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Difference Between LPN and RN

nurseLPN vs RN

LPN is a Licensed Practical Nurse and RN is a Registered Nurse. The main difference that can be noticed between LPN and RN is in their duties and practice.

A registered nurse is one who has graduated with a 4 year nursing program with a Bachelor of Science degree or a 2-year nursing program with an Associate’s Degree. On the other hand, a Licensed Practical Nurse is a person who has graduated with a one year Practical Nursing program. While a person needs to pass NCLEX-RN to become RN, a person can become an LPN after passing NCLEX-PN.

When a person needs just one year to become an LPN, four or two years are needed for becoming a RN. As such a RN has to learn more than an LPN. A RN is known to have more knowledge about physiology, clinical practice, pharmacology, delivery systems, resource management, research utilization and team functioning.

When talking of responsibilities, it is the RN who has to take more responsibilities. The RNs even supervise the LPNs. The RNs can take independent decisions, which an LPN cannot. The LPNs are always under the supervision of RN or doctors. The Registered Nurse addresses wide issues than the Licensed Nurses. RNs also address a wider spectrum of issues than Licensed Practical Nurse.

Some of the main functions of LPNs include observing patients, collecting samples from patients, preparing and giving injections, inserting catheters, feeding patients, helping the patients with dressing and bathing and keeping them comfortable. Apart from these functions, the LPN also do chart out assessments of patients, give certain drugs or medications and even assign work for nursing assistants. But these nurses do not have the authority to give restricted medicines or intravenous narcotics.

The RNs are always at a higher level of the LPNs. The RNS can administer medicines, develop and manage nursing plans, assist physicians in examinations and treatments and take independent decisions.

In Hierarchy, the RNs are above the LPNs. Another difference that can be noticed between the LPN and the RN is their salaries. The RNs are paid more than the LPNs.

Summary:
1. A person needs to pass NCLEX-RN to become RN. A person can become an LPN after passing NCLEX-PN.
2. When a person needs just one year to become an LPN, four or two years are needed for becoming a RN
3. Registered Nurses have more responsibilities than Licensed Nurses. RNs even supervise the LPNs.
4. The RNs can take independent decisions, which an LPN cannot


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32 Comments

  1. This seems like useful information, thanks. RNs who want to trade up to BSNs can now take their theoretical courses online, through online BSN completion programs.

  2. First i would like to state that i am currently a CNA (Certified nursing assistant), and in my state i did have to obtain state licensure. Secondly i am currently a student in a LPN program. I know that RN’s do have more education than LPN’s i agree with that statement however i feel like this entire overview of the difference of LPN’s and RN’s sheds a very dim light on all the work LPN’s do. I do know in different settings they all (CNA,MA,LPN,RN,PA,NP ect) perform different tasks and yes maybe in a hospital setting a LPN may perform everyday tasks such as feeding and bathing where the RN’s admister med’s. However, in LTC (Long term care facility) LPN’s administer medications, CNA’s bathe, dress, feed, get vitals etc. LPN’s also do admission, hang IV’s, do just about everything that an RN does in the hospital even supervise other LPN’s. The only thing that does make them different in a LTCF is LPN’s cannot hang a bag of blood, of IV narcotics and of course the pay rate, because with more education comes more pay.
    I just felt i should clear things up because all of the nurses in this entire world do alot of work for very little pay and sometimes even no pay and lord knows we are all under appreciated and i just dont want the work that any healthcare provider be lessened or appear to be less than another. We all have ALOT of job duites regardless the title, my job (CNA) more physically demanding, LPN more legally and paperwork demanding, along with patient care, RN’s about the same, Then we all have to back up the doctor and write statements for them. I just dont want anyone to be deplicted in an incorrect light.
    Thank you for your time!

    • Thank you for clearing that up for me. I am currently in special education. I am considering
      going back to school to be become a LPN.

      • Take the extra time and get the RN. After a certain time period you can sit for the LPN board and practice as one but, do not stop there unless there just isn’t enough time for you to do so!! I have been CNA-RN and due to increased entry level requirements, went back for a BSN. The CNA comes in with your RN and you do not have to sit for boards. After a specified amount of clinical hours you are allowed to practice as a CNA while still going to school for your RN. Good luck to you.

