Nursing is an excellent major. Having a nursing degree offers graduates considerable job opportunities in an array of fields. The employment growth is good and currently, there are many jobs available for nurses.
Nurses play such an important role in our healthcare system. They have a huge impact on the lives of their patients as they are usually with them the most. There are several types of nurses. Understanding the differences between them will help you decide what career and academic path you want to take.
LPN vs LVN
Before we dive in let’s quickly look at an LPN and an LVN as there can be a little confusion between the two. An LPN is a Licensed Practical Nurse and an LVN is a Licensed Vocational Nurse. Though their names are slightly different their positions are the same. The name changes from state to state. LVNs work in California and Texas while other states employ LPNs. Therefore, these degrees and positions are essentially the same. From here on out I will use LPN and LVN interchangeably.
The Main Differences Between RNs and LPNs
The most often question I hear is, “Is an RN higher than an LPN”. The answer is yes, an RN outranks an LPN and an LVN. While both are nurses their roles and responsibilities vary. Therefore, there is a difference in education, licensure, and salary.
When comparing the differences between an RN and LPN I will look at duties, work setting, yearly salary, and education as they are what sets an RN and LPN apart.
What Do RNs Do
Registered nurses provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their families.
- 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
Most RNs work as part of a team with physicians and other healthcare specialists. Some registered nurses oversee licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants, and home health aides.
Registered nurses’ duties and titles often depend on where they work and the patients they work with. For example, an oncology nurse works with cancer patients and a geriatric nurse works with elderly patients. Some registered nurses combine one or more areas of practice. For example, a pediatric oncology nurse works with children and teens who have cancer.
What Do LPN/LVNs Do
Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses provide basic medical care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.
- Monitor patients’ health—for example, by checking their blood pressure
- Administer basic patient care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters
- Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as helping them bathe or dress
- Discuss the care they are providing to patients and listen to their concerns
- Report patients’ status and concerns to registered nurses and doctors
- Keep records on patients’ health
The duties of LPNs and LVNs vary, depending on their work setting and the state in which they work. For example, they may reinforce teaching done by registered nurses regarding how family members should care for a relative, collect samples for testing and do routine laboratory tests, or feed patients who need help eating.
LPNs and LVNs may be limited to doing certain tasks, depending on the state where they work. For example, in some states, LPNs with proper training can give medication or start intravenous (IV) drips, but in other states, LPNs cannot perform these tasks. State regulations also govern the extent to which LPNs and LVNs must be directly supervised. For example, an LPN may provide certain forms of care only with instructions from a registered nurse.
Where Do RNs Work
Registered nurses held about 3.1 million jobs in 2021. The largest employers of registered nurses were as follows:
Ambulatory healthcare services include industries such as physicians’ offices, home healthcare, and outpatient care centers. Nurses who work in home healthcare travel to patients’ homes. Public health nurses may travel to community centers, schools, and other sites.
Where Do LPNs Work
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses held about 657,200 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses were as follows:
How Much Do RNs Make
The median annual wage for registered nurses was $77,600 in May 2021.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for registered nurses in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
How Much Do LPNs and LVNs Make
The median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses was $48,070 in May 2021.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
How To Become A Registered Nurse
RNs usually take one of 2 education paths: a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), or an associate’s degree (ADN) in nursing. All Registered Nurses must be licensed.
Nursing education programs usually include courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology psychology, and social and behavioral sciences. Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree programs typically take 4 years to complete. An associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) typically takes 2 years to complete.
In addition to science courses, bachelor’s degree programs usually include education in communication, leadership, and critical thinking. A bachelor’s or higher degree is often necessary for administrative positions, research, consulting, and teaching.
Registered nurses with an AND or ASN may go back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree through an RN-to-BSN program.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Registered nurses must have a nursing license issued by the state in which they work. To become licensed, nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
Other requirements for licensing, such as passing a criminal background check, vary by state. Each state’s board of nursing provides specific requirements. For more information on the NCLEX-RN and a list of state boards of nursing, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
How to Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse
LPNs and LVNs must complete an approved educational program. These programs award a certificate or diploma and typically take about 1 year to complete, but may take longer. They are commonly found in technical schools and community colleges.
Practical nursing programs combine classroom learning in subjects such as nursing, biology, and pharmacology. All programs also include supervised clinical experience.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
After completing a state-approved educational program, prospective LPNs and LVNs 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 or LVN.
With experience, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses may advance to supervisory positions. Some LPNs and LVNs advance to other healthcare occupations. For example, an LPN may complete an LPN to RN education program to become a registered nurse.
Community Colleges Are Offering Bachelors Degrees In Nursing
I don’t want to end this article without mentioning that some community colleges are now offering BSN programs. This provides the opportunity for registered nurses to continue their post-licensure education in a community college setting and to receive a BSN degree. This will save you a lot of money as community colleges are more affordable than universities.
Be sure to check out, Community Colleges That Offer Bachelor Degrees to see if a community college in your state has a program.