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The Differences Between LPN vs. RN: Choosing a Nursing Career

Posted by The CareSync Team

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Apr 20, 2018 1:23:49 PM

There are a variety of options for choosing a nursing career path. Learn about the differences between LPN and RN healthcare professionals.LPNs and RNs are the two most common types of nurses. While both roles are incredibly important to healthcare practices, there are some key differences in the training, duties, and salaries for each of these positions. Here is an outline of some of the differences between LPN and RN professionals.

When it comes to healthcare, there are so many people who play an important role. All of the medical staff work together as a team to make sure that a patient gets the care necessary in a safe and responsive environment.

Some of the roles that are closest to the patient are played by nurses. These important medical professionals are often on the frontline of care, interacting with a patient on a regular and ongoing basis while performing many duties that make building a meaningful, caring relationship with their patients key to their professions.

Nursing is a broad field with many different specialties and certifications.

Two of the most common designations for nurses are RN (which stands for Registered Nurse) and LPN (which stands for Licensed Practical Nurse).

Both of these roles are crucial to healthcare practices. Understanding the differences between these two designations can help patients understand what care is provided by which individuals on their care team and can also help those considering going into the nursing profession to understand their choices.

Nursing Education Requirements for RNs and LPNs

The differences between LPN and RN careers including education requirements.

One of the main differences between an LPN and an RN is the amount of education required to obtain the degree.

An LPN does not have to complete a college degree. Instead, LPNs are required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) for their state. In order to be eligible to take this standardized test, LPNs must have some training that includes clinical experiences. Usually, this training takes about a year to complete.

RNs also take the National Council Licensure Examination, but they take a different version especially designed for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This exam is more extensive, which is reflective of the more involved training that an RN must complete. The minimum qualifications require an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN), which takes approximately two to three years to complete.

Many RNs have also chosen to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) after completion of their ADN, which typically requires an additional one to two years of training, including some research experience.

General Skills and Duties of LPNs and RNs

The scope of duties for both RNs and LPNs results in an emotionally and physically demanding job, regardless of which nursing career path is followed. Both spend the majority of their time interacting directly with patients, and both are highly valued for their practical experience and ability to bring their hard-earned wisdom into their implementation of patient care.

There are some key differences in the duties performed by an LPN and RN, however, and these differences are reflected in the typical settings where each type of nurse is found.

LPNs, for instance, tend to work in long-term care facilities, while RNs are more likely to be found in a general hospital or administrative healthcare setting. There are also job opportunities for RNs and LPNs in non-traditional healthcare settings that offer flexibility from the expected floor or bedside nursing roles.

The jobs duties are among the differences between LPN and RN careers.

Here are examples of the typical duties of an LPN:

  • Report directly to RNs
  • Monitor patient progress and report on changes
  • Perform routine duties such as wound care, bathing, and medication administration

An LPN must be attentive to details. One of the most important skills for an LPN to master is communication because of the need to frequently communicate with patients, family members, caregivers, and other members of a care team, such as an RN. In fact, LPNs are often the direct connection between points of care, so their notes and reports are very important.

In addition, LPNs needs to be caring, compassionate, and responsive to patients' needs.

Here are the typical duties of an RN:

  • Report directly to a physician
  • Diagnose and treat patients
  • Create personalized care plans for patients

Overall, RNs tend to take on more complex tasks that require more responsibility for choices. This means that RNs need to sharpen their critical thinking skills and the ability to work well under pressure.

Both types of nurses, however, are responsible for providing direct care to patients and are well served by an ability to connect with others.

Average Salary and Career Outlook for LPNs and RNs

Nurses of both types are in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs can expect a 15% increase in job demand over the next decade, while LPNs can expect a 12% increase.

While the rate of pay can vary from state to state and position to position, LPNs can expect to make an average of $45,000 a year while RNs can expect an average of $70,000 a year. These figures depend on geographic location, experience, and healthcare setting that the nurse chooses to work in.

No matter which license or certification is selected, those who choose to go into the nursing profession can expect a challenging but rewarding career that makes a difference in the lives of those they care for every day.  

For information about how to begin a career in healthcare advancing patient care or to view open job opportunities for RNs, LPNs, and other certified or licensed medical professionals, please click here to learn more.

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