If you are interested in pursuing a medical career, especially in nursing, you are probably reearching the differences between being an LPN vs RN. It might be hard at first to tell the difference between a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse. This is because a lot of RN duties overlap with LPN duties.
The main differences between an LPN and an RN relate to qualifications and responsibilities. As an LPN, you are responsible for providing basic assistance to patients. In contrast, RNs complete additional tasks, like implementing a doctor’s recommended treatments. It is also important to note that LPNs work under the supervision of RNs.
To help you make sure you’re choosing the right career path, we’ll go in-depth into the differences and similarities between these professions below, from required skills to daily duties.
What Is an LPN?
A licensed practical nurse is hired by a health facility to provide basic care to patients. They are usually supervised by an RN. Becoming an LPN does not require any formal education since practitioners are not expected to perform complicated tasks or make medical decisions.
- Career Karma matches you with top tech bootcamps
- Get exclusive scholarships and prep courses
Depending on your location or employer, the duties of an LPN can differ. Some common tasks include dressing, feeding, and bathing patients to prepare them for procedures or visitation.
LPNs also monitor patients’ vital signs, measure blood pressure, change bandages, insert catheters, and maintain patients’ records. Overall, you can think of an LPN as an assistant to a registered nurse.
LPNs also play the unofficial role of a companion. They keep patients company and often listen to their feelings. Many medical practitioners start out as an LPN, then later pursue formal medical training.
LPN Salaries and Job Outlook
Generally, licensed practical nurses are paid less than registered nurses. In the US, an LPN can earn between $47,000 and $50,000, depending on the workplace. The projected job growth for LPNs was set at 16 percent between 2014 and 2024. So, pursuing a career in this field is likely to result in many job opportunities.
What Is an RN?
A registered nurse administers treatments as directed by a doctor, such as tests. Unlike an LPN, to become a professional RN you will be required to have a degree. Some of the ways an RN may assist a doctor are by conducting blood tests, ultrasounds, and other patient examinations. They also administer medicine, coordinate patient care, and help patients during recovery.
RN Salaries and Job Outlook
Registered nurses earn more than licensed practical nurses. In the US, an RN will earn an average of about $70,000. However, many factors can influence how much you can get paid as an RN, including experience, qualifications, and your employer. The projected 10-year job growth outlook for RNs is the same as that of LPNs, at 16 percent.
Many RNs are in the process of becoming a nurse practitioner. This more advanced nursing level allows an RN to specialize in one area of nursing.
LPN vs RN: The Most Important Differences and Similarities
It is easier to tell the difference between an RN vs an LPN if you understand more about the two roles. Below are some of the notable differences and similarities between the two.
Becoming an LPN is much easier than becoming an RN. That is because you can work as an LPN after attending a one-year course to receive a practical nursing certificate. To become a registered nurse, you must get a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which takes four years.
It is important to know which of these career paths you are most interested in. To help you decide, you might want to check out our guide to the best online nursing programs for an RN.
Difference: Place of Work
LPNs are often employed in nursing home facilities, community care facilities, and surgical hospitals. On the other hand, an RN is likely to be hired by a general medical institution, school, correctional facility, or government agency. As an RN, you can also choose if you want to join an online nurse practitioner program, or become a public health nurse.
Difference: Job Duties
The main job of an LPN is to ensure that patients are happy with their stay at a given care facility. Most of their work involves interacting with patients, including administering regular check-ups. This means they often grow close with a patient.
On the other hand, RNs coordinate LPN staff and assign duties. They mostly play the role of administrator, and can even take part in policy-making at the hospital facility.
Similarity: Both Are Vital Professions
Both RNs and LPNs are essential to a hospital’s operations because they both deal with the welfare of patients. LPNs usually take care of the basic needs, but RNs are also responsible for meeting patients’ needs.
Without these two professions, hospitals would not function. RNs and LPNs play a vital role in inpatient treatment and management.
Similarity: Strict Qualifications
You must provide proof of training if you want to become either an RN or an LPN. RNs are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree, while LPNs must have a certificate. Without these, you have no chance of landing the job. The health care industry’s strict qualification requirements are important because dealing with human life is a delicate job.
Similarity: Management Skills
Even though LPNs work under RNs, both need to have good management skills. Patients must receive checkups or procedures in a timely manner, and LPNs must also provide regular updates to the RN in charge. On the other hand, RNs must have management skills to ensure the people working under them are performing their duties as required.
LPN vs RN: Required Skills and Duties
Both of these nursing jobs require a special nursing skill set. In each case, the job duties are centered around patients’ needs and desires. Below are some of the skills LPNs and RNs must have.
LPN Required Skills
- Interpersonal skills. As an LPN, your job is to make sure patients are happy, which includes bathing and dressing them. Therefore, it is important to understand how to relate to your patients so that they are comfortable around you. This can have a major effect on a patient’s recovery process.
- Management skills. As an LPN, you should know how to manage your time as you update records, conduct check-ups, and perform other small duties. These tasks are often repetitive, so you must stay organized in order to succeed.
- Communication skills. A lot of communication is required in any health care job. As an LPN, you must converse with patients to identify whether their health is improving. Good communication skills will also make it easier for you to communicate with your superiors, including RNs.
LPN Required Job Duties
- Patient monitoring. As an LPN, it is your duty to ensure that your patients are being taken care of. You must conduct regular check-ups of their vital signs, and find out if they feel mentally well enough to make a full recovery.
- Cleaning and dressing. Some patients will need special attention from an LPN to clean and dress their wounds. This includes regularly changing out bandages.
- Recordkeeping. An LPN must update a patient’s records every time they are tended to. Accurate recordkeeping is important because the RN or doctor will use the information in these records to decide on treatment plans.
RN Required Skills
- Leadership skills. As a registered nurse, your duties will include staffing and management. Your leadership quality will be reflected in the work performance of the LPNs who assist you. You will have to step up in order to receive respect from those who work under you.
- Management skills. You may sometimes have to delegate your duties to junior staff members if you become overburdened in this busy role. As an RN, you need to master good time management skills in order to deal with the heavy workload.
- Decision-making skills. As an RN, you might be included in policy decisions at your workplace. This means you will need to think carefully about how your decisions will affect other staff and patients at the facility.
RN Required Job Duties
- Department management. Since a registered nurse is an administrative position, it is likely that you will be in charge of an entire department. You have to ensure that the LPNs have the skills to allow the facility’s operations to run smoothly.
- Administering treatment. It is the RN’s job to see to it that all patients receive their medication on time, as prescribed by their physician. It is also the RN’s responsibility to help patients make a full recovery by following their treatment plan.
- Coordination. Another job of the RN is to ensure that a facility is operating normally. Depending on your role, you may be responsible for whether the equipment at the facility is being properly allocated to each patient.
Should You Become LPN or RN?
Your career goals can help you make the decision. If you think you might want to move on to a higher level medical profession and you believe that you have strong leadership skills, you might want to become an RN. Bear in mind that it is hard work and requires extensive education and training.
If you care about people and you are looking for an entry-level job as a professional medical practitioner, then working as an LPN is a good choice. In this profession, you will gain valuable health care experience without the responsibility that comes with working as an RN.
Advantages of Becoming an LPN
Even if you start off as an LPN, you can still go on to become a doctor if you decide you’d like to pursue a degree. Even though LPN accreditations do not have much weight, they can still be a good place to start as you gain experience in the health care industry.
Advantages of Becoming an RN
Working as a registered nurse is an advanced administrative position. It also opens up many options for where you can work, from hospitals to home care.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.