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Are you considering a profession in nursing but are unsure if an RN or an LPN is right for you? Since nursing is a diverse field consisting of multiple career paths, it is important to know which path is right for you. With this article, you will learn about the difference between an LPN vs RN, the degree requirements and responsibilities each entails, and the potential salary and growth for each position.
What is a Registered Nurse (RN)?
What is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)?
RN vs LPN: Degree Requirements
RN vs LPN: Job Responsibilities
RN vs LPN: Work Settings
RN vs LPN: Job Demand
RN vs LPN: Salary Info
RN vs LPN: Which Path is Right for You?
A Registered Nurse (RN) is someone who works closely with both patients and other health care providers to ensure the utmost customized care plans. Their duties include: administering medication and treatment, monitoring patients and their symptoms, operating medical equipment, performing and analyzing diagnostic tests, and educating patients and family members on various health conditions and preventions. RNs also act as mentors and supervisors to other nurses, such as an LPN.
You might be wondering, what is an LPN? A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is someone who works directly with patients, providing them with basic essential care including taking blood pressure, recording vitals and eating, bathing, dressing, etc. Their role is critical to patient care since it is an LPN’s responsibility to manage the patient's overall comfort and well being while in medical care. LPNs also work closely with and assist RNs in maintaining patient records as well as clear communication between the medical team and the patients’ family members.
In order to become a Registered Nurse (RN), you must earn a professional nursing degree such as a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), or an ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing). These degree programs involve classes in behavioral, social, and physical sciences as well as clinical experience in several workplaces. A BSN and an ADN could take anywhere from two to four years to complete depending on which degree path you choose.
In order to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), you must earn a Practical Nursing Diploma which is usually obtained through a community or technical college. Classes in nursing, pharmacology, and biology, as well as clinical experience, are required. This LPN license diploma could take as little as one year to complete. Explore GMercyU's school of nursing programs.
While an RN and an LPN do work closely together, their roles often differ in many aspects of their daily tasks.
● Administer and monitor patient medications
● Perform BLS (Basic Life Support), ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support), and/or PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support)
● Wound care
● Insert, manage, and discontinue intravenous catheters and intraurethral catheters
● Develop a plan of care and wellness for each patient
● Properly assess and manage all patient populations with appropriate intervention
● Take vital signs as well as recognize and address abnormalities
● Admit and discharge patients safely and appropriately
● Maintain accurate documentation
● Safely transfer patients into and out of bed and chair
● Supervise LPNs
● Ensure patient safety- usually known as “do no harm”, or nonmaleficence
● Administer medications
● Chart medical records
● Take vital signs
● Change wound dressings
● Collect specimens such as blood and urine
● Insert and care for urinary catheters
● Care for patients with ventilators and tracheostomy tubes
● Insert and care for patients with nasogastric tubes
● Provide feedings through nasogastric or gastrostomy tubes
● Assist patients with eating, bathing, dressing, etc.
● Monitor patients
● Know when to call appropriate physicians
● Perform emergency CPR
● Execute a nursing care plan formulated by an RN
Another difference between LPN and RN professionals is in the diverse work settings in which they treat their patients. Registered Nurses who work in hospitals are exposed to various types of work environments due to rotations through multiple departments. These rotations can include departments such as the Emergency Room, Intensive Care Unit, Medical-Surgical, Psychiatric, and Labor and Delivery. RNs can also be found working in outpatient clinics, doctors offices, schools, nursing homes, and assisted living homes.
Licensed Practical Nurses are most commonly found working with the elderly in nursing and assisted living homes. This is where they can provide the most basic and direct day-to-day care for their patients. LPNs can also be found working in rehabilitation and treatment centers, as well as facilities for the mentally ill and hospice.
The demand for Registered Nurses is extremely high today as they are a vital member of every health care team and network. In fact, it is projected that the RN job market will grow 15% by the year 2026. Reasons behind this growth could be due to the major increase in chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes, which creates a growing emphasis on preventative care.
On the other hand, while the demand for RNs continues to increase in hospitals, the demand for Licensed Practical Nurses is decreasing. This may be because hospitals are shifting from the team nursing model to the primary care model where only one nurse is responsible for all of a patient’s care. As a result, LPNs are being transitioned from the hospital setting to the outpatient setting (nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, home health, and retirement communities) where their knowledge and skills are still very prominent.
The average annual salary for a Registered Nurse in the United States is ~$70,000. This salary is determined by the demand and location where an RN works. An RN’s salary is also determined by the level of education they have earned, meaning a higher education level leads to a higher salary.
The average annual salary for a Licensed Practical Nurse in the United States is ~$44,000. The salary can vary depending on education, training, certifications, and experience. Although the salary for an LPN is not as high as an RNs, it is still a very important and rewarding career.
With this article, you learned the answer to the question, “What exactly is the difference between a Registered Nurse and a Licensed Practical Nurse?” While there are many career opportunities for both RNs and LPNs, each has their own distinct requirements, responsibilities, and environments, Now that you know what they do, how to become one, and the potential job growth for each field, it’s time to decide which career path is best for you. Whether you decide to become an RN or an LPN, you are on the right path for helping people and changing the world.