What’s the difference between an LPN & an RN?….And a little bit of why I’m a mad LPN.

Oh the famous question. What is the difference between an LPN and an RN?

It seems like a loaded question, but its really not. At least not in Alberta.

And we need to just focus on our province of Alberta right now, cause thats where I live, and well thats sort of part of the things I want to touch upon in the next couple of blog posts.

Its time the public really understands the differences, I’m tired of my patients judging me because they got an LPN instead of an RN. I’m tired of the general public crying out that nurses make too much money. I’m tired of the comment, “oh you’re not a nurse, you’re just an LPN”

So, let me tell you the difference between an LPN and an RN in Alberta:

  1. An LPN cannot spike a bag of blood and cannot give certain blood products. BUT, they can monitor you while the blood is flowing into your precious veins, and circulating around your body, while your body either takes it in as relief and rescue; or while your body rejects this blood. And you can be rest assured, that that LPN is going to know exactly what to do if your body is going to reject it, and you bet your LOVELY immune system, that that LPN is going to be competent to do just what she/he knows best and make sure you make it out alive.
  2. An LPN cannot be a Charge Nurse. BUT, they can call the doctor and get a verbal order; and you bet, they can call that Doctor and tell them everything wrong with you, and why they think that you need a pain medicine right now. Or maybe you need Ativan, because you’re having a panic attack, and you’re not in a coping state right now. Or maybe, that LPN is looking at your blood pressure, heart rate, and noticing that you’re acting ‘off’, things just don’t seem right, and your life is in danger. Yes, that LPN can call the doctor, present their concerns, AND you better f*7king believe it, that Doctor is going to trust that NURSE. YES, LPN’s are NURSES!! That doctor trusts that LPN. I see it everyday I work, I do it everyday I work.
  3. At some facilities and some units, LPN’s cannot spike a bag of TPN. Hey, do you even know what TPN is? It stands for Total Parental Nutrition. (Brace yourselves, an LPN is about to educate you, yes, they can do that too). The short version of TPN, is that it is basically vitamins, fats, and minerals fed to a patient intravenously. (TPN’s are adjusted by a dietician according to each patients needs, therefore not all TPN’s will include the same combinations) In some hospitals, an LPN can get extra education and is able to perform this skill with another nurse present. In other hospitals, they do it all by themselves. EDIT: just to clarify I have never spiked a bag of TPN; are you allowed at your hospital? Have you received extra education for it? Please make sure you’re adhering to CLPNA when performing skills, if unsure, and are unable to find the information, DON’T DO IT.

Okay. Thats the difference between an RN and an LPN in Alberta.

 Notice how many ‘BUT’s were in there????

Now, guess what the wage difference is?

RN Hourly Wage within Alberta Health Services: $37.60-$49.34

LPN Hourly Wage within Alberta Health Services: $26.45-$34.63


I am a nurse with 3 years of general internal medicine nursing practice, and 9 years of working in a hospital on the front lines, and I’m currently making $27.60/hr as an LPN. I have worked with AHS for 9 years and 1 month. I started out as a Unit Clerk, and still work VERY casually as a Unit Clerk, at $29.22/hr. ( yes, I make less money as a Nurse)

In 2016, when I became an LPN, AHS ignored that I had worked for them for 6+ years as a Unit Clerk. I started as an LPN at the bottom wage. I had been working for AHS since I was 18 years old. EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD. There is absolutely NO THANK YOU FOR THAT. Is that a Unions fault? Or is it because its a government job? I am just a number.

They didn’t fund my LPN Diploma because they were experiencing cutbacks during that time, and their Professional Development Fund was frozen.

So, why should I bother becoming an RN? To make more money per hour, but lose all my seniority with the company? To lose my vacation hours? To not have a job when I finish schooling because of constant cut backs. To feel further discouraged and devalued as a Nurse? To feel sorry for any LPN’s that I’ll work with in the future?

