What is the difference between a practical nurse and a registered nurse?
When you are comparing two professions the important first step is to define your terms. A practical nurse is a medical professional who has gone to school for 1 or 2 years, in a vocational, or community college setting. In school he/she have taken courses that allow them to do patient care in a hospital setting, sometimes in a doctor’s office. They are always being supervised by either a registered nurse, doctor, nurse practitioner or someone who possesses more medical expertise. Under the supervision of a registered nurse, a practical nurse can change dressings, take vitals, remove an IV line or start one. Does palliative care in a nursing home, work in a dialysis center, read to patients, and change soiled bedding and other things to improve the quality of life of the patients on their floor. They should always be mindful of the dangerous nature of their profession. They must use PPE (personal Protective Equipment); to make sure they minimize their exposure to blood borne pathogens. The biggest, but not only concern is AIDS, and HIV, but there are other viruses that can be transmitted by bodily fluids.
A practical nurse or PN has to be licensed in order to practice. The must pass a licensing exam in order to be considered a LPN. There is a definite hierarchy in the medical field. A certified nurse assistant or CNA has the least training, basically , feeds the patients, changes soiled bedding, transports patients from their rooms to testing facilities, can take vitals, lifts patients off of beds to wheelchairs or stretchers. There is a Medical Assistant who has more education and can ask for a higher salary, but basically does the same thing as a CNA except can also work in a medical office, doing administrative tasks along with the clinical. A medical assistant can work an EKG machine, draw blood and prepare specimens for analysis in a laboratory.
The job prospects are the best for the LPN’s or licensed practical nurses. they are able to work in a hospital setting under the guidance of the registered nurse. A practical nurse is different than the registered nurse in that she has not gone to nursing school. His/Her training allows her to work on a lower level, in that he/she must be supervised more closely. She/He may command a good salary, as a LPN, but it is not on the same level as a Registered nurse gets.
A practical nurse in a sense is able to do home care of disabled patients, who are unable to make it into a hospital setting. The visiting nurse service does employ licensed practical nurses to dispense prescribed medications, assist in the care and feeding of those patients who cannot do it for themselves; they can on occasion do food shopping, laundry for the patient. However, due to the higher salary a practical nurse would get, these tasks are more likely done by aides.
Another avenue for practical nurses’ employment is to become an educator in a health care institution. A practical nurse is often hired to teach a CPR course, basic first aid, diabetes education and nutrition. Often community colleges or schools where the practical nurse went are willing to hire a practical nurse to teach the same classes they took as a student. There is a requirement by some of these institutions that the practical nurse take some teaching methods courses before they are hired as teachers.
The job description is similar for the Registered nurse, as it is for the practical nurse, with a few major exceptions; the registered nurse has graduated from a 4 year Nursing School. If the registered nurse wants to go into the administrative, rather than clinical side of nursing a Master’s Degree is usually required as well. Often a registered nurse will start as a practical nurse, and as they realize the pay is much better as a registered nurse, they get more education to accomplish this. The job market is good for nurses, in hospitals, doctors offices, as educators, midwifes, in camps, schools and other places where a medical professional is needed. These days registered often find themselves in supervisory positions, doing more than their share of paperwork, updating patient charts, making schedules for the staff they are responsible for, and other administrative duties.
They still are called in to administer injections, start IV lines, take specimens for analysis, and lift patients from their beds, with assistance if needed from other staff members. A registered nurse is highly respected in a hospital setting, Often it will take many years of “grunt” work, until the administration will allow the nurse to become a Nurse Manager. If the Registered nurse is able to get more specific education, they can specialize for a particular department. Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Internal Medicine, Rheumatology, Dermatology all have a need for a registered nurse. These departments need a liaison between the patient and the physician, who often is too busy to talk to, and calm down the sick patients. Registered nurses can fulfill the job as Nurse Educators, Lamaze and Lactation counselors, mental health medication management counselors and even grief counselors, if needed.
Registered nurses, as do all medical professionals, suffer from the phenomena of burnout. Trying to be all things to all of the patients under their care, often leads to nurses forgetting to take time to take care of themselves. It is very important that all working medical professionals, even physicians, remember that there is only so much one person can do. It is crucial that everyone who is working with sick patients, to keep themselves healthy. A healthy mind and a healthy body are inextricably linked you really have to keep your mind as focused as you do your job. People’s lives are at stake, the job you are doing is a serious one. If you are not interested in assisting your patient’s to better living, then perhaps nursing is not the profession for you. Many people go into a profession, with all lofty goals, but when they are actually working in the field they realize, that perhaps they made a mistake. If this is the case, maybe a change of career is called for.
You can apply for registered nurse scholarships too.