Patient care is the major role for both RNs and LPNs
Despite the differences in their licensure and employer, LPNs and RNs Stated that direct patient care is their main responsibility. While LPN and RN licenses specify different scopes of practice, and LPNs predominate in the long-term care setting with RNs more prevalent in acute care facilities, the focus group respondents cited similar overall duties in their current jobs. Specifically, direct patient care is the most often-mentioned responsibility with most of the participating LPNs and RNs claiming this duty. In descending order of importance, both groups also Stated responsibility for: patient education, supervision of other nurses, education of other staff members, and supervision of non-nursing staff.
When LPNs and RNs work side-by-side in a particular facility or department, the actual patient-care duties performed by each differ, with LPNs serving in a more hands-on, technical capacity and RNs more likely to supervise and to perform specific highly skilled tasks. However, when RNs greatly outnumber the LPNs in a particular setting, their duties may be fairly similar, except for those activities the LPN is not licensed to perform. When LPNs greatly outnumber the RNs in a setting, usually in long-term care, the LPNs report to an RN, but may take on broader responsibilities.
The relationships between the LPNs and RNs in the focus groups and the other nursing staff members with whom they work are generally positive. LPNs Stated that the RNs with whom they interact are, for the most part, supportive and respectful, while the RNs Stated that they appreciate the contributions of the LPNs and rely on them to get the job done. In the acute care setting, some LPNs resent their lower pay and perceived lower status, although not all hospital LPNs felt this way. The few specific instances of friction cited by focus group respondents were believed to be isolated examples of personality clashes or the...