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What’s the difference between an RN and LPN?

NMC Health Medical Center in Newton Ks entrance with yellow bar hospital and glass panel front entrance newton medical center

When you go to the doctor’s office or the hospital, you might notice there are lots of different letters on the badges of the nursing staff. Two of those are registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs) – but what is the difference between an RN and an LPN?

Nurse wearing orange mask

Difference in roles

RNs are responsible for creating the treatment plan to help a patient improve their health. They are also responsible for ensuring the healthcare team, LPNs, CNAs and nurse techs, assist in providing appropriate supportive cares to reach the treatment goal. 

LPNs are nurses who can also give medicine; those who have obtained their IV certification can insert IVs and administer specific medications through an IV site. They will also insert or remove foley catheters and nasogastric tubes. LPNs monitor patients and communicate any changes in vital signs to the RN and provider. 

At Newton Medical Center, we offer patient-centered care under the leadership of registered nurses. LPNs are some of the medical staff supervised by RNs. They are responsible for updating a patient’s chart, providing feedings through nasogastric (NG) tubes and assisting to carry out the plan of care.

All of nursing, RNs, LPNs, CNAs and nurse techs, are responsible for helping patients with their daily living activities such as going to the bathroom, eating, getting up and moving around, brushing their teeth, bathing and more.

black nurse graduating from college, throwing confetti

Difference in education

Another difference between an RN and an LPN comes with the amount of schooling needed for each role. RNs go to school for longer, typically two to four years. When a person chooses the career path of becoming an RN, they can get their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) which is a four-year degree, or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) which is a two-year program. 

The LPN program takes about a year and results in a certificate. A person can receive their LPN certification through community college or a technical school. This shorter career path means less time before a person begin working in the healthcare field. Many LPNs go on to continue their education to get their RN license as there are multiple bridge program options available.

At NMC, we encourage continuing education through college courses or training opportunities and offer tuition reimbursement for employees who go back to school. NMC has partnered with the Kansas Board of Regents to offer the Kansas Nursing Service Scholarship to applicants wanting to complete an RN or LPN program.

RNs often have additional certifications such as advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) or pediatric advanced life support (PALS) and chemotherapy administration training. Certification in ACLS and PALS means if a person’s heart stops beating or they stop breathing, they have the training to give emergency medications and hopefully save their life.

cash laying next to packages of masks

Difference in pay

As with any job, the amount of money an RN or LPN is paid is determined by the number of years of experience.

Both RNs and LPNs have to pass state tests to receive their nursing license. RNs take the National Council Licensure Exam for RNs (NCLEX-RN) and LPNs take the same test for LPNs (NCLEX-PN).

RNs can become certified in a specialty in the field of their choice after about a year working in that field. LPNs have the option to become certified in wound, hospice and dialysis.

Newton Medical Center has several positions available for those in the nursing field. If you’re looking for a new role, check out our job listings

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