Licensed Practical Nurse vs. Registered Nurse — What are the Differences?

Licensed Practical Nurse vs. Registered Nurse — What are the Differences?There is no question that the Sunshine State has been dealing with a nursing shortage for years. In September2019, the Florida Center for Nursing admitted that a key report given to legislators in Tallahassee was outdated by about four years, but this was the best that lawmakers could work with at the time. The Demand for Nursing report is not exactly longitudinal, but it does cover the major segments of the state’s healthcare industry, to wit: hospitals, public healthcare facilities, hospices, and skilled nursing homes.

When the last accurate Demand for Nursing report was published in 2015, the situation indicated nearly 12,500 nursing opportunities that needed to be filled across Florida. Doing the best they could with the data at hand, analysts at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity estimated that the 2019 demand for both registered and licensed practical nurses had increased to 14,000.

The FDEO issued a longer-term projection that underscores the nursing shortage in the state: from now until the year 2025, the number of jobs available to nurses will be closer to 113,800. A couple of counties have already been identified as being close to critical in this regard: Manatee and Sarasota over in the southwest region are experiencing an influx of retirees moving in, who will require 3,875 new nursing positions to be filled.

If you think that Florida employers operating in the healthcare sector would prefer to fill every opening with registered nurses, you are absolutely correct, but this desire is not practical given the current shortage. Direct patient care conducted by skilled professionals is needed, and medical facilities are now willing to test strategies whereby they can hire more licensed practical nurses.

With the above in mind, if you are inclined to enter the nursing field in Florida, your chances are good either as a registered nurse or as a licensed practical nurse. These two professional occupations share many similarities, but also a few differences in terms of education, regulatory oversight, and scope.

LPNs and RNs: Similarities

Although there is an ongoing effort to standardize the licensing of nursing professionals across the United States, the discussion herein applies to the Florida Board of Nursing. First of all, the primary scope of both LPNs and RNs is to perform direct patient care. This does not mean that registered or licensed practical nurses cannot handle administrative, management, or even research duties; however, they are more commonly found taking care of patients. In fact, when the time comes for you to satisfy the practicum portion of the Associate of Science or Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree programs at Florida National University, you can expect many hours of direct patient contact.

Both licensed practical and registered nurses in Florida are regulated by the state Board of Nursing. Unless you complete the education requirements and the process for licensing, which involves application and electronic fingerprinting fees, you will not be able to enter the field. These requirements refer to licensing by examination, the most common path to nursing, and they include passing the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX).

RNs vs. LPNs: Differences

In Florida, a two-year college degree program will prepare you to challenge the NCLEX-RN, but you can always do so with the four-year BSN program. FNU offers both programs; the BSN is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education while the two-year ADN program was on candidacy accreditation status as of early 2019. You can certainly challenge the NCLEX-LPN with a two-year degree, and the pass rates are higher in this regard.

The NCLEX is one major difference between LPN and RN careers. Graduates of BSN programs have much higher pass rates when they challenge the NCLEX-RN than their counterparts who graduate from two-year programs. As for salary differences, RNs have the upper hand in Florida and across the U.S.

When we get into the scope of practice of LPNs versus RNs, the latter are entrusted with more treatment procedures. RNs enjoy a greater deal of independence while LPNs usually work under the supervision of RNs. No matter what the job market is like, employers tend to prefer hiring RNs, and this has a lot to do with budgeting projections; the assumption is that there will be more RN applicants.

Another occupational aspect of LPNs is that they tend to be hired in long-term care facilities because this is seen as a path towards advancement. Many LPNs enter the field with a goal of gaining some experience, finding out the most lucrative opportunities, and challenging the NCLEX-RN at a later time. If you wish to learn more about the job outlook for nursing professionals in Florida, please contact the FNU office of admissions.

Choosing Between RN and LPN Degree Programs at FNU

While the BSN program is always recommended because of its more extensive curriculum, the choice is yours. FNU offers two convenient campus locations in South Florida along with a range of courses that can be completed online. We also provide assistance to students who qualify for financial aid, and they are always welcome to explore our scholarship programs. We even have a vibrant athletics program and various activities to augment student life as well as closer connections with the community.

Our admissions counselors can provide some guidance to ensure that you make an informed decision about entering the nursing profession in Florida. You can explain your current situation with regard to work and family obligations to determine if the LPN or RN paths are in tune with your career goals. If you have served as a medic or hospital corpsman in the armed forces, you should know that FNU holds a Military Friendly School designation. Get in touch with our admissions counselors today to learn more about becoming a nurse in Florida.