Should I Get my LPN/LVN or RN?

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    Amanda is a licensed practical nurse (LPN) who was forced out of her job in a hospital. She now works for less money as a patient care technician (PCT). Nicole is just out of high school and wants to be a nurse. She loves the idea of being ready for the work world in just one year. She's thinking about becoming an LPN. What does she need to help her decide?

    Should I Get my LPN/LVN or RN?

    Amanda is a 49 year old LPN. She works on the Tele floor of a medium sized hospital-but as a patient care technician (PCT), not as an LPN. A few years ago, her hospital announced it would no longer be employing LPNs and she could either go back to school and get her RN, or work as a PCT.

    As head of her family and with 3 children, Amanda did not want to go back to school and went from being a nurse to no longer being a nurse. If an IV pump alarms, Amanda doesn't touch it, but instead goes to find the RN. The transition was hard, but she figures she still has a job.


    Nicole is graduating high school and wants to be a nurse, but the list of pre-requisites for the registered nursing program would take at least one to two years. After that, there's no guarantee she'd even be accepted into the nursing program. Her local college is using a lottery system to choose qualified applicants. Nicole wants to start her career, working as a nurse, more than anything. She's thinking of enrolling in the LPN program. She could be finished in a little over a year, and the cost is low.

    The past few years, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) as they're called in California, have been ushered out of acute care settings and many feel that the LPNs/LVNs are on their way out all together.

    Is the role still relevant today?

    Respect

    There is a lot of love for LPNs/LVNs by RNs. As a long-time RN, many of us worked alongside LPNs/LVNs in ICU, ED, and the floors. There was very little distinction between what they did and what an RN did, except for giving IV medications.

    LPNs/LVNs inserted nasogastric tubes, foley catheters, administered blood transfusions, performed wound care, and started IVs. We were a team and respected each other. Many RNs will say they were trained by LPNs/LVNs when they started.

    Education


    LPN/LVN is considered vocational training and as such does not require a college degree or result in a college degree. However, training is required from an accredited school resulting in a postsecondary non-degree award. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accredits LPN/LVN programs. Be sure your school is accredited.

    LPN/LVN coursework is not easy.

    For example, Pharmacology can be a very challenging class if it's your first exposure to college classes and/or the medical world, or if you've been out of school for awhile. Learning brand new information such as medical terminology, with no previous like information to anchor it to in your brain takes a lot of studying, motivation and smarts.

    The advantage to becoming an LPN/LVN is a faster track to employment. Some LPN/LVN programs take a year to complete whereas an associate degree (ADN) RN program will take 2 years, plus pre-requisites.

    After completing the program, and just like RNs, LPNs/LVNs take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), versioned for LPNs/LVNs.

    Pay


    According to The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (2016-17), the median annual salary for an LPN/LVN is $42,490. The median annual salary for an RN is $66, 640.

    Actual salaries for all nurses vary greatly and are primairily based on based on location, but the pay difference between LPNs/LVNs and RNs is large. See Allnurses 2015 Salary Survey Results.

    Projected Growth


    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the projected growth for LPNs by 2024 is 15%.

    This author's opinion is that overall, the employment job outlook for RNs is stronger than the outlook for LPNs/LVNs. LPNs/LVNs have fewer settings to choose from, and in some areas, long term care (LTC) facilities are reported to be hiring ADN RN graduates over LPNs/LVNs.

    At the same time, just like baby-boomer RNs, LPNs/LVNs will be retiring soon, and jobs will open up.

    Career Options


    RNs have far more options for professional development and career options, especially away from the bedside. This is a consideration when looking ahead thirty years or so down the road, when the physical demands of bedside nursing can be tough on older bodies. LPNs/LVNs are trained to provide patient care and non-patient care roles are harder to find. Some settings for LPNs/LVNs include:

    • Nursing care facilities
    • Home health care services
    • Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for elderly
    • Clinic offices
    • Physician offices

    Conclusion

    At the end, you have to weigh your situation and your goals and determine what's best for you. Some people become an LPN/LVN to get started in the field and then bridge into an RN program when they're able (I did).

    Others have a passion for patient care and know without a doubt being an LPN/LVN is a calling tailor made for them.

    Best wishes and hope this helps in your decision. Nurse Beth




    Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook
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    13 Comments

