Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) vs Registered Nurse (RN)

Have you ever wondered what the difference between a registered nurse and a licensed patrical nurse is? Then, this article will clearly go over those differences.

Preparation Requirements

At the minimum, a registered nurse (RNs) has a 2-year or 3-year degree - most have baccalaureate degrees. Most are employed at hospitals are can be expected to do more critical thinking tasks and operations dealing with nursing. 

Contrastly, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) have about a year of nursing education, often receiving a completion certificate. LPNs truly handle the practical operations of nursing, hence the name! They typically oversee and monitor changes in a patient’s condition and report to registered nursing staff or other medical professionals working alongside them. 

Work Settings

A majority of registered nurses work inside hospitals that are either private or public - over 60%. After that majority, they can be seen in ambulatory services or mobile clinics (ambulatory healthcare services includes industries such as physicians’ offices, home healthcare, and outpatient care centers), nursing and residential care facilities, and government or educational positions. 

Nurses who work in hospitals and nursing care facilities usually work in shifts to provide round-the-clock coverage. They may work nights, weekends, and holidays. They may be on-call, which means that they are on duty and must work on short notice. Nurses who work in offices, schools and other places that do not provide 24-hour care are more likely to work regular business hours.

Registered nurses typically do the following:

  • Assess patients’ conditions
  • Record patients’ medical histories and symptoms
  • Observe patients and record the observations
  • Administer patients’ medicines and treatments
  • Set up plans for patients’ care or contribute information to existing plans
  • Consult and collaborate with doctors and other healthcare professionals
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment
  • Help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results
  • Teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries
  • Explain what to do at home after treatment

Licensed practical nurses mainly work alongside medical staff in nursing and residential care facilities - over 38%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Working inside nursing and residential care facilities provide LPNs the most advancement since they have opportunities to move up in the ranks, often supervising nursing assistants who perform the most fundamental duties (for example, bathing or changing bedpans). The NLN (National League for Nursing) reported in 2011 that newly licensed LPNs in long term care were almost six times as likely to have administrative responsibilities as their counterparts in hospitals were.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) work full time. Many work nights, weekends, and holidays, because medical care takes place at all hours. They may be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours.

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses typically do the following:

  • Monitor patients’ health—for example, by checking their blood pressure
  • Administer primary patient care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters
  • Provide for the essential comfort of patients, such as helping them bathe or dress
  • Discuss the care they are providing with patients and listen to their concerns
  • Report patients’ status and concerns to registered nurses and doctors
  • Keep records on patients’ health

The Path To Become A LPN

LPNs must complete an approved educational program, such as the one offered here by MIPB

After completing a state-approved educational program, prospective LPNs can take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). In all states, they must pass the exam to get a license and work as an LPN. For more information on the NCLEX-PN examination and a list of state boards of nursing, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

LPNs may choose to become certified through professional associations in gerontology and intravenous (IV) therapy. Certifications show that an LPN has an advanced level of knowledge about a specific subject.

Also, employers may prefer to hire candidates who are trained to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Blog Post written by:
Dr. Eddie Martinez
Director of Education