The Difference between a CNA and a LPN

At the present, there are several types of nurses. These include the Registered Nurse (RN), the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and the Certified Nursing Assistant/Aide (CNA). These designations have been used since licensure and certifications were first enacted. Definitely, responsibilities also differ for these three. To fully understand the difference between a CNA and LPN read on.

On nursing programs:

Cna and LPN

It was just recently that CNA became in demand for a career. To be a CNA, you need to complete a course in Nursing Aide provided generally by two-year community colleges or specialized schools. Classes may take about six weeks to finish, as the course mainly deals on the very basic concepts of nursing. Trainings however, may be rigid, as this is the main goal of the program. At the end of the course, the graduate would need to take the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) to become a certified nursing assistant or aide.

As for LPN, there are approved practical nursing programs provided by community colleges, vocational schools, hospitals, or other independent health agencies. These programs usually last nine or twelve months and provide both classroom and clinical experience. In some areas in the United States, the LPN programs are being expanded to the associate degree level. At the end of the program, the graduate takes the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to obtain a license as a practical nurse. Compared with the CNA programs, the LPN programs are more expensive and take a longer duration to finish.

On responsibilities and duties:

Under the supervision of a registered nurse, the CNA is responsible generally, for the very basic needs of the patient. These include assisting the patient in feeding, bathing and dressing. This is especially true for bedridden patients who need all the assistance as they can’t do it for themselves. Routine procedures, including taking of vital signs, are also part of the CNA’s duty. The CNA must also see to it that aside from the patient, the bed and the room, is always kept neat and clean. For some CNAs, they can also assist in setting up medical equipments and in some medical procedures, if they’re trained to do so. Lastly, as they are the ones working very closely with the patient, it is their responsibility to call for help, when the need arises or when there’s a decline in the patient’s condition.

On the other hand, the LPN is also expected to do broadened bedside care under also the supervision of a registered nurse. The vital signs, height and weight are also taken by the LPN. It is also their responsibility to make sure that the patient maintains good hygiene practices in their stay at the institution. Daily exercises for the patient can also be performed by the LPN. The major difference from the CNAs would be, the LPNs can administer medications, including injections while the CNAs cannot. LPNs are also licensed to perform wound dressing and to monitor the catheters of the patient. As much as they are also hands-on with the patient, they have the duty to asses and report regularly the status of the patient to their registered nurse or attending physician.

Generally, these are the similarities and differences between a CNA and a LPN when it comes to earning the certificate or license, and when it comes to their responsibilities and duties to their patients.


You have acquired your certificate and you are now a Certified Nursing Assistant. You have worked and experience being a Nursing aide for a considerable amount of time. You enjoy working in a healthcare setting and realized this is your true calling. The question is would there be something more? Is your career path still a long way through? Do you see a brighter future in this field? The answer for all of this is definitely yes. Some people chose to be a CNA first in order for them to assess if the healthcare field is for them or not. It gives them a chance to experience what it feels like working in a hospital setting and then sees if they feel they are suited for it or not. If after some time and they feel that they love working and serving the sick then it is time for them to go to the next level, to be a Licensed Practical Nurse that is.

A Nurse Aide should be a LPN first before embarking on their dream to be a Registered Nurse. Being an LPN, this gives them much responsibilities but less than from a nurse. They can do much more but still they are under the supervision of a nurse or a doctor. They can give some medications and observe some adverse reactions as well as providing wound care. They also have higher salary than a nursing aide. And if they gain enough experience, they can supervise Nursing Aide as well as other LPNs. To be a LPN, a CNA should undergo added training. This is done by enrolling yourself to an LPN Program. If you don’t have time to attend a regular class, there is still an online course available that caters people who wants to be a Licensed Practical Nurse. You can choose the most convenient time for you especially if you are working by day. This training usually takes 12 to 18 months to complete. This also involves theoretical knowledge as well as practical by showing students some video presentation on how to perform a particular skill. They were taught about the different theories and concepts involve in the nursing profession such as how to observe adverse reactions or abnormal signs and symptoms. They were also taught on how to prepare themselves for emergencies since they will be working directly not only with patients and nurses but as well as doctors. They also need to take the NCLEX-PN before becoming a full pledge Licensed Practical Nurse.

Every CNA should have this chance to improve themselves and find their suitable spot on the nursing field. Especially before becoming a CNA, it requires you to find it in yourself the characteristic of a Health Aide. And that is being compassionate, understanding and patient to your client which is also what you sincerely need to be a successful LPN or in the future, a registered nurse.