LPN vs RN: What Are the Differences?

lpn and rn
lpn and rn

LPN vs RN: What Are the Differences?

If you are confused about the difference between a Registered Nurse (RN) and a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) you’re not alone. Although they are both nursing professions in the healthcare industry, there are some big differences between the two roles. If you’re thinking about one of these healthcare careers, you’ll need to know the difference so you can make the right choice for your future.

What Is an RN?

When you go to a hospital or a clinic, the nurse you probably see is an RN. Most of them work in hospitals or ambulatory care settings.

RN Duties and Responsibilities

If you were an RN, you’d perform lots of basic and advanced nursing tasks including:

  • Administer patient medications
  • Perform wound care
  • Insert IVs
  • Create a plan of care for each patient
  • Take vital signs
  • Perform immediate life support
  • Provide advanced cardiac life support
  • Admit and discharge patients
  • Create reports and documentation
  • Transfer patients in and out of bed
  • Help patients eat, dress and bathe

To become an RN, you’ll need a degree like a Bachelor of Science in nursing or an associate degree in nursing. These programs can take 2-4 years to complete. In addition to core nursing courses, you will be required to take some training in social, behavior, and physical science. As an RN you can choose to specialize in an area like obstetrics, pediatrics, community health, and more.

Following your education, you will also need to apply for a nursing license to start working. These licenses are issued by the state you plan to work in. As part of the process, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). There are over three million RNs that work in the US.

What Is an LPN?

LPNs often work in more varied settings than RNs. You might find yourself in an acute care facility, but you could also work in a nursing home or residential care facility. Or you might work in a doctor’s office. You might even do in-home visits.

LPN Duties and Responsibilities

As an LPN, you’d be responsible for basic nursing care, which could include tasks such as:

  • Administer medications
  • Chart medical records
  • Take vital signs
  • Change wound dressings
  • Collect patient specimens (like blood or urine)
  • Care for patients with ventilators, urinary catheters, tracheostomy tubes, and nasogastric tubes
  • Perform CPR in emergencies
  • Report to doctor’s and RNs about patient status
  • Check blood pressure

To become an LPN you would need at least a year of training in a practical nursing program. Along with the basic nursing training, you may also take courses in biology and pharmacology.

Like RNs, LPNs will also need to apply for a nursing license to start working, which will be issued by the state they plan to work in. As part of the process, LPNs must take and pass their own NCLEX exam, the NCLEX-PN.


Are you interested in a medical career where you’d be on the frontlines in times of crisis, helping patients and the healthcare team? If you want to help others, but want to do it quickly, you could train to become an LPN at Porter and Chester Institute in as little as 15 months. Get started today.