There really isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ option when choosing between a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and a Registered Nurse (RN). You can weigh your options and decide on what you’re comfortable with in terms of responsibilities, pay, and the education it takes to attain each position. One thing is for certain: Both options can lead to successful careers.

However, understanding the key differences between an LPN and an RN is important when considering your future in the healthcare industry. Here are a few of the major distinctions between these two positions.

Education For LPN vs RN

In order to become an LPN, you need a high school diploma or GED. From there, you must complete an accredited practical nursing program which usually takes about a year. The courses are typically available at a technical or community college and cover nursing along with biology and pharmacology. Supervised clinical experiences can sometimes be included.

On the other hand, becoming an RN usually requires more education. In order to go this route, you need an associate’s degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program (such as our Advanced Placement Program). These typically take about 2 to 3 years to complete. Alternatively, you can acquire a bachelor’s of science in nursing, which will take about 4 years to complete. Each of these programs will include courses that revolve around behavioral science and physical science, together with clinical experiences in a variety of workplaces. There are accelerated RN programs that can fast-track your path to becoming an RN in as little as 2 years.

Nursing Job Duties

As an LPN, your typical job activities are focused around providing basic, routine care to patients. This can include:

  • checking blood pressure
  • monitoring vitals
  • changing dressings and catheters
  • updating medical charts

A big part of the job is making sure that the patients you’re assisting are comfortable. Because many of them may have physical disabilities, this consists of escorting patients to their rooms, helping them bathe, eat, clothe themselves, and simply talking to them. Speaking with your patients will help you observe and understand their physical and mental state, and provide them with emotional support.

The duties of an RN are far more prescriptive. These involve administering medication and injections, operating medical equipment, and performing diagnostic tests. As an RN, you would also assist with patient rehabilitation and help them understand how to manage their conditions after they’ve been treated. Additionally, the role of an RN is somewhat supervisory, and the management of certain personnel, such as nursing and home care aids can be expected.

Nursing Salary

Money is always a major consideration when choosing a career path, and while higher pay isn’t and end-all when choosing an entry-level nursing position, it’s still an important factor when making your decision. As an LPN, you’ll typically be making somewhere around $43,000 to $45,000 yearly. However, this number can go up with years of experience, a promotion to a supervisory position, or if you gain any special certifications, such as hospice or geriatric care.

Due to the added responsibilities, the median salary for an RN is $86,070 annually. RNs can also increase their salary over time by gaining experience, earning promotions, or by pursuing a specialization such as pediatric oncology, dermatology, or diabetes management.

Nursing Career Advancement

If you’re an LPN with experience, you can to move on to a supervisory role and acquire specialized certifications in the areas of

  • Long-term care
  • IV administration
  • Advanced life support
  • Hospice care

However, if you decide to change careers and become an RN, the available paths toward career advancement begin to multiply. With the appropriate experience and education, you can go on to become a chief nursing officer (CNO), advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), or move on to the business or technological side of the healthcare industry.

The Bottom Line

The key differences between LPNs and RNs lie in their education, scope of practice, and responsibilities. LPNs typically complete a practical nursing program and provide basic nursing care under the supervision of RNs or physicians. In contrast, RNs undergo more extensive training, allowing them to perform a wider range of duties, including assessment, planning, and evaluation of patient care. 

If you’re an LPN that’s interested in taking the next step in your nursing career, consider our Advanced Placement Program today. At the American Institute of Alternative medicine, we’ll guide you through the skills you need to become an RN, while also educating you about ethics and emotional care, both in classrooms and alongside professionals. The program is only 15 months divided into 12-week quarters for a total of 1226 program hours, earning you 90 credit hours.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are LPNs and RNs, and what do they do?

LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses) and RNs (Registered Nurses) are both healthcare professionals, but they have different levels of education and responsibilities. LPNs typically provide basic nursing care under the supervision of RNs or physicians, while RNs have a broader scope of practice that includes assessing patients, developing care plans, and administering medications.

What are the educational requirements for LPNs and RNs?

LPNs usually complete a one-year practical nursing program, while RNs can pursue either a two-year associate degree program or a four-year bachelor’s degree program in nursing.

How do the roles of LPNs and RNs differ in patient care settings?

LPNs often focus on providing direct patient care, such as administering medications, dressing wounds, and assisting with daily activities. RNs have a wider range of responsibilities, including assessing patients, developing care plans, and coordinating care among healthcare team members.

Can LPNs advance their careers to become RNs?

Yes, many LPNs choose to advance their careers by pursuing further education to become RNs. There are bridge programs designed specifically for LPNs to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing and become RNs.

What are the differences in salary and job opportunities between LPNs and RNs?

Generally, RNs earn higher salaries than LPNs due to their advanced education and broader scope of practice. RNs also have more opportunities for career advancement and may work in a wider variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, and community health centers.

Are there any specific challenges or misconceptions associated with the roles of LPNs and RNs?

One challenge is the misconception that LPNs and RNs perform the same duties. While both play vital roles in healthcare, their education and scope of practice differ significantly. Another challenge is ensuring that LPNs have career advancement and professional development opportunities.

What factors should individuals consider when deciding between a career as an LPN or RN?

Factors to consider include educational requirements, career goals, salary potential, and preferred work environment. Individuals should also research the job market and job outlook for LPNs and RNs in their area to make an informed decision about their career path.

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