There are many branches of the nursing field and, as a result, many types of nurses out there. Two of the most common nursing careers today are Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and Registered Nurses (RN). Both LPNs and RNs are licensed patient care providers, and both roles are in high demand. However, there are some key differences between these two career paths.
As highlighted in our recent infographic, Registered Nurses are licensed to provide a full scope of care to patients — from initial exams to diagnosis and treatment. Licensed Practical Nurses, on the other hand, provide more basic health care services, such as measuring vital signs and ensuring patients are comfortable during their stay. LPNs are often supervised by, and report back to, RNs.
Due to their varying responsibilities, Registered Nurses and Practical Nurses have different requirements when it comes to education and licensure. Licensed Practical Nurses must complete a state-approved practical nursing program, which generally results in a diploma and takes about one year to complete. RN nurses, meanwhile, must complete an accredited Registered Nursing program at the associate or baccalaureate degree level. This enables them to provide a broader scope of care to patients in need.
Let’s dive more into the distinctions between these two educational paths.
Practical Nursing Programs
In Connecticut, LPNs must complete at least 10 months of training (1,500 hours) through a state-approved program. While practical nursing programs will vary in length, most take about one year (two academic semesters) to complete. For this reason, becoming an LPN is one of the fastest ways into the nursing field. Upon graduation, most LPN students will earn their diploma and go on to complete the board examination, which grants them licensure.
Practical nursing programs typically cover the fundamentals of nursing, such as basic diagnostic procedures and health initiatives. LPNs, like RNs, must also complete hands-on training in a clinical setting. In an LPN program, you can expect to cover topics such as:
- Workplace and patient safety
- Disease prevention
- Legal and ethical aspects of nursing
- Basic pharmacology and biology courses
If you are considering a practical nursing program, one thing you must consider is your ultimate career goals. With an LPN diploma, you will become eligible to work in settings such as:
- Long-term rehabilitation centers
- Nursing homes and assisted living facilities
- Home healthcare
- Outpatient health clinics
While becoming an LPN is a great steppingstone into the nursing field, remember that you will be limited in your scope of practice at this level. Licensed Practical Nurses are often found measuring vital signs, administering medications, monitoring patients, and following the care regimen laid out by a physician or Registered Nurse. While LPNs are in high demand, they are needed less in hospital and emergency care, and more in long-term settings as the baby boomer population ages.
Registered Nursing Programs
In the state of Connecticut, Registered Nurses are responsible for diagnosing patients, providing supportive and restorative care, educating patients and families, executing physicians’ orders, and collaborating with the entire medical team to treat a patient in need. A Registered Nursing program is designed to fully prepare students for this level of advanced care. As a result, they are typically longer and more comprehensive than an LPN program.
There are different levels of Registered Nursing programs. In Connecticut, you can pursue an associate degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN), so long as it is approved by the state. The type of program you choose will depend on your career goals and your ability to commit to school at this time. Both levels will make you eligible to take the board examination (the NCLEX-RN) and become a licensed Registered Nurse.
Many students at Goodwin choose to pursue their associate degree in Nursing to start, as it qualifies them to practice as an RN, but is shorter in length than the bachelor’s degree. The associate nursing program can be completed in as few as 20 months part-time, and even faster with full-time coursework. This program combines both clinical and classroom learning, covering core nursing topics such as:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Lifespan development
- Nursing skills development
- Adults and Wellness Continuum
- Family Wellness
- Complex health problems in adults
Upon completion of the associate Registered Nursing program, graduates can find careers in:
- Doctors’ offices
- Community Health Centers
- Long-term care facilities
- Nursing supervision & management
- Occupational & industrial nursing
Many of our nursing school students choose to go back to school for their BSN degree, once the initial Registered Nursing program is complete. This is because the RN-to-BSN program can be completed entirely online — and while they are working as a Registered Nurse! Many employers are encouraging nurses to earn a bachelor’s degree, as it can lead to advanced career opportunities in school nursing, military nursing, case management, nurse leadership, clinical research, and more.
The bachelor’s-level Registered Nursing program at Goodwin takes 16 months to complete, part-time and online. In this program, you can expect to tackle advanced subjects such as:
- Health Assessment
- Nursing Research
- Public and Community Health Nursing
- Clinical Nursing Leadership
- Healthcare Policy and Advocacy
Graduates of Goodwin’s nursing programs walk away with the clinical technique, the critical thinking skills, and the ethical knowledge needed to be the best nurse they can be. You can learn more about the program outcomes of our Registered Nursing programs here.
Ultimately, when deciding between a Registered Nursing program and a practical nursing program, it comes down to your professional goals and personal commitment to the nursing field. Do you want to dip your toes into nursing, with a faster-pace program? Consider an LPN diploma. Do you wish to gain advanced skills in nursing and patient care, and pursue specialized positions in hospitals and private health practices? If so, you may consider a bachelor’s or associate degree in Nursing.
Are you ready to take the next step in your career path? Visit us online to request more information about our nursing programs in Connecticut. Or, give Goodwin a call at 800-889-3282 to learn more about the path that is best for you.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.