The only real plus side to becoming an RN that I can see, is that I can move to any province and do the same job. I can move to any country in the world and do that same job. This blog post focuses on differences between Albertan LPN’s and RN’s. In other provinces, the LPN’s scope of practice can be much smaller, especially in BC and Ontario. Saskatchewan is fairly on par with Alberta from what I’ve heard, but fortunately LPN wages in Saskatchewan are much more adequate than Alberta.

All in all, I enjoy being a nurse. And you can believe that because I choose to be an LPN even though I could be making more money as a Unit Clerk. I choose to be an LPN, because I care about people, I’m smart, its interesting, it can be rewarding, its raw, its real, and I get to share in peoples most pivotal experiences in their lives. If I can be a positive aspect of someones hospital stay, if I can be a just a small part in their recovery, then I’m going to be there.

Do I wish that I could have fair wages? Yes. Do I wish there was no LPN’s and RN’s? Yes.

I wish that there was just Nurses. I wish we were just one body. No competition. Just Nurses. I wish we all had the same education, and were rewarded with pay that equaled our experience and education combined.

I wish my Health Care Organization would stop increasing LPNs scope without compensation.




32 thoughts on “What’s the difference between an LPN & an RN?….And a little bit of why I’m a mad LPN.

  1. One factual error, RPNs in Ontario can do more than Alberta. As an RPN, I was allowed to spike blood, give IV direct and do PICC draws, change PICC/Central Line dressings, do ECGs and venipuncture when I left 5 years ago. The difference between an RPN and RN is that RNs have a broader base of knowledge and manage more complex patients with unpredictable outcomes and provide leadership to RPNs.


  2. I love love love this.

    One more BUT would be Obstetrics. RNs cane do L&D where LPNs can not. LPNs in our facility in rural Alberta are the baby nurses during our deliveries though and have their NRP just as us RNs. They are actually much more experienced in their NRP because they do it more frequently then us RNs who are always the moms nurse. Myself I did my RPN first ( in ON) and then went straight to my RN only because I wanted to do L&D. That was 5.5 years of full time schooling all together in a row. By the time I was done my RN I was working as an RPN the whole time and making 32$/hour after 3 years! When I started as an RN in Alberta where we moved as soon as I finished my RN I was making 27$/hour! Because like you said experience and time as an LPN doesn’t count. I started from the bottom again! This was years ago but the same idea. Our LPNs are great and many times they educate me on thing they are more experienced with! I also got the comment many times as an RPN (LPN) your not a real nurse and why didn’t you go your RN and so on. It’s really too bad.


  3. Don’t focus on the scope or the money if you want to make it moving forward. I was an LPN for 7 years in three different province and I know the trails are hard, but the scope always changes, and money always changes. In Saskatchewan I started at 25 dollars an hour but in a matter of three years our eduction changes where acknowledged and over night I shot up to 33 dollars and hour. In Manitoba LPN scope is so similar to RN really there is nothing they can’t do expect things that are deemed advanced practice and even then RN are not allowed to do them either unless they have the extra skills. So while it may seem frustrating and pointless being a nurse is more than the money and the scope and at the end of the day remember that other wise this other stuff will burn you out and you will end up like many nurse I know including myself that either quit or start hating the job, patients and co-nurse.


  4. There is a lot more than that. The task oriented list shows one difference.

    RNs have at least 2 years more education than LPNs, including more and deeper courses in pathophysiology, pharmacology, jurisprudence, and nursing theory, health politics, and physiology.

    Replacing RNs with LPNs in Canada has been shown to increase length of stay and patient morbidity rates.

    RNs have a large list of advanced competencies that are not available to LPNs.

    Finally, legally LPNs are not Nurses and cannot legally call themselves Nurses.. The Health Professions Act protects the title and only Registered Nurses van use the title, just like only Doctors can call themselves Doctors. LPNs have the protected titles “Licensed Practical Nurse” and “Practical Nurse”.

