difference between lpn and cna

LPN vs. CNA Infographic: What’s the Difference?



Walk into any healthcare facility – a hospital, a nursing home, a doctor’s office – and you will be surrounded by caring and quick-moving nurses. And if you look close enough, you will see that many of these nurses have different job duties, different titles, and different initials on their name badge.

That is the beauty of nursing. Within the field, there are all types of nurses working hard to care for patients in need. There are Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), as well as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) that help the nursing team out. If you are considering a nursing career, it’s important to understand the different roles you can pursue before getting started. Two of the most common, entry-level positions in healthcare are that of the LPN and CNA, which we explore below.

What is What?

What is a CNA? A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) provides support to Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses. Generally speaking, CNAs’ main responsibility is to ensure the comfort of each patient. They tend to patients’ personal needs – including feeding, bathing, and dressing – and respond to call lights as needed. Although their role is centered around patients, CNAs do not provide treatment.

What is an LPN? A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is responsible for providing basic, routine care to patients. They work under the supervision of Registered Nurses, monitoring patient conditions, taking vital signs, and assisting in other routine clinical tasks. An LPN has more advanced training and responsibilities than a CNA, but still has a limited scope of practice in comparison to Registered Nurses.

Where Do CNAs and LPNs Work?

CNAs and LPNs can be found working in similar care settings, including physicians’ offices, nurse homes, and other residential care facilities. Sometimes, home healthcare agencies will hire CNAs and LPNs to travel to patients’ homes and provide bedside care. Only 26 percent of CNAs, and 16 percent of LPNs, work in a hospital setting. Most often in hospitals, you will find Registered Nurses (RNs).

LPN vs. CNA Requirements

Due to the nature of the position, becoming a CNA is the fastest route into the nursing field. Aspiring CNAs must complete a state-approved nurse aide program, and successfully pass the state’s competency examination. This can be done within several months.

Becoming an LPN is also relatively quick, usually taking one year or less. LPNs must complete a state-approved, practical nursing program, which will result in a certificate or diploma. After graduation, LPNs can then go on to earn their licensure through the NCLEX-PN examination.

Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant or Licensed Practical Nurse are two great paths for those looking to gain a foothold in the nursing field. However, if you wish to become a fully practicing nurse – diagnosing, treating, and educating patients on a daily basis – a Registered Nursing career may be for you. You can learn how to become a Registered Nurse here.

Goodwin College is an accredited nursing school in Connecticut, offering Associate, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degree programs in Nursing. To learn more about the nursing career paths available to you, call 800-889-3282 today.