Difference Between LPN and RN

There are always questions about Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered nurses. In Texas (TX) and California (CA), a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is called a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). Whether and LPN or LVN, the debate comes about when Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) feel they are doing almost everything a Registered Nurse (RN) does but receive a lower salary.

However, despite the heated debate, there are significant differences between practicing as a LPN and a RN.

i) Education

The big difference between a RN and an LPN is the training they receive at nursing school. To become a licensed practical nurse, it only requires graduation with a certificate as a licensed practice nurse. Training is usually done in vocational training centers, community colleges or in a hospital setting.

On the other hand, to become a registered nurse, one must enroll in a nursing school and get either an Associate of Science degree in nursing or a Bachelors of Science in nursing degree. Usually, RNs attend universities, middle level nursing schools or university hospitals.

ii) Duration of nurse training

LPNs receive a short duration of training: usually one year of practical nursing. During this time, the LPN gets training on basic nursing concepts required in the health care field. It is also worth noting that most LPN courses do not get deeper or have much detail, just the basics

Contrary, the RN receives two years of training for the ASN degree and four years for the bachelor degree. Training for both ASN and BSN is quite detailed and goes into deeper nursing concepts. Ultimately, the RN has superior knowledge on clinical practice, physiology, patient care, research methods among other nursing roles.

iii) Licensure of practice

After the one year of practical nursing, LPNs must take and pass the NCLEX- LPN exam while their counterparts the RNs take a different licensing exam; NCLEX-RN

iv) Scope of practice

This is where the greatest disparity between LPNs and RNs come in. Due to the difference in training; there are certain things an RN can do which a LPN cannot handle. The scope of practice of RNs and LPNs is outlined by each state’s board of nursing. But there are obvious tasks which show clear boundaries between the two nursing professions like:

  • LPNs are not allowed to do first patient assessments-such must be done by RNs or a senior doctor. In that case, most states do not allow LPNs to administer the first push meds or IV prescriptions. For RNs, this is their work scope and should perform these tasks.
  • Most states do not allow LPNs to hang blood, nor work in specialty departments like Critical care Units, or Emergency rooms. However RNs have the major mandate of performing specialized duties in the ERs, L&D or CCUs.
  • It can be said that the LPN Scope of practice is confined at basic bedside patient care while for the RNs, it is very rare to find them doing the basic patient care tasks. LPNs do tasks like wound dressing, collecting samples, recording of vital signs and reporting the same to RN. RNs on the other hand, have superior roles like devising patient care plans, nutrition needs among other nursing plans. While RNs can diagnose and prescribe medication to patients, LPNs cannot.
  • In many cases, LPNs do not have the mandate to take independent decisions in health care such as patient admission or referral. Such decisions must be consulted with the RNs or other doctors. Precisely, this means that LPNs are not likely to have leadership and administration roles as compared to most RNs who have higher health care roles like nurse-in charge.

Salary Difference for LPN vs RN

The other major difference between LPN and RN profesionals is the salaries they receive. Registered Nurses in all states have a higher salary than their LPN counterparts. RNs receive anywhere between $25 to $30/ hour, LPNs have a $10 less hourly figure with salaries of about $15 to $20/hour. However, salaries always differ from state to states or among different heath care faculties in the same state.

The Regulation of Nursing Scope of Practice

In the scope of practice mentioned above, it is not uncommon to find LPNs who largely practice those duties meant for RNs. In this case, one should get the disparity between what a LPN is legally entitled and licensed to do rather than what they actually do. Out of many years of experience, there are LPNs who have the ability to do more than RNs; in that they serve as walking resources for some new RNs. However, the difference between LPNs and RNs is always what is provided by the regulating authority: the state board of nursing.