    LPNs are a valuable part of the team in many settings, but they are not RNs, and that is okay! It takes the whole team to deliver good patient care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has been my experience that if a patient’s condition goes downhill the LPN’s have to hand them over to a RN as they are not qualified to handle certain situations-this is from LPN’s FYI


    2. 3 proclaimed in force May 1, 2002.)
      Schedule 24 Profession of Registered Nurses
      Continuation of corporation
      1 On the coming into force of this Schedule, the corporation
      known as the Alberta Association of Registered Nurses is continued as a corporation under the name College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.
      RSA 2000 cH-7 Sched. 24 s1;2003 c39 s12
      Use of titles, etc.
      2 A regulated member of the College and Association of
      Registered Nurses of Alberta may, as authorized by the regulations, use any of the following titles and initials:
      (b) (b.1) (c), (d) (d.1) (d.2) (e) (f) (g) (h) (i)
      registered nurse;
      certified graduate nurse; nurse practitioner;
      repealed 2001 c21 s46; graduate nurse;
      graduate nurse practitioner; RN;
      RSA 2000 cH-7 Sched. 24 s2;2001 c21 s46;2002 c30 s12; 2003 c39 s12;2005 c13 s4(16);2009 c46 s7


    3. Carol, you speak of a broader knowledge and education in pathophysiology, microbiology, physiology, pathos etc. for RN’s. The truth is that the only thing that RNs broaden their education and knowledge in any of those course’s that you mentioned is to write a better research paper! However, when it comes to application and skills set OF ANY of those courses ALL NURSES do the exact same thing ie: LPN & RN… the additional 2 years of school, (which by the way happens to be a total of 4 four month semesters that we equate to 2 years, when LPN’s go to school for a consecutive 2 years.) are a complete joke in my opinion… writing research papers, learning stats, playing ball and hanging out in a school with kids for 4 weeks for first so called “clinical”, basically having your hand held like a little child through the first 4 semesters before stepping foot into patient care, and by the time you get out there most of them can’t handle it!

      Thankfully I was educated as an LP[NURSE] and trained with proper nursing skills, critical thinking, bedside manor, nursing theory, assessment skills,pharmacology etc before I went back to university to get my bullshit BScN… and let me mention that as an RN I see that LPN’s do 97% of what RNs do EXCEPT the cushy paper pushing positions ie: research nursing, charge nursing, L&D, spiking blood… I now know why when I preceptor’d students my LPN students were far more ahead than any RN student was.
      Carol I am sorry for you and your comments on behalf of all of us regarding the health professions act, its terminology and use of the word nurse, perhaps you shall review some of your course material you speak of ie: nursing politics and the health professions act as well


      1. You’ve obviously never experienced these positions to call them ” cushy paper pushing positions ie: research nursing, charge nursing, L&D, spiking blood… ”
        You don’t have to try to insult the health professionals in thir position just because you are unsettled or dissatisfied with your own.
        I believe that’s one of the real problems, lack of respect. RNs and LPNs have different roles, pay, unions…but the same goal. So why not respect each other and work as a team!
        I have worked as both LPN and RN, going back to school because my interests with labour and delivery, emergency and pediatric neuro…none of which hired LPNs at the time.


    1. I really didnt lke this comment cause there is not always MONEY available. THEY tell you but try get it. I was mandated to take the IV course in Saskatchewan. Money is either frozen or their not giving out any more. I paid my own way..


  5. I’ve worked in both AB & SK as a LPN. When I graduated in 1997, LPN’s fought for many of the skills that you are now doing. Those skills helped to improve your job satisfaction.
    Until SUN & UNA recognize LPN’s, the fight between the disciplines remains.
    The Health Professions ACT regulates our scope of practise. Our governing body, College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta, provides our safe to practise guidelines and continuing education.
    Part of the problem with getting recognition lies with CLPNA because they DO NOT advocate for their nurses with CARNA nor unions. They take our professional fees but DO NOT advocate for us in any form with other nursing bodies.
    As for the wage differences: your base wage in AB may be lower than SK BUT your shift differential puts at/above par with SK.