    • As a RN, I have never asked or delegated anyone to do anything that I would not do myself. However, I certainly do disagree with LPN’s being in clinical supervisory positions even in LTC. It has always been illegal in my state for a LPN to be a supervisor. If a LPN does something causing patient harm in a LTC facility or otherwise, it is the RN who is held liable and may lose their license. We are given more responsiblity but, I do agree that LPN’s work just as hard, are just as smart or smarter than some RNs I know!! LPNs and CNAs also belong to unions such as AFSME and most RNs do not. The reason being is that RNs are always held the liable party for any grievance filed by or against the LPN or CNA because it was our responsibility to have been supervising them. As for the money being more, it is because we have more responsibility and to anyone considering becoming a nurse, why not just take the extra year and get your RN!! You choose the short route you get the lower pay. Therefore, it should be bvious that if we go longer there is something that we are getting that you are not. As for the 4 year programs, they are more in depth with leadership, assessments, research, pathopysiology. The entry level for nursing careers are rising very quickly. What you used to do with a AAS now requires and BSN and, what used to be allowed by a BSN now requires a MSN. Do not stop and settle for less than you are worth. I think caring nurses are worth their weight in gold and should not set themselves apart or on a pedestal but, work within your scope and be collaborative not egotisical.

    • amen i am a LPN and I do just about as much as a RN but without the increase pay. I am certified in putting in a IV and hanging certain meds through the IV.. We still cant use or touch a PICC line or hang blood. I have taking orders from MD,called orders in.

      • in nursing homes mostly that LPN is supervisor.Not too sure if i would want that position or not.But have seen Good LPN’s supervise just as well as a RN would!

      • I am sure that if you check it out an RN is available and must be readily so. Only a physician or an RN can pronounce death also. I just know that in this state you must have at least one RN available in a LTC facility for supervision. And, I am not discrediting LPN’s at all. I agree that they work just as hard and harder and deserve recognition for such. But, if you are going to do all that work and complain about the pay difference, why not go the extra and be an RN. We need more hard working, caring individuals that care. I give all nurses their props. Get what you deserve!! You should not have to do so much for less money is my point!!

  3. Not true that a RN has to go to school for 4yrs. I am in a RN program at OSU (oklahoma) and it’s only 2yrs for RN.

  4. You’re absolutely right. The difference within the physical work they do is minimal. HOWEVER, the knowledge base is way way way different between an RN & LPN. And it should be. RNs do a whole heck of a lot more school than an LPN. LPNs take classes in A&P that are minimal in nature whereas an RN learns in greater detail. People look at the difference in terms of physical labor only, but an RN does much more than dole out narcotics and hang blood/blood products. The practitioner is going to consult the opinion of an RN more readily than that of an LPN because the RN has that greater knowledge base. LPNs are very very very useful in the medical setting. But the fact of the matter is, an RN knows much more about the how/why/what to do than an LPN does because that is what the extra education emphasizes.

    And Alexis, please reread the article. I think you may have tried to comment prematurely.

    • i would have to totally disagree with you on that. i am an lvn and i am actually in the position of training rn’s in our facility. with that being said, i have encountered many rn’s who where completely clueless and i wondered how did they even obtain a license. they couldn’t even perform head to toe assessments. nor did they know how to chart. and the physician’s actually perferred to speak to the lvn’s rather the rn’s. now don’t get me wrong, i respect what rn’s do and all of the hard work that it takes to get to that point (i myself am going back to school to become and rn) but i also believe that it depends on how good of a nurse you are period. i myself read alot and do a lot of research. mainly because i love my job and i take it very serious. and all levels of nursing ( in my opinion) plays a very important role in providing a good quality of patient care. and also, not only lvn’s are performing duties such as bathing and feeding. but there are a lot of facilities that require rn’s to perform total patient care as well

      • Dear gosh,

        I hope your not going to be my nurse with all of those grammatical errors. Sheesh. No one is discrediting the amount of work that LPNs do, we are simply stating that RNs attend school for a lot longer thus justifying that RNs will know a lot more than LPNs in that respect. Both professions are equally important. Goodness.

