1) Opportunity for advancement, as an LPN you can act as a charge nurse in some situations (in WA an LPN could be charge after a certain time in a LTC facility, other states may have different rules) but that was about it. You will probably NEVER see an LPN nurse manager(I would say never, but I'm sure some yahoo will come out and tell me about Nurse Snuffy who has been a nurse manager as an LPN for years).
2) As an LPN I could not hang blood with another LPN, an RN's signature always had to be on the transfusion form
3) Acuity of patients, TYPICALLY (there are exceptions of course so don't bother calling me on this one) LPN's take care of less acutely ill patients.
4) As an LPN I actually felt more abused than I ever have as an RN as far as work environment was concerned. I worked LTC for a couple of years where I was responsible for 35 patients at a time. I have never, and would never accept a load like this again. At the time I didn't know anything else though.
5) You will likely work in outpatient or LTC. Acute care hospitals, over the past decade or so, have moved away from using LPNs on the floor. Forget about working in a critical care area (SICU, MICU, PICU, ER, etc). Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with LTC or clinic work, but for some (myself included) it's just not their cup of tea. As an RN I could go back to that environment if I wished, as an LPN I was unable to work in a hospital.
6) There are certain medications that you will not give IV push as an LPN, limits ability to work in certain areas (see #5)
Now, I know those are all negative, but I absolutely believe that there are some instances where a person should consider getting their LPN first:
1) Military... the US Army offers an LPN program. I was trained as a LPN this way and thus had no out of pocket expenses from the school. I would NEVER advise anyone to get their LPN outside of a public community college or technical college (i.e. avoid private schools
like the plague) as the cost simply outweighs any earnings benefit you might receive.
2) Some RN programs will take into account your LPN experience. While not all (or any in my case) of the credits may transfer there is something to be said about having a base knowledge when you walk into a program. It's obvious who has had patient care experience as an LPN or CNA and who has not.
3) If due to personal, family, or financial reasons you cannot pursue an RN at this time the LPN is a shorter route to becoming a nurse. That being said I am a HUGE proponent of continuing your education.
By and large, regardless of what my instructors said during orientation for my RN program, LPNs (and ADN's for that matter) are nurses. They evaluate, implement plans of care, and care for patients just like RNs do. Now there are nurses out there (some on these forums) who will make statements like your job as an LPN is less important than that of an RN, but that's just not the case. LPN's fill a niche where it is simply not cost effective to hire an RN. Simply put, why pay someone my hourly salary when you can get just as competent work from an LPN at half the cost? My belief is that you should go as far as you can with your education, treat your patients right, do your job competently no matter what the letters after your name are.