I am an LPN, transitioning to RN currently.
The difference I see between LPN and RN is the critical thinking skills education. Not the *ability*, just the educational aspect and expectation. Some of this may be a difference in programs/schools; but I feel that my LPN coursework taught me the basics and was very very heavy on TASKS and hands on, clinical skills. I feel that my RN coursework and testing is thus far very heavy on assessment of a variety of areas and pulling everything together.
I also feel I have learned a lot during this RN transition.
However, I don't think one has to transition to RN to continue their education (not that that is explicitly what you were saying, jodyangel, I'm just expanding on what you were saying...). Last year I attended an indepth Basic Dysrhythmia class our hospital offers to all it's employees. It's basically the class that preps you for ACLS, or if you are training to be a monitor tech. I learned SO MUCH. I also recently re--subscribed to a nursing journal, and actually make myself read it from cover to cover the day that it arrives. If I want more information or understanding about a topic, I search for it on line. Sites like this one help as well. Once again, it has taught me a lot.
I think that for a while after LPN school, once I got comfortable in my role as an LPN, I got a little complacent. I feel like I am a very good nurse now; but I think for a while my idea of being a very good nurse was that I was *good enough* and that was that. Now I feel that part of me being a very good nurse is knowing that there is *always* something new to learn, and I should always be trying to improve.
On the other hand, I can understand the point of view that there isn't much difference between an RN and an LPN. Especially in certain circumstances, the differences are negligible, and not easily attributed to simply a difference in education. For example, on my shift last night, I was the most experienced nurse on the floor. All the other nurses had been nurses for less than 3 years. My covering RN graduated from school 3 months ago. I've worked in acute care for almost 7 years as an LPN. When it came time for my covering RN to do my care plan updates, I ended up going through and redoing some of them--he just is still really new, and missed some things. I think that he has been educated to pull everything together and look at the big picture; but it's all still mostly theory for him, and in reality he hasn't quite gotten there yet. Educationally, my LPN program did not focus on this *big picture* (that is what your collaboration with the RN is for), but the reality is that I had a lot more acute care experience than this fellow, and was able to see the big picture better.
I'm so glad I went back to school to get my RN, and I will probably at some point go back for my BSN, even though it won't change my payscale any. I feel like I can attribute a big improvement in my thought processes and my expectations of myself to my RN education; I expect that I will again find an improvement with the transition from RN to BSN (and then BSN to MN? Who knows where it ends?).