LPN First Or Straight To An RN Program – What Are My Options?


An LPN stands for a Licensed Practical Nurse while an RN stands for a Registered Nurse, but what’s the difference between the two, and where should you start?  The simple explanation is that a Registered Nurse has completed more education than a Licensed Practical Nurse, but it goes deeper into their duties as they are very different from each other.  Each of these career paths have their own benefits, and it is important to choose the best path for you based on both your experience as well as your interest in nursing as a career choice.  We’ve outlined some of the benefits and duties of both an LPN and an RN to help you decide which is the best path for you.

Starting As An LPN

While Licensed Practical Nurses are not able to do everything that Registered Nurses can do, they still get hands on experience treating patients.  This is largely beneficial to anyone who is possibly unsure if they want to be an RN because being an LPN will give you the experience you need to decide if this is the career for you or not.  You’ll be getting this experience without having to go through, and pay for, the additional schooling that it takes to become a registered nurse.

LPN Education

The education necessary for becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse is a one-year program that includes classroom science classes such as biology, pharmacology, and nursing as well as supervised hands-on clinical experience.  Once this training program is completed, you will have to take the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-PN.  Passing the NCLEX-PN is required to receive an LPN license and be able to begin working as a Licensed Practical Nurse. 

LPN Duties & Capabilities

Licensed Practical Nurses are qualified to record patient vitals, report patient status to RN’s and doctors, change wound dressings, give medications, feed and bathe patients, and follow healthcare plans.  The most common jobs for LPN’s are often in nursing homes, home health care, and hospice centers.  Licensed Practical Nurses cannot diagnose any medical conditions or prescribe any type of medication, instead, they are there to take care of the day-to-day needs of patients and keep them comfortable.

Starting As An RN

If you’re confident in your decision to pursue a career as a nurse and want to be able to do more than the day-to-day medical tasks then going straight to being a Registered Nurse may be the path for you. 

RN Education

While each state has slightly different rules and regulations for becoming a Registered Nurse, the standard is that you’ll need to attend a nursing program and pass the exam to become licensed.  There are two types of nursing programs; associate (ARN) and bachelor’s (BRN).  The associate and bachelors programs both give the same license, however, the BRN program requires more education and therefore typically results in higher-paying jobs and a wider range of job options.  Following both programs, you will need to take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to receive your license as a Registered Nurse and be able to start working.  If you wish to pursue further education, RN’s also have the option to specialize in a certain area such as becoming an ICU nurse or pediatric nurse. 

RN Duties & Capabilities

A Registered Nurse is usually the first person you will see when visiting the doctor’s office, and they will take your vitals such as heartbeat, blood pressure, and temperature and ask about the reason for your visit.  While patients cannot make a visit to see an RN directly, the RN is the one that initially takes down your concerns in order to create notes for the doctor that will see you next.  Registered Nurses that want to take it a step further can become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses or APRN’s.  APRN positions can include Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Certified Nurse Midwife, Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Nurse Practitioner.  

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