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The Difference Between LPNs and RNs

The Difference Between LPNs and RNs

Kathy Quan | NursingLink

LPNs vs. RNs: Which role is more important? Who does more? Who works harder?

The argument is nothing new. The LPN is quick to tell you she does so much more than make beds, give back rubs, and take vital signs. And the RN counters that she has more education and medical training and is called upon for more advanced procedures.

The sad truth is that no matter what kind of nurse you are, all nurses work hard and are grossly underpaid for what they do. Much of the time, nurses don’t even receive a “thank you,” much less any real respect or acknowledgment for choosing a career of care.

But there’s no point in denying that there are major differences in the scope of practice between LPNs and RNs. Sometimes the gap is wider than others, depending on the level of education, training, and licensure or certification, as well as a state’s specific guidelines. One is not more important than the other, but both are crucial to nursing, and the quality of patient care.

The Workplace Dynamic Between LPNs and RNs

The LPN works under the supervision of an RN or physician. They are not allowed to assess a patient, but they may collect data such as vital signs, including pain and blood glucose levels, and keep the supervising RN or physician informed. LPNs may also note how the patient looks and acts, or responds to stimuli, and report this information accordingly. However, under licensure, the LPN cannot interpret data, or make decisions for the patient. She has to report these findings to the RN or MD and they will make the decisions and delegate care.

Because of the scope of their practice is limited by their license, it may seem like LPNs do less than RNs. The fact is, the LPN may only perform her job as far as she is legally allowed to. Even though she may learn quickly on the job, becoming familiar with certain medical conditions, and knowledgeable about a patient’s condition from years of practical experience, under licensure, the LPN may not proceed without direction from the supervising nurse or physician. In actual practice, these lines might often be blurred, but legally speaking, these are very real limitations.

In fact, many LPNs go on to become RNs, enrolling in accelerated degree programs and bypassing the initial steps since they already have basic bedside education and hands-on experience.

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