        • Sheesh! Sarah! The main article appears to have been written by an RN and is full of misspellings and grammatical errors! Your statement, “hope your not my nurse.” only brings resentment. In my years of nursing I have worked with good and bad nurses at all levels, RN or LPN. So in reply I say hope I never have the pleasure of working with or having you as my nurse.

        • That would be “I hope YOU’RE not my nurse”…just saying since your problem was grammatical errors…and I’m an LPN.

  5. Why does its matter, so what if RN’s do get more money or do have more knowledge. With out LPNs and CNAs, RNs jobs would be greater stress. Besides, they all have one important job together and that is to care for your patient. LPN student

  6. There are different levels of education for RN’s, Alexis. All three are RN’s. For two yr. degree, you get an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), With a four yr. degree you have a Bachelors of Science in Nursing, (BSN), and you can continue on for about two more yrs. and receive your Masters of Science in Nursing. With the Masters, you can teach or become a Nurse Practitioner. All of these are RN’s. I’m surprised that you are currently in a nursing program and don’t know this. Something for you to consider, you may want to continue past the two yr. Associate Degree for training, as well as money. Good luck!!!

  7. Well I am looking into starting a nursing program and if it takes 2-4 years to become a RN then I would rather make that sacrifice and go to school for a little while longer and get more education and more money at the end of it all. I think this has helped me make my final decision.

    • Hopefully there isn’t a five year waiting list for the nursing school you want to get in to. That’s why I got my LPN, I was able to start in a couple months. I will be able to get my BSN online in about 2 yrs. because I have all my prerequisites. Good luck!

  8. Just so everyone knows…RN’s do MUCH more than hang iv’s and give blood. We assist with procedures including many things like escharatomies, wound vac applications, intubations, cardioversion, etc. We are responsible for things like hemodynamic montioring, bladder pressure monitoring, central line maintence (central lines, arterial lines, dialysis catheters), intracranial pressure monitoring, cardiac montitors. We actively titrate continuous drips including morphine, fentanyl, ativan, cardizem, levophed, nimbex….Just want people to realize that a RN has more knowledge, more education, more responsibilty…it irritates me when our job is compared to that of the LPN!!

    • I work in LTC and I give IV meds (mainly antibiotics) through PICCs all the time. I also regularly work with patients with wound vacs. There is literally not a single thing in my facility that can be done only be an RN. I get really irritated when an RN thinks they are a better nurse than me because of a title. Everyone who has been a nurse for any period of time knows that you never learn 90% of what you will do in nursing school. I am in no way discrediting RNs, but many LPNs are just as good and sometimes better at their jobs. There are quiet a few doctors that would rather talk to me than some RNs for the simple fact that they trust my opinion as a NURSE. I am far more than a pill pusher.

      • Listen, I am a RN on a med/surg unit at a hospital. We do not hire LPNs for a reason. I would just like a LPN who thinks their job at a LTC facility is difficult and come manage ivs, blood products, medications, dressings, and everything else to patients who aren’t stable. Our patients have a higher acuity. I have wiped ass just as much as any CNA so I don’t want to hear that excuse either. I take great care of my patients and consider myself to be extremely knowledgeable.