  6. And unit clerk do not start out at that wage. I am capped out at $30.38/hr and have worked full time for 11 1/2 years as a unit clerk. We have been without a contract for years with no wage increase and worse benefits. We also do not get a lump sum of money for cost of living. I do agree however that LPN’s scope of practice does keep increasing with much less pay than an RN.


    1. And as a LPN of 22 years I am also at my wage max… making less then $28 dollars an hour. I feel it’s a shame to be doing what we do literally saving lives and are worth so little.
      Also the LPN program is a lot longer the 12 months covering much more then it used to..
      I was forced to go back to school to upgrade or I would loose my license. So the education keeps getting added without the recognition from others Especially our fellow co-workers( nurses) and no wage increases to match.
      It’s sad to read these posts saying with LPNs working patients have longer hospital stays and higher morbidity rate…😞so sad to read this.
      Obviously LPN issues here.


  7. I was a LPN for 8 years before I graduated from my RN. And I’d never look back. As a LPN in this province you are limited to your scope and to your areas. I went to school for 12 months to become a LPN, the education was to the point and I feel in comparison to my RN program – scratched the surface of nursing. I wanted more out of nursing which is why I continued on to be a Registered Nurse. Through experience I learned how to deal with situations as a LPN but I was not given the education to go beyond, I wasn’t given the tools to know what to do when things go wrong. We were taught to nurse practically, and basically. After being a LPN and understanding both professions well – I understand the difference in wage. The most obvious being one is a degree program one is a diploma, second being the level of responsibility for a patient. In our province our union is making strides to make wages more fair and I completely agree with this. The way the system is with the two tiers it will remain. Unless all LPNs are willing to put in the 4 years of university, and the money that it costs and we can be one equal group of nurses this is how it will stay. I don’t disagree that this would be a more effective system but based on funding across the country this will never happen. That being said, the LPN wage should be more than it is currently. Health authorities are increasing scope and not increasing wages to reflect the increased responsibility essentially they are getting cheap labour in the LPN population which undervalues how important they are to our medical system as a whole.


  8. Go back to school and become a full RN. The entrance requirements to the RN programs are much more stringent and you need a higher grade average for a reason. If you want the recognition and pay get the credentials and there is no problem.


    1. This is actually incorrect. In SK anyways. In Regina, it’s much harder to get into the LPN program at SaskPolytech. Many wait up to 5 years to get in because the minimum grade is in the 90’s (92 when I got in, 93 for the online orogram). The RN program is much much lower.


    2. Lol did you know that unless you upgraded the old RN education and the new PN program is essentially the same thing!!! Maybe you should upgrade to BN(if you havent)


  9. A lot of patients doesn’t know that there are 3 different kinds of Nurses in Canada the RPsychNurse, RN and LPN. So instead of getting offended maybe educate them? I used to be an LPN for 6 years then got my RN and I experienced a lot of patients who are looking for RN’s but I educated them.

    They also didn’t recognized my LPN exp. because it is a different designation this is also indicated in the Bargaining Agreement. Most especially if you’re a Unit Clerk to LPN they won’t certainly recognized it.

    On the first comment regarding RPN are allowed to spike bloods etc. I hope they’re giving you a good wages.


  10. Actually in Saskatchewan depending on place that you are employed. As an LPN I can hang blood, monitor it and give medications for reactions. We can hang TPN also. Both Blood and TPN are double checked with another RN /LPN. We are not in charge either. We are responsible for our patients. We alternate giving medications, in our facility some units work as team approach others do the Primary Nursing. We have had to fight for our rights forever since I have became an LPN over 30 years ago. We did the JJE with the union to help increase wages. As far as being recognized for previous service I do think u should get some recognition but I was one of the people that didn’t get a permanent job for 15 years because all the CCAs and ward clerks and orderlies and switch board operators went and got their education paid for and took all the full time jobs. So not sure that is good either. In Saskatchewan it depends on union if education is paid for also. Do it for the patient and love of the job. We need to all be there and work together. If you need too – write your ministry and also get union involved or join the union and help make the changes.


