Both professionals provide direct care to patients in such settings like home health care and assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and more.
However, the differences in responsibilities, education, and certifications for the two professions are vast.
A CNA has a limited scope of duties while assisting the nursing team under the supervision of an LPN or RN (registered nurse).
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LPNs have a broader range of tasks they can perform while working under the supervision of RNs.
In terms of education, the CNA programs are much shorter than LPN training programs, so CNAs can start their careers sooner.
However, with less education and fewer responsibilities, their salary is also lower than LPN’s.
CNA vs. LPN Education
The biggest difference between an LPN and a CNA is the required education.
Aspiring CNAs need a high school diploma or GED and, with it, can enroll in a CNA program.
The program can be completed within 4 to 12 weeks, including classroom and clinical hours.
CNAs can find training programs at community colleges and technical schools.
The coursework includes basic patient care practices, such as taking vital signs, hygiene, as well as physiology, anatomy, and patient rights.
Some programs can be completed online.
However, most states require hands-on training to become certified as a CNA.
The requirements for a training program vary from state to state, so, before choosing a program, you need to check the requirements of your state.
After completing the program, future CNAs can take the nursing assistant competency exam in their state.
With a successfully passed examination, they can start working as a CNA.
To become an LPN, you need to take a more in-depth formal training.
The programs usually last for about 12 months.
Similar to CNAs, LPNs can find training programs in technical schools and community colleges.
They have to complete their training in person, though.
Typically, the LPN program coursework is more detailed, including such subjects as pathophysiology, medication dosage, and administration, legal and ethical issues in nursing, and specialized care.
To become licensed, LPNs have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).
CNA vs. LPN Salary
The mean salary for CNAs was $26,590 as of May 2016, while LPNs earned $44,840, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The salary can vary depending on the employer, education, and experience as well as geographical location.
Even though the salary for CNAs is much lower than LPNs, with the experience they gain as a CNA, they can acquire more education and a higher paying position in the nursing field.
CNA vs. LPN Job Duties
Both LPNs and CNAs are a part of a patient’s care team and have some duties common for both positions.
Both professionals provide basic patient care under the RN’s supervision, including:
- Assisting with daily activities of patients, such as using the bathroom, dressing, bathing, etc.
- Taking a patient’s vital signs.
While some tasks are the same, LPNs provide more extensive care, and CNAs have a limited scope of duties.
LPNs work under the supervision of RNs, handling the following tasks:
- Assisting with wound care.
- Providing feedings through nasogastric or gastrostomy tubes.
- Administering medication and vaccinations.
- Executing a nursing care plan under the direction of an RN.
- Inserting and caring for urinary catheters.
- Collecting samples (e.g., blood, urine, etc.).
- Performing emergency CPR.
- Caring for patients with ventilators and tracheostomy tubes.
CNAs work under the supervision of an RN or LPN and deal with the most basic care.
The responsibilities of a CNA can include:
- Transporting patients.
- Answering patient call lights.
- Making beds and cleaning up patient rooms.
- Reporting changes in condition to nursing staff.
- Serving and feeding patient meals.
Both professionals are significant members of the healthcare team.
They can work in a variety of settings while providing basic care to patients.
While some duties are commons for both professions, LPNs provide more in-depth care and CNAs have a limited scope of practice.
CNA vs. LPN Licensing & Certification
The certification and licensing requirements for LPNs and CNAs are also different.
LPNs have to take and pass the NCLEX-PN exam after they complete their accredited and state-approved LPN program.
Once the exam is passed, they may start working as an LPN.
CNAs have to pass a competency exam in the state they plan to work.
Eligibility requirements for this examination vary by state, but generally, they include a high school diploma or GED, the completion of an accredited program and a minimum number of training hours.
CNAs also have to provide TB test results, immunization records, and pass the background check before the exam.
They can start working as a CNA after the exam is passed successfully.