  3. by   ~Shrek~
    According to The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (2016-17), the median annual salary for an LPN/LVN is $42,490. The median annual salary for an RN is $66, 640.
    And that is why, when you are young (18) and straight out of high school, you should go straight for your RN/BSN. It's easier when you are younger and don't have life commitments.
  4. by   HouTx
    Information presented is a bit misleading. ACEN accreditation is not an issue for LV/PN programs that are based upon clock hours (not college credits). Clock hour programs are only required to to meet their state's criteria for NCLEX-PN eligibility... in most instances, that is approval by the state's board of nursing. It's certainly a bonus if the program is ACEN accredited, but accreditation is expensive and many high-quality vocational programs simply cannot afford it. Anyone who is investigating vocational nursing schools should take a good look at their NCLEX-PN pass rate for the last few years as this is the best indicator of the quality of the program.
  5. by   RivetheadGirl
    I agree with this soo much. I completed the LVN program through my school because I knew I needed to be able to work and that my school offered an lvn to ASN rn bridge. One of the big things I paid attention to was the nclex pass rate. The school I attended is the second highest rated in the state for their lvn program. The rn is in the top 5, so I knew that I would receive a good education
  6. by   Nurse Beth
    Quote from HouTx
    Information presented is a bit misleading. ACEN accreditation is not an issue for LV/PN programs that are based upon clock hours (not college credits). Clock hour programs are only required to to meet their state's criteria for NCLEX-PN eligibility... in most instances, that is approval by the state's board of nursing. It's certainly a bonus if the program is ACEN accredited, but accreditation is expensive and many high-quality vocational programs simply cannot afford it. Anyone who is investigating vocational nursing schools should take a good look at their NCLEX-PN pass rate for the last few years as this is the best indicator of the quality of the program.

    Approval
    by the BON is required in order for students to be eligible for the NCLEX, and you are correct, accreditation is not required, but it is best to attend an accreditied program.

    Accreditation means that the program meets certain standards. Accreditation may be required if you are applying for any government- assisted loans.

    It may not be easy or always possible to find an accredited, local program-but if you decide later on to continue your education, the coursework completed in a non-accredited program or school may not be transferable. I didn't know this when I started college, but luckily, my junior college is accredited. This is something counselors do not necessarily tell you.

    When choosing a school and if there's a chance you may continue your education down the road, be sure to find out if the credits are transferable or not to help you make your decision.


    Like HouTx said, it is a good idea to look at the pass rates as an indicator of quality. For-profit vocational schools can be very expensive, whereas community colleges are reasonable by comparison.
  7. by   lifelearningrn
    If I hadn't have the support (financially and well as emotionally) from my spouse to take the longer route to nursing (BSN)- I would have been happy to get accepted and become an LVN. Heck, LVN school was my plan C if I hadn't made it into my first 2 choice programs.

    I have a friend who is a single mom of 2, GED and CNA. She wants to become a nurse, I think the LVN route is a perfect next step for her..
  8. by   oalrasho
    I am from Saudi Arabia I had the same issue after I finished my BSN the Hospitals paid me lee than what I used to be paid before my degree.New I am PhD and I almost gain the much Maney I used to take with NCA ,while the collages I used to with as NCA salary is more than what I take as PhD holder.
    (Nueses are the most been paid unfairly over the worlds) I hope one day we will be paid fairly.
    Obeid
  9. by   Sjmac812
    As an educator in an accredited Practical Nursing program at a community college, I have to answer this question from prospective students everyday. What many people forget or don't know is practical nursing started in the community and is returning to its roots. As a practical nurse one must consider employment outside of the traditional hospital setting. There are many employment opportunities, just not at the bedside and not just in long term care. Practical nursing is reinventing itself. Nursing can not survive without the practical nurse, their role is changing. Whether you start off working your way up or are satisfied with the work you do as a LPN/LVN, it is a worthy position.
  10. by   animatedimp
    I took the LPN route. I have always felt called to work with people with disabilities and I feel very blessed to have been able to stick with the field. I graduated from a small town program and while most of my graduating class ended up working at the local hospital, I branched out, came up to Chicago, and set up shop. The pay is good, and I get to be an LPN for a group home network. I will continue on and get my RN, but LPN was a good stepping stone for me.
  11. by   Krispy Kritter
    Here is what I would advise a young, new high school graduate with no children to support.
    Your first year: take the prereqs for the RN program. That should take 1 year.
    The second year: Make a decision. Decide whether you would like to finish your AA and go straight for the BSN, or you can apply to both the AS RN and the LPN/LVN program once you complete your prereqs. If you get in the AS RN program then great! If not and you get into the LPN/LVN program then you already have your prereqs for the bridge. If you go the LPN/LVN route I would look at that as my first step in my nursing career, get a little experience and then apply for the LPN to RN bridge program. The first year of prereqs you took should count to your bridge program and would never be a loss.
    The reason I would recommend this to a new high school grad is because the prereqs for the RN program are a base for your nursing courses. They will really help you to be successful. Also people grow a lot during young adult hood and if you find yourself leaning into a different direction, the first year of prereqs can count to your AA degree and you can go on to a countless number of 4 year degrees from that.
  12. by   Pca_85revived
    May I suggest enrolling in the RN program and sitting for LPN boards after a year, working as an LPN as you complete school?
  13. by   bugya90
    Quote from Pca_85revived
    May I suggest enrolling in the RN program and sitting for LPN boards after a year, working as an LPN as you complete school?
    Not all states allow this option.
  14. by   tiffannij
    I'm in my last semester of lpn school and I'm so glad I did that route first instead of going straight to RN. It's very stressful. Exams every week clinical twice a week and assignments due every week you don't have much of a life. I had to cut down my work hours to just weekends and some of my classmates are not fortunate. I say go for the lpn first it's quicker to get a job. Lpn's are not being fazed out here in NY. They are actually looking for lpn's more than rn's they call my school every week looking for lpn's.


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