RN or LPN/LVN? One path provides a more immediate sense of gratification. Yet the other has benefits that cannot be ignored. Is the extra time invested in getting your RN worth the wait? You bet! But what are those advantages? Do they match my goals? Let’s take a closer look.
An obvious advantage of becoming an RN is enjoying a considerably higher salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs earned an average hourly wage of $33 in 2013. LPNs earned an average wage of $20 per hour in 2012. Keep in mind that these are averages for RNs across all career paths. In some areas of the country depending on the facility and job duties, RNs may earn annual salaries that reach into the six-digit range.
Depending on where you live and the type of environment you want to work in, there may be more job openings for RNs. Some health care facilities are not employing LPNs anymore, deciding instead that it is better to have an RN on staff than an LPN because of the limited duties an LPN is allowed to perform. RNs also have a wider scope of job types to choose from. For example, many facilities have jobs for traveling RNs but very few exist for LPNs. Familiarize yourself with the type of nursing you see yourself doing and the type of environment you’d enjoy working in and then pursue the credentials best suited for it.
RNs are usually able to provide more services than LPNs. For example, an LPN cannot administer some types of IV medications, work with blood products or conduct admission assessments in some types of facilities. However, RNs are able to perform these tasks and are additionally able to advance their careers and work in management roles. To complicate things further, defining these roles varies by state and sometimes, by facility.
As an RN, you definitely have opportunity for advancement. For example, an RN may start working in a hospital in a long-term care ward and later advance to become the head of the infection control department. An RN may also move up to become a director of nursing in the facility he or she works in. These represent significant pay raises, and these managerial positions would typically require a BSN or more likely, an MSN degree, too. If the education bug truly bites, you may also wish to consider becoming a practitioner or educator with your higher-level degree.
People who are born leaders often thrive as RNs. In some smaller facilities or organizations, the RN may also serve as the leader of the health care team. Teaching, supervising and mentoring are all attractive traits of those nurses desiring these roles. For those who want to help and lead, these positions are ideal and are usually not available to LPNs.
You have options for those who are still considering becoming LPNs, consider enrolling in an LPN bridge program or in a regular RN program. With a bridge program, students become LPNs first and can work as LPNs as they finish their RN studies. Alternatively, in most states, students in an accredited RN program who have been studying for a year can sit for LPN exams, but be sure to check with your state if this is a path you’re considering.
Choose your program wisely to keep the doors of opportunity open.
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