Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse?

Making informed decisions is important in all aspects of healthcare, including the decision to become a nurse. There are different types of nursing careers to consider when venturing into a college that offers a nursing degree. Educational requirements, job duties, potential for career growth and salary vary by the nursing degree, and its best to be well-informed before choosing a nursing career.

A LPN, or Licensed Practical Nurse, is considered more of a general nurse that can fulfill many of the basic functions of nursing. In order to become certified as a LPN, one must have a high school diploma or GED, as well as a year of study in a credited LPN program. LPNs are required to have some clinical experience and pass the NCLEX-PN test in order to receive their certification. LPNs can work in hospitals, nursing care centers or other facilities and fulfill the basic functions of nursing such as taking vital signs, collecting fluid samples, updating patient records and other duties as assigned. They are unable to perform any critical care interventions and are largely seen in medical areas that require basic care for patients with conventional medical conditions or those in long-term care facilities. An LPN must be under the direct supervision of a physician or registered nurse and the average pay for a LPN is between $16 to $18 an hour.

An RN, or Registered Nurse, is a nurse that has completed a two- to four-year degree in nursing and has passed the NCLEX-RN exam as well as more clinical experience than a LPN. Registered nurses have the option of specializing in their fields, especially if they choose to further their education, and are able to administer medications, construct and administer nursing care plans and act as more of a proactive medical professional than a LPN. RNs can work in trauma centers, emergency rooms, intensive care units or other areas that require more intense medical knowledge and experience than that of a LPN. RNs work independently and make anywhere from $26 - $33 an hour.

The decision to pursue a career in nursing has many different considerations that revolve around education, clinical experience and the type of job desired. Both registered nurses and licensed practical nurses are in demand in hospitals across the country, and the need for qualified nurses is expected to increase in the years to come. Nursing students have the option to attend classes at their local college or university and there are also several options for those interested in pursuing online nursing programs that fulfill many of the requirements of nursing schools, but are more convenient to students who must work or have family obligations that are a priority.