed practical nurse.


Professional Responsibilities
There are also differences between the professional responsibilities of licensed practical nurses and registered nurses. An LPN is supervised by an RN or a physician, thereby having a dependent role. The LPN provides direct care to patients such as monitoring the pulse, temperature and blood pressure of patients, cleaning and bandaging of wounds, changing of dressings, preparation and administration of medications and injections, insertion of catheters, collection of samples from patients for laboratory examinations, feeding and bathing of patients. They are also expected to do assessments on patients and document the results of the assessment made and delegate tasks to nursing assistants. However, LPNs are not allowed to administer restricted drugs and intravenous narcotics.

Meanwhile, registered nurses have a broader scope of responsibility as compared to that of licensed practical nurses. The abovementioned tasks can also be performed by RNs especially in the absence of LPNs. In addition to the said tasks, RNs are expected to develop and execute nursing care plans, delegate tasks to both LPNs and nursing assistants as well as assist the physicians during examinations and treatments. While the LPN is expected to focus on the patient, the RN should include in her care the family and significant others of the patient while including the psychological, cultural, community and other aspects of patient care. Since the RN has a deeper and broader knowledge, it is her responsibility to handle the more complex things that are not within the scope of responsibility of the LPN.

Career Paths
Understanding the difference between LPN and RN also requires the knowledge on the career paths where these can lead you. Both RN and LPN have great job opportunities but for LPNs, they mostly work in nursing care facilities and other long term care environment where they can work as charge nurses. For RNs, they mostly work in medical offices and hospitals. Since RNs have a bachelor’s degree, they have more opportunities for advancement especially with additional education. They have the chance to work as nurse manager, director of nursing care facilities and other similar jobs.

When it comes to the salary, RNs can earn twice as much than what LPNs earn. LPNs earn around $12 to $14 hourly, depending on the working environment. Meanwhile, RNs have an average salary of about $18 to $20 hourly. There are of course increases in these wages but RNs will have better salaries as they have more years of experience. Because RNs have the opportunity pursue further education, they also have better chances of getting bigger salaries and better jobs.

Now that you know the difference between LPN and RN, you will be able to make a smart decision as to what nursing degree to take. Do not just consider the number of years you are going to study and the cost of the degree but think also about the future that you will have when you will make your choice.