        • And how many pts. do you have with that acuity? I work on a skilled rehab. unit where there are IV’s, wound vacs, wounds that require extensive tx’s, trach.’s, peritoneal dislysis, and dementia and/or psych. pts that have impaired mobility, but think they can get up and ambulate independently(and we are a restraint free facility, so they have alarms that go off 30 seconds before they’re on the floor), and I have at least 20 pts I have to monitor and provide care for. Granted they are “stable” or they wouldn’t have been sent to rehab, but the reality is there is a much greater number of pts that are sent to rehab before they should be because the hospitals job is to get them out as quickly as possible because they aren’t “acutely ill” once a hip has been replaced, or they are on IV ABT but they aren’t septic, or their extensive wound has a tx. in place and isn’t going to kill them at this point. If we’re going to play the “I’d like to see…” game, I’d like to see an RN work my rehab. unit on 3-11 where there are no management RNs there to asst. (not that they do when they are there), and get out by 11:30 after completing all care, tx., and charting on the Medicare pts as well as pertinent charting. I believe it won’t happen any time soon. An ER RN that applied at my facility said she came there for “a break from the stressful environment” guess what? She lasted ONE DAY. We also are a 24 hr facility so have to do admits which include an initial skin assessment which is very time consuming as well as many sub assessments, and are expected to complete this along with everything else and get out on time. I myself stay as late as I need to to get things done correctly, but I catch flak for that constantly. My point is, we ALL have the same job to do at a basic level whether you are an RN or LPN, we are providing care to people who can’t take care of whatever needs themselves. I have respect for all nurses as nurses LPN or RN, and all RN’s aren’t condescending wenches, just as all LPN’S aren’t uneducated nursing imposters. I have known plenty of LPN’S with years of experience I’d much rather work with than an RN that just got out of school. And let me tell you I’ve had more than one RN ask me how to perform a procedure they were unfamiliar with, thank goodness they didn’t have your attitude about LPN’S or they might have hurt someone!

          • This is a perfect response! I’m currently an LPN working sub-acute and LTC. The acuity of patients we receive from the hospital has been rising for some time. In our facility, LPNs and RNs work independently as charge nurses on their units. There are VERY few things I cannot do as an LPN…hang blood, pronounce death, push IV narcs. Not only am I able to do everything else, but I also ‘show’ some RNs how to perform their tasks on a regular basis. I am currently in school earning my RN now. People need to stop generalizing. Bad nurses exist on all levels. Some LPN (and RN) programs provide excellent education while others are severely lacking. I sometimes feel so disheartened to hear “you’re only an LPN?!”

  9. Reading over a few of the responses reminds me of how lucky I am to work in the facility that I do. I’m an LPN at a very small LTC facility located in a very small Texas town. At present, there are 34 residents. As far as staffing, there are 2 RN’s (both administrators) 10 LPN’s, and 15 CNA’s.

    Since I work 10p-6a Sun-Thurs, I rarely see the RN’s, but they are both worth their weight in gold. On my shift, it’s only me and 3 CNA’s. They’re my guardian angels at night while I take care of charting and the mountain of paperwork that comes with medicare. The only time they need me is when a resident needs a treatment or when meds need to be given. And that goes for ALL meds. I have the keys and it is completely within my scope of practice to pass ordered narcotics, which I do nightly, everything from vicodin to oral roxanol. 100% legal. If a resident were to require blood or IV push medication, it’s my job to transfer them to the hospital. That part is true.
    My point is that while scopes of practice exists, it’s generally much broader than people are aware of, at least as far as many state’s regs are concerned. If I were to go to work at one of the major hospitals, there’s no way I’d be in charge of narcs. I also doubt I’d be dealing with as much paperwork as I do. Regulations between facilities very greatly.

    It all come down to respect and there’s good and bad in both job titles. There are RN’s who view LPN’s as inferior. There are LPN’s who view RN’s as condescending. Both views originate from ignorance over the other’s responsibilities. Last time I checked, it was our patients who mattered most.

  10. Hello Everyone,

    I am an LPN and I’m very proud of the years of service I’ve provided for the past 12 years that I’ve been a nurse. I live in SC and it is true that RNs can make more than LPNs, but I know for a fact that I make more than many RNs who work in the hospital setting, especially those coming right out of school. I know this because you can go to the human resource department and view the salaries listed for new grads, ICU nurses, med-surg. nurses, etc. I worked at the hospital for a short period of time, but I resigned because the hospital does not pay LPNs well at all where I live. The nursing home is where most LPNs will make the money-which is where I currently work. I am going back to school for my RN-BSN and hope to advance to the DNP program at MUSC. I know I am smart enough to do it and if I had to do it over again I would have never gone to LPN school, I would have gotten my RN. You have so many more opportunities for advancement or just in having your pick in any field of nursing you want. Nursing home work is hard work and it wears and tears your body down, I’d encourage anyone if they want to get into nursing become a registered nurse, don’t bother with practical nursing unless you know for sure you just want to work in a doctor’s office and don’t want to advance in your career. I’ve work at the hospital and patients have insulted me and told me that they want the real nurse, etc. You get treated with more respect as an RN, by the patients and doctors , although I have to honestly say that on the floor I was on the RNs were very kind and helpful to me, and made me feel like I was part of the team and valued my skills and knowledge. I encourage anyone pursuing a nursing career to know your goals prior to starting any program and be as knowledgeable as you can be in your field of nursing whether you choose to become an LPN or RN. HAPPY NURSING!

