LPN vs CNA: What is the Difference?

medical workers joining hands

Reviewed by Jerry Gomez

While certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses provide direct patient care in many of the same settings, such as at home health care, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities, there are distinguishable differences between the two nursing aides. If you’re curious about the distinctions between the two healthcare jobs, read on.

What does a CNA do?

Certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, play an integral role in the healthcare system and have a multitude of responsibilities, but their main focus is providing basic patient care. It’s important to note that CNAs are not official nurses, but nursing assistants. These professionals often serve as a patient’s main caregiver, work hand-in-hand with LPNs, and report directly to the nursing staff. Some common CNA and LPN job duties might include:

  • Checking patient’s vital signs
  • Providing feedings
  • Performing emergency CPR
  • Assisting with wound care

You may be thinking, if CNAs work hand-in-hand with a licensed practical nurse, aren’t their titles equal? Well, not quite.

How is an LPN different from a CNA?

While LPN’s and CNA’s do perform a few of the same tasks, LPNs provide more widespread patient care, whereas CNAs have a more limited radius of practice. LPN duties often vary depending on the state where they work. They provide a higher level of medical care than a CNA in most settings and work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and physicians helping patients, administering first aid, and revising health records.

What can an LPN do that a CNA can not?

While several of their skills overlap, LPNs require more planning and teaching skills, whereas CNAs require skills involving more assistance and hands-on care. View the breakdown of their differences below.

Breakdown of the Difference Between a CNA and LPN 

Salary: CNAs average a salary of $30,830 median annual pay, whereas LPNs earn around $48,820.

Scope of Practice: As a CNA, you will be supervised by an LPN or a registered nurse, and will not be authorized to perform the same duties as an LPN. CNAs are not permitted to make any kind of independent decisions. An LPN, however, reports directly to the registered nurse, mirroring similar duties to a CNA but with more independent authority. For example, LPNs can work directly with patients rather than abiding by orders.

Program Requirements: The CNA training program takes 4-6 weeks to complete, but to become an LPN, the training program takes one year. The coursework of an LPN program includes more extensive studies and covers topics like judicial implications of actions you take, medication dosage, medication administration, pathophysiology, and specialized medical care.

Examination: So, how long does it take to become a CNA? The answer varies, however, in order to become a certified nursing assistant, your state board of nursing will assign a CNA certification exam. This CNA certification exam is not inherently credible in other states. To become an LPN, however, you must take part in the NCLEX-PN exam for work eligibility. This is a nationally recognized qualification, which means you can get to work in different states.

Choosing Your Medical Profession

As you’ll notice, the differences between an LPN vs CNA are substantial. Whether you’re looking to begin your career within the healthcare industry, becoming a CNA or LPN is a great stepping stone to jumpstart your nursing career. These professions are two of the most obtainable nursing-related careers. Although both of them differ in terms of job responsibilities, salaries, training program requirements, certifications, scope of nursing practice, and coursework, CNAs and LPNs are equally valued in the field of healthcare and through the eyes of all patients. And with expected growth within the nursing field within the upcoming years, there’s never been a more perfect time to get started. 

Already completed your CNA or LPN training programs? Once you’ve acquired your license, contact MAS Medical Staffing today. Our team is here to get your career up and running by finding you the perfect match within the healthcare field.

Where Can You Apply?

Where can you apply for CNA and LPN opportunities? At MAS Medical Staffing, of course! Jump start your career by reaching out to us today. 

Reviewed By: 

Jerry Gomez, Team Lead/Senior Nursing Recruiter – Jerry has been in the healthcare industry for sixteen-plus years. For twelve of them, he worked bedside healthcare as a CNA, utilizing his experience and traveling, living and working in six states, and completing fourteen travel assignments. His traveling profession is what led him to New Hampshire. The 603 is where he currently resides and the state he was hired by MAS Medical Staffing. He is happy to have transitioned into a recruiting role, continuing to help other healthcare workers start their traveling careers.

Reference links:

  1. https://nursejournal.org/resources/lpn-vs-cna/
  2. https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/nursing/blog/lpn-versus-cna/
  3. https://www.cnabuzz.com/cna-guide/difference-cna-lpn/
  4. https://www.masmedicalstaffing.com/blog/tips-and-tricks-for-becoming-a-great-cna/


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