Registered Nursing and Practical Nursing: Understanding the Difference

practical nursing
Practical Nursing

A lot of people probably can’t tell the exact difference between registered nursing and practical nursing. Both careers are in the same nursing and healthcare industry. However, when it boils down to the job description, educational requirement and salary, the two positions become clearly different from one another.

If you’re looking into a career in nursing, first, you should take a look and understand the basic principles of a registered nurse (RN) and a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Both are nursing jobs. You can also try some practice tests in practical nursing first to help you understand better.

However, registered nursing requires a minimum of a two-year degree or a three-year diploma from a nursing school. RNs have a wider set of responsibilities and are mostly working in hospitals. They are responsible for planning treatments and administering medicines to patients to help bring back their health. They are allowed to conduct certain procedures and thus, they have a higher nurse salary than LPNs and CNAs.

The job also requires them to perform above average critical thinking. Check your skills to help you on your goal to become a practitioner in the nursing field.

Meanwhile, practical nursing only requires at least one year of education that will earn them a certification. They are required to perform basic nursing care and work under the supervision of an RN. As a nursing assistant, they will have to report all the observations and changes in a patient’s health condition to the nurse or medical professional. The reason why the title is called a practical nursing is because, as you can see, they do most of the practical stuff and legwork.

Practical Nursing vs. Other Nursing Jobs

An LPN also has a different set of responsibilities from other types of nurses. However, some of their daily tasks and activities are quite similar to some of the others. To give you a better idea, here are some of the duties and responsibilities of the other types of nurses.

Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

An LVN is a term that separates LPNs from LVNs. This title applied in the states of Texas and California.

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)

Similar to an LPN, a CNA also requires one year of CNA classes which will earn them a certification. There are several types of CNA programs being offered including CNA classes online. Students are provided with a CNA study guide to help them in their education. They perform their duties under the supervision of RNs and LPNs.

Nurse Practitioners (NP)

They must complete a BSN and MSN education. Afterward, they need to pass a licensing exam in order to become a certified NP. When it comes to the daily tasks, NPs have more freedom than other types of nurses. They can work independently without supervision.

Working Environment

Most licensed practical nursing practitioners work long term in the healthcare industry. Thus, they can have tons of opportunities to climb the ranks. The also supervise CNAs who are performing the most basic tasks. According to a 2011 report, LPNs are most likely to perform administrative responsibilities compared to their counterparts in hospitals.

In a hospital setting, LPNs tend to have more limited opportunities and often don’t have many options when it comes to specialization. For every state, there is a Nurse Practice Act that determines the scope of how RNs and LPNs should practice.

According to a BLS report, 29% of licensed practical nursing jobs are in nursing care centers while 15% work in hospitals, 12% are under doctor’s clinics and 9% are in home health care. 48% of registered nurses, on the other hand, work in general hospitals while 6% are in local hospitals and 5% work in long-term care.

The Demand for RNs, LPNs, CNAs, LVNs and NPs

The nursing industry is a very demanding field and requires high standards of practice. There are more RNs compared to other nursing jobs in the U.S. because the healthcare industry values their skills greatly.

Nonetheless, there is no shortage when it comes to the employment opportunities for LPNs, CNAs, LVNs and NPs. The demand for their jobs is continuing to grow.

State Requirements

The scope of practice depends on the requirements of the state you are in. Sometimes, different states have different policies when it comes to certain fields, categories and treatments. For example, some states may allow LPNs or CNAs more responsibilities but may require additional certification.

The Bottomline

Before you decide on what type of nursing program you will partake in, compare the different types of nursing jobs mentioned above. Take note of the duties, responsibilities, educational requirement and salary to be able to determine your career path. Is it in the profession of a registered nursing, practical nursing or certified nursing assistant? Knowing the difference will help you decide better.

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