  11. I am an LPN and have 32 residents on one side and 40 or so on the other side of the nursing facility. Being an LPN is hard work. I just love (sarcasm) how some RNs think that an LPN is nothing. The LPNs where I work do the same thing as the RN, including picc lines (some states vary with laws). In the place where I work, there is always a RN on duty. I am going for my RN and in my third semester and to tell you the truth, there is NOT much difference between an RN and LPN of the 2 year (ADN). It is the last semester of school that is hardest and the rest you forget and learn in the real world of nursing. A RN does NOT learn ALL what he or she is responsible for in nursing school as it is taught in the field by another experienced worker. And for those RNs who think an LPN is nothing, try dealing with an LPN who has had a significant medical history that can teach YOU things that were taught before becoming an LPN whether it is medically or psychologically. I just laugh when I come into that situation and just shake my head. Or the LPN has to deal with a resident’s loved one who wants to have their RN of the family to say what the lab test means and the LPN tells the family member nicely what it means and comes back with the same answer as the RN. In the end as it has already been repeated many times before it is the resident or the patient that needs to be taken care of and with THAT being said all I can say is if I had my wish, my way, there would be HUGE changes in nursing homes so the people can get the care they deserve and pay for!!

  12. I also work in a facility that has a subacute section and another side being ltc. Our weekend supervisors are lpns and do an excellent job! As a matter of fact, they do a much better job than our RNs do. When I was in lpn school our teachers felt they would eventually grandfather lpns into RNs, of course, after taking state boards and passing. These were RNs with master degrees stating that experienced lpns are much better nurses than a lot of RNs, especially inexperienced RNs. Tell me what it is they know that we don’t. Nothing!

  13. I read this article. I would like to clarify a few things. I am a LPN. I attended a University and pursued a Degree in Psychology. After attending that University, many years later I attended a Vocational School for Practical Nursing. When you pursue a 2 year degree in Nursing, let us not forget you are getting your prerequisites out of the way. Thus, leaving you with about a year of Nursing. I have been trained in Critical Care Nursing in Florida. I have worked along side LPN’s and RN’s in PCU. I can tell you we all do the same work. LPNs have a vital role in Nursing. RN’s have their place and LPN’s have a vital role as well. I choose to become a LPN. At the same about of time I could have been an RN. I did not care about the title. I just wanted to be at the bedside caring for my patients. Within the Scope of Practice set forth by the Facility you are employed are the perimeters for LPNs. Also, the local State Boards of Nursing. There is so much a LPN can do. A title does not limit or make you a good nurse. That is something that must come from the heart.

  14. I think that condensation will always exist in the integral parts of every career that operates with multiple levels of “deemed skill or expertise”. The truth above all , with commen sence in mind , is that ambition, compassion , insight , and above all experience will always reign supreme amongst the array of titles. I am currently working as an lpn at a ltcf. I have worked there for 4 years. I would be furthering my education in nursing , however I preferred to continue on with my first love , which was law school. I know that in my facility there are 50 residents at max census , and there is no differing in RN to lpn duties from shift to shift. Only one nurse works as the charge nurse over 50 residents and multiple aides. If blood was to be hung or narcs pushed the DON would be notified. This all being said , when I look back on my years spent as a nurse , I will smile and remember proud lpns , with vast knowledge , who could give RNs a run for their money , and some RNs whom may have given the drs a run for theirs. All have their own place in scopes of practice , and rightfully so . This is how our world is ran! :) appreciate each other. The residents/ patients appreciate you

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