Nursing is a vital profession that provides important care and services to patients in a wide variety of settings. There are different levels of nurses, with Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) providing more basic care and Registered Nurses (RNs) administering medication and creating treatment plans. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the difference between LPNs and RNs, including their education, certification, and salary.
LPN vs. RN: Education
There are a few key differences between LPN and RN education requirements.
LPNs must complete an accredited practical nursing program, whereas RNs must complete an accredited registered nurse program.
LPN programs are usually offered at community colleges, technical schools and some hospitals. Interested students typically only need a high school education or equivalent in order to enroll.
RN programs, on the other hand, are typically offered at community colleges, four-year universities and some hospitals. While not a requirement for licensing, more employers are looking for RNs who have completed bachelor degree programs in nursing and have obtained RN licensure.
The coursework for LPN and RN programs is also different. LPN programs usually take around one year to complete and focus on providing students with the basic skills and knowledge necessary to care for patients.
RN programs are typically longer, taking two to four years to complete. The extra time is spent studying more complex topics like anatomy, physiology and pharmacology.
Both LPN and RN programs include clinical experience, but the type and amount of experience is different. LPN programs typically require between 500 and 1,000 hours of clinical experience.
RN programs usually require between 1,000 and 1,500 hours of clinical experience. The extra time spent in clinical settings allows RNs to gain more hands-on experience caring for patients.
LPNs are required to complete an accredited practical nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). RNs must complete an accredited registered nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
While there are many similarities between the two exams, the NCLEX-RN is a more difficult exam. It covers a wider range of topics and requires a higher broad knowledge of critical thinking and clinical judgment as it relates to nursing.
Both the NCLEX-PN and the NCLEX-RN exams are administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). They each have a passing percentage of about 66% for first time test takers, so they are both challenging exams.
Roles and Responsibilities
While both RNs and LPNs play an important role in the healthcare system, their duties are quite different.
LPNs typically work under the supervision of RNs, but they may also work independently in some settings. LPNs mainly take vitals, collect samples, administer medications, and see to patient comfort. Because they are often the healthcare provider that spends the most time with individual patients, LPNs must also be able to effectively communicate with patients and their families and they play an important role in patient advocacy. While LPNs are responsible for fulfilling the treatment plans to help patients achieve their health goals, they cannot make autonomous decisions like RNs can.
RNs are responsible for creating and implementing patient care plans. They also assess patients, administer medications, monitor patients’ vital signs, and provide education and support to patients and their families. In addition to these direct patient care responsibilities, RNs also play a role in healthcare administration and policy. RNs often serve as case managers, infection control coordinators, and patient safety specialists. They may also take on leadership roles within their organizations, such as serving as department heads or unit managers.
LPN vs. RN: Certification
Once they have passed the NCLEX exam, LPNs and RNs are both certified and licensed to practice nursing. However, there are some differences between the two certifications.
The Difference Between Certification and Licensure
It’s important to understand the difference between certification and licensure. Certification is voluntary and demonstrates that a nurse has met certain standards set by a professional organization. Licensure is required in order to practice nursing and is granted by the state Board of Nursing.
LPNs can seek voluntary certification through organizations like the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses (NFLPN). To be eligible for certification, LPNs must have graduated from an accredited practical nursing program and passed the NCLEX-PN exam.
LPNs who are certified may use the credential “CLPN” after their name. Certification demonstrates that an LPN has met certain standards and is committed to providing high-quality patient care.
RNs can seek voluntary certification through organizations like the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). To be eligible for certification, RNs must have graduated from an accredited registered nursing program and passed the NCLEX-RN exam.
RNs who are certified may use the credential “CRRN” after their name. Certification demonstrates that an RN has met certain standards and is committed to providing high-quality patient care.
Career Advancement Opportunities
While both RNs and LPNs can find employment in a variety of settings, RNs typically have more career advancement opportunities. This is due to the fact that RNs have more education and training than LPNs.
LPNs who want to advance their careers may pursue certification in a specialty area, such as gerontology or IV therapy. They may also choose to return to school to earn their RN degree.
RNs who want to advance their careers may pursue certification in a specialty area, such as cardiovascular nursing or oncology nursing. They may also choose to continue their education and earn a graduate degree in nursing, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
LPN vs. RN: Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for LPNs in 2021 was $48,070, while the median annual salary for RNs was $77,600. However, salaries will vary depending on factors such as geographic location, years of experience, and type of employer.
Because LPNs and RNs can both pursue certifications and specializations, there is potential for salary growth in both roles. However, RNs typically have more opportunities for career advancement and higher salaries due to their additional education and training.
LPN vs. RN: Job Outlook
Both LPNs and RNs are in high demand, but job prospects are especially good for RNs. The BLS predicts that employment of RNs will grow by 12% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
The job outlook for LPNs is also positive, with the BLS predicting that employment will grow by 11% from 2019 to 2029. This growth is due to the increasing demand for healthcare services as the population continues to age.
LPN vs. RN: Which Is Right for You?
The decision of whether to become an LPN or an RN depends on a number of factors, including your educational goals, career aspirations, and work-life balance.
If you want to enter the nursing field quickly and do not plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree, then becoming an LPN may be the right choice for you. LPN programs typically take one year to complete, and you can begin working after passing the NCLEX-PN exam.
Becoming an RN requires more time and effort, as most RN programs take two to four years to complete. However, RNs typically have better job prospects and earn a higher salary than LPNs. If you are interested in pursuing a career in nursing, then becoming an RN may be the right choice for you.