lpn vs rn

Does the nursing field intrigue you? Have you considered a nursing career but are unsure whether to get an LPN or an RN license? Licensed practical nurses (LPN) and registered nurses (RN) both work to support patient care and play a vital role in the healthcare industry. There are many differences between the two as well. We’ve put this brief guide together to help you better understand the LPN vs. RN differences.

Pursue your nursing career by training at Dorsey College!

What are the differences between LPNs and RNs?

LPNs and RNs differ in various areas, including education, job responsibilities, and duties. 

Let’s start with the differences in education. RNs have two education path options. You can attend a 4-year program to earn a bachelor’s degree or enroll in a more career-focused two-year program to earn an associate’s degree. No matter your path, you will still be required to sit for a state-administered licensing exam to receive an RN license.

LPNs are only required to complete a state-approved program, which typically takes one year of schooling and earn a diploma or certificate. Like RNs, LPNs are also required to sit for a state administered licensing exam to earn an LPN license.  

The additional year of education allows RNs to go beyond providing basic care. Registered Nurses work closely with doctors to develop patient care plans and help educate patients on conditions. Licensed Practical Nurses help support RNs by providing basic patient care and managing patient care plans. RNs and LPNs, alongside physicians, work as a team to ensure patients receive the best possible care.  

Still not sure which nursing career path is best for you? Continue reading to explore the RN and LPN career paths in more detail and determine which is the right fit for you. 

What is an LPN?

An LPN is a licensed practical nurse. LPNs assist RNs and healthcare practitioners in providing basic nursing care. LPNs ensure patient comfort and assist in ensuring that things in the medical setting run smoothly and correctly. LPNs care for patients at all life stages. LPNs promote, maintain, and restore health, focusing on patient stability. LPNs also spend most of their day observing patients and recording data for patient history. LPNs help with essential patient needs such as bathing, dressing, injections, and medication.

What are the Duties of an LPN?

LPNs represent an entry-level nursing position. Entry-level nursing positions such as LPNs work may have a variety of duties that support the care of patients. Some of the LPNs duties may include:

  • Administrative work 
  • Patient Documentation
  • Providing Immunizations 
  • Giving medication as prescribed by the physician
  • Referrals
  • Digital Communications
  • Medication Records Keeping
  • Compliance and Safety Monitoring

The LPN’s day-to-day duties focus on caring for patients and performing administrative work. LPNs typically serve under the supervision of an RN or licensed physician. LPN duties can vary by state, work environment, and employer. 

Where do LPNs Work?

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) work in nearly all medical environments. LPNs are an essential part of a healthcare team and work in:  

  • Nursing homes
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Home Health Care
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Palliative providers
  • Urgent care providers
  • Hospitals
  • Doctor offices
  • Schools

Select a medical work environment based on the LPN specialty of interest.

What are the Requirements for an LPN?

Completing an accredited nursing program is the only way to receive a diploma in practical nursing. To be eligible for an LPN nursing program, you must have a high school diploma or GED and meet other school requirements. An LPN program can take up to one year to complete. Aspiring LPNs who enroll in an LPN program can learn foundational nursing skills and be required to complete clinical hours.

When choosing an LPN program, you will want a program that provides students with simulation labs and real-world experiences of an LPN. LPN students also gain confidence through trial runs with expert instructors and clinical experience with local healthcare partners coordinated by the nursing program.

After completing an LPN program, graduates are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) and must pass the state-administered nursing examination to receive their LPN license.

Can I get an LPN Certification Online?

Depending on the school and the program, most LPN programs are offered either on-campus or as a Hybrid program. In a hybrid program, you complete online LPN classes and practical courses via the web, but clinical hours are conducted in person. A hybrid program provides flexibility for people planning to earn the requisite credentials for an entry-level nursing position.

Now that we have explored the licensed practical nurse career path, let’s learn more about being a registered nurse.

What is an RN?

An RN is a registered nurse. Like an LPN, RNs must complete training and a licensing exam before practicing as a nurse and providing patient care, though their roles are different. RNs ensure patient care is conducted according to the policies and standards of their medical facility and the plan of care.  

RNs work closely with physicians to assess and identify patients’ needs and formulate medical plans and treatments. Hands-on care and coordination of care for every patient is one of the top priorities for an RN. RNs help keep medical environments performing to the highest of standards.

What are the Duties of an RN?

RNs manage tasks; no two days are the same. RNs alongside physicians monitor patients’ health status to develop and update care plans. The RN is often the direct caretaker for patients, handles medication administration, and schedules procedures and operations. RN job duties can include:

  • Administrative Duties
  • Practical Duties
  • Records Keeping
  • Staff Records
  • Detailing Symptoms
  • Digital Communications
  • Medication Records Keeping
  • Compliance and Safety Monitoring
  • Creating Patient Care Plans
  • Administering care, medications, and diagnostic testing

An RN’s responsibilities can vary depending on the specialty and medical work environment.  

 Where do RNs Work?

There are various work environments in which an RN can work.  Some of these are listed below:

  • Hospitals.
  • Telehealth services
  • Emergency Rooms
  • Physician Offices
  • Schools
  • Birthing Centers
  • Clinics
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Home health care

What are the school requirements for an RN?

RNs need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. RNs must have a high school diploma or graduate equivalency degree (GED) to enter an accredited nursing program, along with meeting other requirements set forth by their school.

An ADN or BSN is an educational stepping stone for an RN. RNs can gain knowledge and skills in patient care, communication, treatment plans, critical thinking, and organization during the nursing program.

Each nursing degree option has its pros and cons, you need to choose the degree program that meets your needs and is the best fit for you. After completing an RN accreditation degree program, graduates are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and must pass the state-administered examination to receive their RN license.

Can I get an RN Degree Online?

There are hybrid RN programs available that allow you to complete course work online and clinical hours in a physical location. A hybrid RN program gives flexibility and convenience to take classes around your schedule.

Choosing the Right Path!

Now that the differences between an LPN and RN are outlined, the decision is in your hands! Before making the big decision, evaluate your desired timeline and analyze whether you want to become an LPN or RN. No matter your choice, as an LPN or RN you will have an opportunity to better patients’ lives as a dedicated and supportive nurse. 

Want to get started today? Begin your nursing training with Dorsey College!

Whether you pursue an LPN or RN career, Dorsey College can help you get started. The Dorsey College LPN and RN nursing programs combine traditional classroom instruction with real-world, hands-on training through labs and clinical training with local healthcare partners. 

You will also be able to work with experienced instructors with expertise in their fields and meet or exceed the State of Michigan and accreditation criteria, guidelines, and qualifications. Not only does Dorsey offer great instructors, but also a community that is committed to your success. 

If you’re interested in enrolling in either the LPN or RN nursing program at Dorsey College, the first step is to schedule a meeting with our Admissions team. They will become your guide throughout the enrollment process, ensuring all your questions are answered, and your needs are met. 

Take the first step to a lasting career in healthcare by training at Dorsey College! Contact us today!

Our programs:

Practical Nurse program

Associate of Applied Science in Nursing program

Ready to make a change? Take the first step!
Requesting information requires no obligation or commitments.