The Difference between LPNs and RN

You might not know this, but there are actually multiple different types of nurses with different educational levels. Two of these – licensed practical nurses and registered nurses – have earned degrees at vocational schools. RNs go to school for more time, however, and so are qualified to take on more responsibilities. See below for additional differences.

Differences in What They Do

Licensed practical nurses (known as licensed vocational nurses in some states) provide basic medical care. They might monitor a patient’s health by taking his or her blood pressure, inserting a catheter or applying a bandage. They work under both registered nurses (RNs) and doctors and report to them by telling them about patients’ health status and taking direction. Registered nurses also keep track of medical records and talk to patients about their healthcare, but they can also operate medical equipment and perform tests, give patients medicine, and set up patient care plans. RNs also supervise LPNs and report more directly to doctors.

Differences in Work Environment

The places in which LPNs and RN can work are pretty similar – hospitals, physician offices, nursing facilities, and for home healthcare services. Where most of them are employed, however, differs for the two types. More LPNs (nearly 30%) work in nursing care facilities than in any other environment, followed by hospitals, offices of physicians, home healthcare services, and community care facilities for the elderly. 48% of registered nurses work in general and surgical hospitals, where their abilities to give medicine and complete procedures are put to best use.
A much smaller percentage work in physicians’ offices, home healthcare services, and in nursing homes.

Differences in Education

Because LPNs don’t need to be qualified to complete as many tasks, you can generally become one by completing an accredited program, which usually only takes about a year. These programs are offered at vocational schools, community colleges, at hospitals, and sometimes even in high schools. RNs need at least an associate’s degree, and some go on to complete a bachelor’s degree. In these extended programs, RNs also learn about subjects in general areas of knowledge, and not just those directly related to nursing. Both LPNs and RNs must be licensed by passing the National Council Licensure Examination, NCLEX, however there are two different versions depending on the type of nurse you will become (these exams are called the NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN).

Differences in Salary and Job Growth

LPNs make between $29,680 and $56,010, with an average yearly salary of $40,380, which is slightly above average for the category they fall into – health technologists and technicians. The field is growing by about 22%, slightly lower than the 26% seen overall for health technologists and technicians. RNs make between $44,190 and $95,130, with an average yearly salary of $64,690. This is slightly below the average for the category they fall into – health diagnosing and treating practitioners. The field is growing by about 26%, right on par with the growth seen across the board for all health diagnosing and treating practitioners.


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