March 11, 2024

LPN vs RN in Healthcare: Understanding the Distinctions

An LVN speaks to a patient in a hospital room.

In the dynamic world of healthcare, the roles of licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) play vital and distinct parts in patient care. If you've ever wondered about the differences between LPNs and RNs, this blog aims to provide clarity on their roles, responsibilities, education, and scope of practice within the healthcare landscape.

Examining the difference between LPN and RN roles

Education and training

  • LPN: Licensed practical nurses typically undergo a one-year practical nursing program, often offered by vocational schools or community colleges. The program covers basic nursing skills, patient care, and anatomy.
  • RN: Registered nurses follow a more comprehensive educational path. They can obtain an associate degree in nursing (ADN) through a two-year program or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) through a four-year program. BSN programs often include a broader curriculum, including leadership and critical thinking skills.

Scope of practice

  • LPN: LPNs focus on providing basic nursing care under the supervision of RNs or physicians. They may administer medications, monitor patients' vital signs, and assist with daily activities such as bathing and dressing.
  • RN: RNs have a broader scope of practice, allowing them to assess patients, develop care plans, administer medications, and coordinate overall patient care. They can also take on leadership roles and specialize in various areas such as pediatrics, critical care, or surgery.


  • LPN: LPNs typically work under the guidance of RNs or physicians. They contribute to the overall care of patients, ensuring their comfort and well-being.
  • RN: RNs take on more complex responsibilities, including patient assessment, decision-making, and developing and implementing care plans. They often serve as leaders in healthcare teams, collaborating with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive patient care.

Settings and work environments

  • LPN: LPNs commonly work in settings such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or clinics. They play a crucial role in supporting the daily needs of patients.
  • RN: RNs have a more diverse range of work settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, and community health organizations. Their advanced training allows them to adapt to various healthcare environments.

Career advancement

  • LPN: LPNs who aspire to advance in their careers often choose to pursue additional education to become RNs. This can open doors to more diverse opportunities and leadership roles.
  • RN: RNs have the option to pursue advanced degrees such as a master's or doctoral degree, which can lead to specialized roles such as nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or nurse manager.

While both LPNs and RNs contribute significantly to patient care, the distinctions in their education, scope of practice, and responsibilities are crucial. LPNs provide essential support in delivering basic nursing care, while RNs take on a more comprehensive role, incorporating critical thinking and leadership skills. 

Understanding these differences is essential for anyone considering a career in nursing or seeking clarity on the healthcare professionals involved in their care. Whether you're an aspiring nurse or a healthcare consumer, appreciating the unique contributions of LPNs and RNs enriches our understanding of the collaborative and multifaceted world of healthcare.

Explore related blogs:

Find RN and LPN per diem shifts near you

See available shifts