Registered Nurse vs Licensed Practical Nurse: Which One is Best?

Registered Nurse (RN) vs Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): Which One is Best?

In the vast landscape of healthcare, nurses play a crucial role in providing quality patient care. Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) are the vital healthcare team members among all of them.

This blog aims to shed light on the differences between RNs and LPNs, helping aspiring nurses choose an informed career.

Before portraying the topic, “Registered Nurse vs Licensed Practical Nurse” or the differences between them, we first need a transparent understanding of these two types of nurses. Let’s know about them:

Registered Nurses (RNs)

Registered Nurses are professionals who are highly trained and have completed a comprehensive nursing program. They hold an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

In specialized areas, Registered nurses must pass a licensing exam and obtain additional certifications. Their educational qualification shapes them with a wide range of knowledge and skills which enables them to perform complex medical procedures and make critical decisions.

They provide hands-on care, control safety and infection, maintain health, and offer different therapies.

Registered nurses are standing with smiling face

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)

In some states, Licensed Practical Nurses are also known as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs). They need to complete a practical nursing program. LPN education takes about one year to be done, and the graduates must pass a licensing exam to practice.

LPNs serve basic nursing care under the direction of RNs or physicians. They have a direct connection with patients, their families, and the doctors.

The basic cares include checking blood pressure or temperature, helping them to eat and change dress, and communicating with them and their families to ensure quality care and a better understanding of each procedure.

Registered Nurse vs Licensed Practical Nurse

Here are some key differences between Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs):

Education and Licensure:

RNs: Registered nurses complete a nursing program, which can be a diploma program, an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Typically it takes 4+ years to complete RN programs.

Advanced degrees like Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) are also available. After completing their education, they must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

LPNs: They usually complete a practical nursing program, which takes around 1 to 2 years. They cover many of the same topics as the Registered Nurse program with classes like human anatomy, med surg, psych pharmaceuticals, etc.

These programs are often offered at vocational schools or community colleges. If LPNs want to obtain licensure, they must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).

Scope of Practice:

RNs: Registered nurses have the opportunity to attend more training than LPNs. They have a broader scope of practice and can perform many types of complex and independent nursing tasks.

They provide patient education, assess patients, create care plans, administer medications, perform advanced procedures, and collaborate with healthcare professionals.

LPNs: Although LPNs work under the supervision of RNs and other healthcare professionals, they also can engage with many responsibilities practically.

LPNs provide basic nursing care, including communication, monitoring vital signs, administering medications, assisting with personal hygiene, collecting samples, and documenting patient information.

Responsibilities:

RNs: They hold on leadership roles in patient care and are responsible for coordinating and managing the overall nursing care plan. They record symptoms of patient medical history and current health, create and implement patient care plans with the medical team, assist in medical procedures as needed, operate medical equipment, make critical decisions, collect blood, urine samples, and other body fluids for lab work, etc.
LPNs: They focus on providing direct patient care and assisting with routine tasks. LPNs work closely with patients, monitoring their conditions and ensuring their well-being.

Nurses are maintaining their responsibilities: Registered Nurse vs Licensed Practical Nurse

They provide basic medical and comfort care, monitor patients’ health, directly help patients to fulfill their needs, keep health records, report to the authority, communicate with patients and their families, etc.

Work Settings:

RNs: They can work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, community health centers, and schools. Depending on their interests, they may specialize in pediatrics, critical care, mental health, or oncology as they have enough flexibility.

LPNs: They primarily work in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and physician offices.

Career Advancement:

RNs: With their advanced education and a broader scope of practice, RNs have more opportunities for career advancement. They can pursue higher degrees, specialize in different areas of nursing, become nurse practitioners, nurse educators, nurse managers, or clinical nurse specialists.

LPNs: LPNs who wish to advance their careers can consider bridging programs that allow them to become RNs. By becoming an RN, they can expand their scope of practice and access more diverse career opportunities.

It should be mentioned that the responsibilities of RNs and LPNs may vary depending on the settings in which they practice. When considering a career as an RN or LPN, there should be a piece of advice to research the requirements and regulations in your area.

Best Career Choice Between RN and LPN?

While choosing one of them as a career, one must take a look at the following statements below:

Education and Time Commitment:

Becoming an RN requires more extensive education, such as a diploma, ADN, or BSN program. These programs can take two to four years to complete. Advanced degrees like MSN or DNP are also available for specialization.

A smiling happy graduate nurse holding a certificate and flowers in her hand

On the other hand, LPN programs typically take 12 to 18 months at vocational schools or community colleges, offering quicker entry into the profession.

Scope of Practice and Responsibilities:

An RN has a wide scope of practice that allows them to perform complex tasks independently. Those tasks include patient assessment, care planning, medication administration, and collaboration with other healthcare professionals.

LPNs have a more focused scope of practice, working under the supervision of RNs, providing direct patient care, monitoring vital signs, and ensuring patient comfort.

Career Opportunities and Advancement:

RNs have more career opportunities and flexibility, with options to specialize and pursue advanced roles such as nurse practitioners, nurse educators, or clinical nurse specialists.

LPNs can enhance their careers by bridging programs to become RNs, expanding their scope of practice, and accessing a wider range of opportunities.

Personal Considerations:

Before choosing a role, you should consider your long-term goals by recognizing that how much time and money you are willing to commit, how much responsibility you are comfortable with, and how the roles align with your nursing work-life balance. Analyzing personal factors play a significant role in making the best choice for your nursing career.

Conclusion for RN vs LPN

It is important to consider education, responsibilities, and career prospects before choosing a career between Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).

RNs have more extensive education and a broader scope of practice which leads to increased career opportunities and higher earning potential. LPNs have shorter education requirements and focused responsibilities, but can still advance their careers by taking steps for further education.

Consider your goals, preferences, and long-term aspirations to make the best decision for your nursing career. Remember that both RNs and LPNs have vital roles in healthcare, providing quality patient care and improving individuals’ health. Each career carries its own pattern that is undoubtedly essential in the healthcare industry.

Now you know all about “Registered Nurse vs Licensed Practical Nurse”. So which one are you going to pick for your career? Comment below with your opinion!


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