Did you know that you can become a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in two years or less depending on how much time you can commit to schooling? Either program brings you a step closer to your career goals. There’s no wrong way to be a nurse, the important part is to get started. Let’s explore your choices.
What Does an LPN Do?
LPNs provide basic bedside care. Their responsibilities include:
Assisting with Activities of Daily Living
Practical nurses help patients eat, bathe, dress, groom and eliminate, performing personal care while making clinical observations about their physical, emotional, and cognitive status.
Taking Vital Signs
LPNs are entrusted to take vital signs, measurements of temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and respirations that reflect a patient’s health.
Monitoring Intake and Output
How much people eat and drink has a significant impact on their health. Practical nurses measure intake and output to monitor fluid and calorie balance.
LPNs administer low-risk oral, injectable, topical, and inhaled medications, monitoring patients for adverse effects.
Practical nurses clean wounds, apply dressings and change bandages, monitoring patients for signs of infection or healing.
Collecting Biological Samples
LPNs collect urine, sputum, and stool samples for laboratory analysis, using techniques that prevent contamination and ensure valid results.
Inserting Urinary Catheters
When a patient can’t urinate, a common chronic and post-surgical problem, practical nurses insert urinary catheters to drain urine from the bladder.
Changing Ostomy Appliances
Debilitated patients who have ostomies for elimination rely on practical nurses for help changing them. You’ll remove the bag, monitor the skin at the adhesive site and fit a new appliance when needed.
Giving Tube Feedings
Patients with gastrointestinal disorders may require liquid nutrition through a gastric tube. A risk for aspiration, tube feedings require the skill of a nurse to administer.
Assessing for Pain
Pain plays a critical role in how fast patients get back on their feet after an illness or injury. If discomfort affects their mobility, they can’t participate in therapeutic exercises. Practical nurses assess pain through verbal screening and observation, administering analgesics when necessary.
Protecting Skin Integrity
Skin ulcers are a consequence of immobility and poor nutrition. Practical nurses help bedridden or chair-bound patients eat better and change positions more often to improve circulation.
Assisting with Therapeutic Exercises
Physical and occupational therapists prescribe exercises to keep patients fit. Practical nurses assist with range-of-motion and conditioning plans that improve stamina and enhance flexibility.
Managing Medical Equipment
Practical nurses manage medical equipment from oxygen concentrators, ventilators, and CPAP devices to mobility aids, like walkers and wheelchairs.
Providing Emotional Support
A nurse’s hand is often the only hand a patient has to hold. Practical nurses are not only caregivers, but they’re also friends, providing emotional support when the family isn’t near.
Educating Patients and Families
Patients and their families require a lot of teaching when it comes to diagnoses and treatments, knowledge and a good support system can be the difference between success and failure. Practical nurses serve as frontline educators, helping them better understand the doctor’s recommendations.
Supervising Paraprofessional Staff
Patients have an entire team of paraprofessionals, such as nursing and dietary assistants, on their side. Practical nurses ensure they’re following the care plan.
Documentation takes time away from patients, but it’s crucial for the continuity of care. You’ll record changes in their condition and the care you provide each shift.
What Does an RN Do?
Registered nurses do everything practical nurses do plus high-risk technical tasks beyond a practical nurse’s scope of practice. They manage sicker patients with more complicated needs while assuming most care planning, education, and supervisory duties. Their work includes:
Practical nurses gather data, registered nurses decide what to do with it. Using their clinical expertise, they assess patients for responses to treatment and changes in condition.
RNs create care plans, blueprints for nursing care that include interventions and goals. An action plan, it helps nurses provide consistent, around-the-clock care.
Administering Intravenous Medications
In many states, only registered nurses can handle some parts of intravenous therapy due to the risks. Examples include initiating new medications, giving blood transfusions and total parental nutrition (TPN), IV nutrients that bypass the GI tract. Once established, practical nurses may assist with treatments.
Delegation and Supervision
In facilities where both RNs and LPNs are working, registered nurses take the lead. They delegate straightforward tasks to practical nurses while tackling tougher cases.
Practical nurses, for example, can handle minor wound care, while RNs manage deep wounds at risk for complications. Registered nurses, however, are responsible for the outcome of what LPNs under their supervision do, so trust and supervision are necessary.
All nurses are educators. However, RNs have more training, so they’re better prepared to teach patients how to self-manage their illnesses. Registered nurses hold positions as patient navigators, case managers and disease-education specialists.