  11. Can someone tell me what clerks do to save people’s lives everyday at hospital.. I’m sure the work they do is essential… but worth more then the person given your meds/ blood, giving you your hands on care and physically helping you with all the aspects of you daily living?


  12. But, there IS a difference – a HUGE difference. That HUGE difference is education. IF there were to “just be nurses” (and what horrible, belittling shit phrase THAT is), there would ONLY be RNs. You would not be working as a nurse right now. You’d still be a unit secretary, going to SCHOOL to become an RN. I know allllmmmmoooooosssstt as much as an MD, but I don’t make the $$$ an MD makes, BECAUSE I DID NOT PUT IN THOSE YEARS AND YEARS OF EDUCATION!!
    Quit your pathetic whining and GO BACK TO SCHOOL, and earn your RN degree. Take the boards for an RN! Good luck!
    But your entitled childish blither is nothing more than annoying.


    1. yes, I agree that it would be RN’s only, in a perfect dream world, but sadly its not. I think if we were all RN’s, there would be less discourse. an equal playing field. A common complaint is that LPN’s are taking over RN’s jobs, it would put an end to that, and everyone would be equally educated. Competition would only be your experience and skills.
      Its too bad that I come across as “entitled childish blither” to you.


  13. As someone who has experience as both an LPN and an RN, there are some points that I feel you are misinformed about!( Don’t want to argue about it because you are totally free to post your own opinions and I respect that) However, one point that I am completely confused by and maybe you could clarify…
    “In 2016, when I became an LPN, AHS ignored that I had worked for them for 6+ years as a Unit Clerk. I started as an LPN at the bottom wage… I had been working for AHS since I was 18 years old. EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD. There is absolutely NO THANK YOU FOR THAT…”
    Why on earth would you think that AHS should base your wage, into a new profession and practicing body, on the work experience you received as a unit clerk? You were just starting as a LPN, why shouldn’t your wage reflect that?
    I agree that the experience you received as a unit clerk was beneficial for you as you became an LPN but really?


  14. LPN’s care for patients with a predictable outcome, RN’s take care of those who do not, therefore more responsibility…..A significant difference between RN’s and LPN’s


  15. I don’t know what to say or how to respond to some comments

    I work in rural nursing and there have been times when I had to run a code not based on a degree but based on experience . I have had to catch babies.
    Everyone is so well I have a degree ect. Your school education is a starting point , it is the education and experience you attain after school and that doesn’t matter whether you took four years or two years. .

    I wish people would start thinking experience and team nursing and training ( not from school )

    See I have experience from ortho, acute, long term care, corrections, emergency, home care, assisted living .

    I am full scope LPN with stroke training , maternity training ect……

    In corrections , I worked mental health and maximum security .

    I took as many courses that I could to educate myself in order to be better at my job .

    But I can tell you many times , that I had to take over a patients care due to experience . I had to argue based on my assessments and experience.

    We are all nurses , and depending on the facility , I work full scope in a rural setting .

    Here is the problem , we all have strengths and weaknesses as nurses , we all have different competencies and expertise. I don’t care if you are an rn or lpn . We need to utilize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we will be better advocates for our patients and provide better care .

    I work along side some amazing rns and they know my expertise and when we get a certain patient in , in trauma they don’t say I am rn , leave , they say that is your expertise . We are a team and learn from each other .

    I am so sick of the rn lpn debate . I had one rn tell me the difference is they take courses in management and that is why they are better then me . I respond I have a management degree.


    1. I don’t like that there is a fight between LPN and RN. One thing I’ve noticed though is SOME LPN’s are much more task based and struggle with critical thinking and broader picture thinking. Not all, of course…but I think that there are different ways of thinking between the two.


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