LPN vs RN: What's the Difference, Exactly?

Published
Nov 13, 2018

Nov 13, 2018

There are just over 400,000 nurses practicing in Canada.

Some of them are Registered Nurses, or RNs, while others are Licensed Practical Nurses.

You might be interested in becoming a nurse yourself. But what is the difference between an LPN vs RN? Which programme is right for you?

In this article, we'll discuss some of the major differences between an LPN and an RN, including work settings and education. Once you've read this article, you'll feel more prepared to decide which nursing career path to follow.

Educational Differences in LPN vs RN

One major difference between an LPN and an RN is the fact that an RN must put in more time in education than an LPN.

Registered nurses must take courses that last anywhere from 18 to 36 months before they can earn their degrees. In some cases, they simply earn a certificate or an ADN, which is an associate degree.

Most people who want to eventually become an RN choose to pursue a BSN, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This degree is more competitive, and many employers prefer or require their employees to possess a BSN in order to work there.

Registered Nurses may also decide to go on to pursue a Masters in Nursing. In some cases, they may also pursue a doctorate in nursing. This is for both further studies and to open doors to a more rewarding career.

LPN, or Licensed Professional Nurses, often complete their license in 12 months. For some, this may take longer depending on personal circumstances.

Whereas BSN degrees focus on science, humanities and patient care, LPN degrees are almost solely about patient care.

These degrees are designed to ensure that those who enroll are ready to enter the workforce as quickly as possible.

There are also "bridge programmes," which help those with LPNs become RNs more quickly than other students who are just starting out. Some individuals choose to go the LPN route so that they can start working immediately. Once they're in the workforce, they can fund further studies.

Learn more about deciding which university, trade school or major might meet your needs.

Where Do LPNs and RNs Work and What Do They Do?

Nurses with any educational background can work in a wide variety of settings. You can find both in hospital settings, though an RN is more qualified than an LPN to do more specialized work and to carry out more involved tasks.

LPNs may do things like give patients medication and take their vital signs. RNs may do this as well, but they are qualified to give much more specialist care.

Largely, LPNs work in long-term care facilities, though LPNs can work wherever they are needed. You can often find LPNs in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and residential drug or mental health centers. In these facilities, they will work with patients daily, typically attending to their changing needs.

Many LPNs prefer to work in a long-term care facility, as RNs are often found in hospitals. RNs usually have more responsibilities than LPNs in hospitals because they have more education. Additionally, if they've obtained a Masters or doctorate, they can specialize in certain types of nursing. LPNs are unable to do so because of the limit of their scope of education.

In hospital settings, RNs generally have more responsibility than LPNs. They may even be in charge of LPNs.

Within care facilities, LPNs may decide to pursue a job because they can take on more responsibilities as there aren't as many RNs on staff. In some cases, they can even move up the job ladder, earning raises and bonuses.

Because of the limit of their education, LPNs might be stuck in hospital jobs without upward mobility. This is because RNs are almost always senior to them, despite their experience.

LPNs, however, can use their experience in an RN programme, such as a BSN, ADN or diploma programme, and become a registered nurse.

Some might even argue that their experience on the job makes it easier to get through nursing school, and can make climbing the ranks less arduous.

Salary Levels

As one can expect, an RN earns more than an LNP. How much more depends on where the individuals are working and what their responsibilities are.

In the United States, an RN typically makes $24,000 more than their LNP counterparts each year.

There are variables to this, however, as LNPs with more responsibility will likely earn a better income. RNs without much responsibility or as low-level staff nurses might find themselves earning a salary closer to the of an LNP.

How Do Nurses Become Licensed?

In both the case of an RN and LNP, you must pass an exam to become certified. Some may argue that the LNP exam is less difficult, but this may be because the scope required is less extensive.

Both RNs and LPNs must pass a background check in order to work. Additionally, both must keep their licenses current with their licensing agencies. They must also be working in a manner that is helpful and ethical.

Deciding Which Path to Choose

Deciding on an LPN vs RN can be a difficult decision. But it is important to remember that although an LPN is technically a lower degree, you can always return to school to get your RN. If you find nursing is something you truly love, you'll more than likely want to move up the ranks. Remember, you're not locked into whatever programme you choose, and you can advance into other specialties.

For more information on nursing jobs all over Canada, visit our website.