RN vs. LPN: Scope of Practice and Opportunities for Career Advancement
Differences in LPN and RN Scope of Practice
Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licenced Practical Nurses (LPNs) complete many of the same fundamental nursing tasks. Both types of nurses work together to care for sick and injured patients. But there are some differences in the scope of practice of an RN and an LPN.
RN vs. LPN Job Duties
A Registered Nurse and a Licensed Practical Nurse’s roles can be quite different. But to be successful LPNs and RNs must work together for positive patient outcomes.
- Monitor a patient’s vital signs
- Provide comfort and emotional support for both the patient and their families
- Administer medications
- In some states, LPNs must become certified in Intravenous fluid administration before providing medication via an IV
- Report to an RN
- Administer medications
- Work independently without constant supervision from another healthcare provider
- Teach patients about the disease process and can educate them on post-surgical instructions and medication side effects
- Triage patients
According to nursingprocess.org, an important difference between a Licensed Practical Nurse vs. a Registered Nurses scope of practice is that LPNs are not allowed to do initial clinical assessments. Providing healthcare providers with an accurate initial physical assessment of a patient is one of the most essential components of the nursing process for RNs. The American College of Critical Care Nurses states LPNs are not allowed to perform initial assessments because a Registered Nurse must be the one to interpret assessment data and identify patient concerns/needs that require nursing interventions.
What Can Be Delegated to an LPN?
Delegation is defined as the act of transferring responsibility and accountability to another person to carry out a task while maintaining accountability for the action and the outcome. RNs must delegate during their shift, and they will commonly delegate to LPNs and nurse aides. Some of the tasks that an RN may delegate to an LPN include gathering data such as vital signs and reporting those to a Registered Nurse, giving medications, and completing routine procedures.
What Cannot Be Delegated to an LPN?
Registered Nurses cannot delegate certain tasks to a Licensed Practical Nurse. LPNs are not allowed to analyze data such as vital signs or make decisions based on those vital signs. The LPN must report those findings to the RN, who will then decide how to proceed with care. Other tasks that an RN may not delegate are:
- Administration of IV medications (unless LPN is certified in IV administration)
- Administration of blood products
- Any tasks where the LPN would have to evaluate patient care or assess patient care
RN and LPN Career Advancement
Both Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses have the opportunity to advance their careers. LPNs often choose to advance their career by attaining certain certifications, such as IV administration, or by pursuing management positions. LPN-trained nurses may also go on to complete an LPN to RN program to become registered nurses. Typical LPN to RN programs can take between one year and four years. Registered Nurses have other options for career advancement. RNs may choose to go on and receive their Masters Degree, complete certification in their area of nursing, and also the opportunity for advanced management positions. It is also financially beneficial for nurses to advance their careers. In 2021 the average salary for an RN was $82,750. For an LPN their average salary was $51,850 thus making it very lucrative for nurses to continue on and graduate from an RN program.
NCLEX Exam for RNs and LPNs
Both RNs and LPNs alike must take an exam to be able to become licensed to practice nursing. To become an RN, nurses take the NCLEX-RN exam, and LPNs must complete the NCLEX-PN exam. There are many similarities between the exams but also some key differences. The NCLEX-RN focuses on the management of care and supervision of others while assisting RNs and working under supervision is more central to the NCLEX-PN. Both exams are computer adaptive and effective, each having participants answer between 85 and 150 questions and will focus heavily on nursing clinical judgment.
NCLEX Test Preparation
To prepare for the NCLEX examination, many RNs and LPNs choose to take part in an NCLEX review course to fill in the gaps left from nursing school or for an organized study plan. Feuer NCLEX Comprehensive Content Based Review Course has been helping students prepare for the NCLEX since 1971. The review courses offered are Live Online, Self-Paced Online, and Home-Study Courses, allowing students to choose the course best for their learning needs and style. Courses like these help students after graduation hone their skills and enhance their knowledge of nursing content and test-taking strategies.
Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses are vital in our healthcare operations. Each has an important skill set that is necessary for a nursing unit to work cohesively and smoothly. With the nursing shortage in the United States not improving soon, RNs and LPNs will need to continue working together to improve healthcare outcomes in our county. According to an article from the National Institute of Medicine, The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 275,000 additional nurses are needed from 2020 to 2030. This creates a great opportunity for those wanting to enter the nursing field whether they choose to become an LPN or an RN.
We are here to help you on your NCLEX journey.
Written by Feuer Nursing Review.