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Differences Between LPN & RN

registtered nurse rnLPN versus RN- what are the main differences between a LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) and a RN (Registered Nurse)? The main difference between the two consists of multiple factors which we will list and then give in-depth duties and requirements of both to better illustrate the differences, but, in short, the main differences between the two are: Education, Duties and Responsibilities.

LPNs have a 2 year Associates Degree, whereas RNs typically have a 4 year Bachelors Degree.

Some of the more common duties of an LPN are:

* Taking vital signs, such as temperature, weight and blood pressure.

* Giving the patient medication as prescribed by their physician, including injections.

* Basic wound care, which includes cleaning and bandaging the wound/wounds.

* Taking medical histories and entering that information into the patients chart and into the computer system.

* Managing IV’s.

* Supervising CNA’s (Certified Nursing Assistants).

* Safely moving patients.

* Monitoring and recording food and fluid intake and output.

* Ensure patients and their families understand discharge & release instructions.

* Assessing patient’s reactions to medications.

* Asses a patient’s mental health.

* Providing emotional support.

* Assist with daily needs such as feeding, bathing and dressing.

* For long term patients, LPN’s monitor a patients skin for rashes and potential bed sores.

In addition to the above common and specific duties of an LPN, there are also administrative paperwork responsibilities that they also perform such as:

* Schedule patient appointments.

* Keeping medical records up to date.

* Patient billing.

* Working with insurance companies.

* Writing prescriptions at the physician’s request.

The Median Base Salary for an LPN is around $40,000 per year.


licensed practical nurse lpnRegistered Nurses, with their full 4 year bachelors degree in hand, go through much more intensive and in-depth class room studies and clinical training. RN’s work with a broad variety of patients spanning the entire spectrum of healthcare from pediatric to geriatric and specialize in one or more areas such as cardiac care, neurological care, dermatology, and neo-natal intensive care.

RN’s are tasked with, but not limited to, the following duties:

* Observe and record patient’s behavior.

* Administer medication and treatments.

* Perform various diagnostic tests.

* Outlining and establishing patient treatment plans.

* Operate a wide variety of medical equipment.

* Perform minor surgical procedures.

* Apply sutures.

* Consult with Doctors and other healthcare professionals as needed.

* Supervising LPN’s and CNA’s.

* Treating a variety of medical emergencies such as, burns, heart attack, strokes, trauma injuries, and post-operative care.

Typically the first two years of BSN school for an RN are spent taking the prerequisite courses which include Anatomy, Psychology, Physiology, Chemistry, Algebra to name a few.

After the pre-nursing prerequisites are completed students then apply for the nursing school in which they move on to Pathophysiology, microbiology, health assessment and research along with clinical rotations. You must have 120 total credit hours to graduate from the BSN program.

Core elements of the nursing courses for RN’s focuses on the history of nursing, theories and skills essential to the profession. Some of the major areas addressed are critical thinking and decision making, cultural variations, legal and ethical aspects of nursing, different healthcare systems, and economic factors that effect healthcare and the nursing field as a whole.

medical school nursingPathophysiology class covers the effects of an illness in an otherwise normally functioning body. Students learn about common illnesses and the specific patterns of disease in order to better understand the process of illness and healing. Students also investigate various ways in which they may be able to affect change in an ill person. Strong emphases is placed on understanding the commonalities of a variety of diseases, and are also taught to have an understanding between the various diseases and their symptoms to help them in diagnosing the problem.

Pharmacology class for a RN focuses on drug therapy. Nursing students learn about commonly used therapeutic drugs, how drugs affect bodily systems and the effects of commonly prescribed drugs. Ethical and legal aspects of prescription medications are also addressed in this class.

Health Assessment class for a RN teaches the student how to asses the entire body, including the physiological and psychosocial aspects. Basic health assessment skills taught are, assessment of the respiratory, musculoskeletal, cardiac, abdominal and lymphatic systems. Students will also learn how to obtain and gather data about the patient for the patients health history and also learn how to check the heath of the eyes, ears, nose and throat to name a few.

In the junior and senior years at RN nursing school, the curriculum focuses on the nursing sciences, and emphasis moves from the classroom to health facilities. This is where students are exposed to clinical skills, nursing theory, and the varied roles nurses play in the health-care system. Courses include nurse leadership, health promotion, family planning, mental health, environmental and occupational health, adult and pediatric care, medical and surgical care, psychiatric care, community health, management, and home health care.

In addition to all of the above, RN nursing students will be exposed to and taught to learn a variety of medical software that is used in hospitals around the world. Computers play a vital role in nursing that range from patient records, various drug and equipment inventories, communicating with various physicians about a patients health status, patient discharge instructions and after discharge care, to simple staff scheduling. But more importantly computers run such a vast majority of medical equipment that modern medicine would not be as good as or possible today. During your studies in both the Associate and Baccalaureate curriculums you will get hands on experience and learn how to run and maintain a wide variety of computer operated medical equipment. Some of this equipment ranges from the simple vital sign measuring equipment that takes patients vital signs to the CT scanner.

The average median base salary for an experienced RN is around $75,000 per year.

All Registered Nurse and Licensed Practical Nurse program graduates take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses/Practical Nurses (NCLEX-RN or PN). Obtaining this license is required in order to legally be eligible for employment as a Nurse. NCLEX License renewal requirements vary by state and may include continuing education courses and a background check.

So as you can see, the different training requirements between the two professions is vast and takes a lot of effort and hard work not only in class, but on the job as well. At the end of the day, the main difference between the two, or at least what most of us care about, is that as a RN you will make a lot more money than a LPN.

If you are currently a LPN, and you want to look at changing careers to become a RN, you may want to consider a LPN to RN bridge program.

What do you think? Did we leave out any major difference between the two professions? We would love to hear your thoughts if you just leave a comment in the box below the video.


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George Tall

Author at Hug Your Nurse
George Tall works in the legal field, is a father of three, and a husband of a RN for 25 years. He enjoys writing about everything, especially nursing! He has been writing for a living, at least partially, since around 2000. As an author on dozens of websites, he enjoys being factual, while spinning a bit of humor where possible.
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