Registered nurses serve as floor supervisors, unit managers and department leaders, rising through the ranks with experience and continuing education.
What Are the Main Differences between the LPN and RN Roles?
RNs and LPNs are both state-licensed professional nurses, but each has a different role. An LPN provides intermediate bedside care for stable patients who require medical supervision but not acute care. RNs perform more complex nursing tasks plus patient assessment and care planning. Practically speaking, however, the job descriptions are similar.
You’ll find RNs and LPNs working side-by-side with the same patients and doing many of the same tasks, but RNs are better educated. Responsible for the outcome of nursing care, they assume a supervisory role, delegating tasks with predictable outcomes, such as assisting with daily activities, to nursing assistants and practical nurses.
LPNs can work in acute care environments. Contrary to rumors, practical nurses are not being phased out of hospitals. While there’s a nationwide effort to hire more RNs, LPNs fill a valuable niche as bedside nurses as registered nurses assume increasingly complex technical tasks and managerial responsibilities.
Conversely, practical nurses are the primary caregivers in long-term care facilities. RNs offer distance supervision, filling mostly managerial and leadership roles. LPNs work on the floor and serve as charge nurses, directing daily care.
Ultimately, both RNs and LPNs are autonomous caregivers with skills their patients rely on. And though their responsibilities vary, each role offers nurses an opportunity to spread their wings. The differences allow nurses to choose their own path.
Is it Faster to Become an LPN or RN?
You may have guessed by now, but it takes longer to become an RN than an LPN. Practical nurses need at least a diploma, programs take about a year to complete. It takes two or more years to become a registered nurse, you need an associate degree or higher.
RNs with a bachelor’s or master’s degree qualify for greater responsibility than associate-educated RNs, but they hold the same professional license. States set the licensure requirements for nurses, so students get the same core training regardless of the length of the program.
How Do You Become an LPN or RN?
Registered nurses can get their degree from a university, college or vocational school. Some universities offer practical nursing degrees, but most students opt for diploma programs. Cost-effective and lifestyle-friendly, vocational school training is fast becoming the education option of choice for both registered and licensed practical nurses. The benefits can’t be ignored.
The Benefits of a Vocational School Program
There are many benefits to attending a vocational school. These benefits include:
Vocational training is quick but comprehensive. Accelerated programs can be intense, but you’ll be out of the classroom and into the field faster, earning money and gaining experience.
Vocational schools specialize in the needs of adult learners. They know how hard it is to hold down a job and go to school, so they offer flexible schedules and hybrid learning options when possible.
Vocational school instructors are hired straight out of the field. The goal is to give students the most insight possible into the nursing industry during the short time they’re enrolled. You’ll learn from people who’ve been there and know how to succeed. The tips you’ll glean will help you transition more effectively from the classroom to the workplace.
All nurses take the same licensing exams, the NCLEX-RN for registered nurses and the NCLEX-PN for practical nurses. Vocational programs are shorter, but instructors focuses on the content on these exams. You’ll graduate well-prepared and ready to take the exams.
Vocational schools take pleasure in helping graduates find jobs. They partner with local healthcare facilities, so they’re the first to know about choice job openings. Graduates get first consideration.
The healthcare industry is growing faster than expected, and the demand for nurses is projected to grow 6 percent in the coming decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you’re ready for a life change and want a nursing career you can train for in two years or less, call your local vocational school. They’ll help you channel the time and resources you have into the program that’s best for you.
Practical Nursing Program
The Practical Nursing program at Gwinnett Institute provides training to prepare you to enter the nursing profession as an LPN. After graduating from the Nursing diploma program and successfully passing the NCLEX-PN licensure exam, you will further your career to become a licensed practical nurse.
Registered Nursing Program
The Associate of Science in Nursing degree program provides training to prepare you to enter the profession as a registered nurse (RN). Upon successful completion of the nursing training degree program and demonstrated nursing competence, you will be eligible to apply to take the NCLEX-RN licensure examination.*
*While Gwinnett Institute provides test preparation and review assistance to college students, it cannot guarantee any college student will be able to take or pass any type of licensure exam. College students must be mindful throughout their entire training program that licensure is a prerequisite for employment as a nurse and to diligently prepare themselves to meet this important requirement.
Contact us today to learn more about becoming an LPN or RN at Gwinnett Institute.