Differences Between a CNA and an LPN

When receiving healthcare or choosing it as a prospective career it is good to know the differences between a CNA and an LPN. The tasks and responsibilities performed by these two professionals are unique. Though both are functional parts of the collective nursing team, their jobs and expertise are quite different and the care they provide is given on different levels.

LPNs typically receive their education and training through a two year college where they are instructed in detail on the functions of the body, medications, and clinical practice. LPNs receive hands on experience in various clinical settings within health care systems including hospitals and nursing homes.  CNAs on the other hand receive their education and training through a two month course at a technical college with clinical experience or a state regulated in facility training program.  CNAs focus more specifically on safety practices during patient care, observing and reporting data and are often trained with emphasis on long term care settings.

LPNs can work in either long term care facilities such as nursing homes, home health care, or a hospital or clinic setting.  They correspond either with the managing nurse or doctor to develop and implement patient care plans.  They are familiar with medications and it is often their duty to administer them to patients.  LPNs are ranked below the RN in the nursing hierarchy and above the CNA.

The roles of an LPN and CNA may differ, particularly with what kind of duties both are allowed to perform

It is the LPNs responsibility to ensure that the CNAs are informed of their tasks and that they have the appropriate resources to implement them.  The benefits of being an LPN often include employer provided access to affordable and high quality health insurance, a wide variety of career settings and job security. LPNs are generally well educated, intelligent professionals with excellent problem solving skills and management abilities.

CNAs also work in a variety of health care settings, though the most popular are home health care, long term care and hospital facilities. A CNA has limited training with medications and it is not in their scope of practice to administer them, though additional training can be offered by employers, which qualifies them for this task. The focus of CNA tasks are effective communication between the patient and the superior nursing staff.  The CNA is a crucial element for observing changes in patient behaviors and status as they work closer with the patient and see them on a more frequent basis. The CNA is also largely responsible for the patient’s safety and needing their basic needs during their stay at the facility. Some benefits of being a CNA include job security and flexibility.  It is typically very easy to relocate and find a willing employer as a CNA.  CNAs are often extremely caring people which exceptional interpersonal skills and are truly the foundation of the nursing team.

Expert Contribution by: Heather Martens CNA
Heather has been working as a CNA for over five years, she is currently a full time nursing student and plans to graduate as a Registered Nurse in the year 2012.

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