LPN vs CNA: Which Career Path Is Right For Me?

October 24, 2022
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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With an aging population, emerging health challenges, and an ongoing labor shortage, nurses and related health care roles continue to be in high demand. Anyone looking for a stable career that involves helping people can find the field of nursing to be a very rewarding path.

When researching potential career options, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the variety of roles, and abbreviations, you encounter. Many potential nurses see LPNs and CNAs as great entry points to the nursing profession, but still have questions about the best path for their circumstances and long-term goals.

The following guide can help you make this choice by providing practical information about LPNs and CNAs, and explaining some of the main advantages of each role. We hope this can help you make an informed and confident career decision as you choose which role is right for you.

What Is An LPN?

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is a nurse with education and training that enables them to deliver patient care in a wide variety of settings. Typical LPN duties can include monitoring patient health, taking vital signs, discussing patient care plans, administering treatment, and helping to document care. LPNs can work nearly anywhere, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, and in-home care.

To receive their practical nursing license, LPNs generally need one to two years of education that includes clinical experience. In most situations, LPNs will report to a registered nurse (RN,) physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner.

What Is a CNA?

A certified nurse assistant (CNA) performs many of the same duties as an LPN, but as the name implies, CNAs work in a more supportive capacity. Typical duties can include bathing, dressing, and moving patients, monitoring vital signs, helping with food, and reporting health concerns to either an LPN or RN. CNAs can also work in nearly any health care setting, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and in home health.

The education requirements for a CNA certificate are generally far shorter than other nursing roles, and can often be completed in one to three months, depending on the program. In addition to reporting to a clinical supervisor such as an RN or doctor, CNAs may also take direction from LPNs in many situations.

LPN or CNA: Comparing two Career Paths

In deciding whether to become a CNA or an LPN, you should closely examine your current situation and your career goals to determine which one is right for you. Factors to consider include your age and overall experience level, your budget for education, and your time availability.

Reasons many people choose the CNA path include:

  • If you are a young adult just starting out in your career and don’t have a lot on your resume, CNA can be a great first job. In fact, many people start out as a CNA to see if nursing is a good fit before going on to becoming an LPN or RN.
  • For people with a limited education budget who do not want to go into debt, the training and education required for becoming a CNA are less substantial than for an LPN.
  • If you have a busy schedule, CNA programs can be completed in as little as four weeks, compared to a year or more for LPNs.

Becoming an LPN may be more appealing in the following circumstances:

  • Due to the more rigorous nature of an LPN program, you will gain more skills and experience.
  • LPNs take on more responsibility, so if you want to change careers without starting at the bottom, this can be a better fit.
  • LPNs have higher pay rates and salary compared to a CNA, so anyone with certain income requirements will typically prefer this path.

Ultimately it’s a personal decision with no right answers. Everyone you talk to has a unique and personal career path that typically does not follow whatever template they had at the beginning.

No matter what you choose, the healthcare setting and the company you work for can make a huge difference in your career satisfaction. For CNAs and LPNs alike working in hospitals and nursing homes, burnout is a real issue, in comparison to the field of home health care can offer caregivers from a wide range of backgrounds an intimate, independent setting with a satisfying pace of work.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance time between work, home, and caring for a child or loved one. That’s why the team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.

Our home health care services offer one-on-one support in the comfort of home. We are always looking for loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision.

Applying for a position with Care Options for Kids is quick and simple. Our online application process eliminates the need to come into a local office until you are ready to meet with our Director of Nursing. Your application, resumé, license, and CPR card are all uploaded online. Care Options for Kids provides services in counties throughout the state of Florida. We make it as easy as possible to join our team. Call today at (888) 592-5855.