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Registered Nurse vs. Licensed Practical Nurse: Differences Explained

Nursing is a sought-after profession for many people. Nurses make a difference by caring for individuals in hospitals, offices, schools, and community centers. Nursing is a highly marketable career with job openings around the country. Many people may wonder what the difference is between a registered nurse and a licensed practical nurse. Both are important and needed, but there are essential differences to understand. Keep reading to find out more.

Basic Differences

A Registered Nurse (RN) must complete an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. They also must pass the licensure exam to become a registered nurse.

A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) completes a specific LPN program. These programs for practical nursing usually take two years at a community college or vocational school. They then must pass a licensure exam to receive their license.

Job Differences

While both RNs and LPNs care for patients, their licenses determine the practice that they can legally have. RNs have more education and can work independently in most areas. LPNs must work under an RN or doctor’s supervision.

An RN can give a higher level of patient care. They sometimes provide care to just one or two patients but can also have three to five patients in a med-surge area. LPNs have higher patient loads during a shift, sometimes as many as 30 patients, but their job is not as intense.

LPN Duties

Licensed Practical Nurses collect and chart vital signs. They can distribute medications and check blood sugar levels. They often assist patients with eating and drinking or getting dressed. They are usually the ones to help patients with bathing and toileting needs.

RN Duties

Registered Nurses perform many of the above-mentioned jobs, but they also have additional responsibilities. They start IVs and distribute oral and IV medications. They collect blood samples and other diagnostic tests. They connect with patients and families to answer questions. They also work with doctors and staff to create patient treatment plans.

Differences in Education

While both LPNs and RNs must take courses in ethics and nursing skills, there are differences in the programs. An LPN program can be completed in one or two years at a community college or vocational school. Education to become an RN can range from two to four years, depending on the degree.

An RN will learn much more than human anatomy and physiology. They will learn ethics, theory, biomedical statistics, microbiology, chemistry, and nutrition. Their education will include courses in pharmacology and psychology, gerontology, and mental health. Emergency care is taught to all Registered Nurses.

Opportunities for Career Advancement

RNs and LPNs have a fantastic ability to advance their careers by working and receiving more education. LPNs can move into alternative healthcare environments or advance their education by becoming an RN.

RNs can move into various areas of a hospital or institution. They may move into leadership or educator positions to gain experience in administration. RNs can further advance their career by earning a Master’s of Science in Nursing, becoming a nurse practitioner, or becoming a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

While choosing between these two nursing professions may be difficult, interested individuals can be sure that, whichever option they choose, they will be helping their patients and the larger community.

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