Registered Nurse (RN) versus Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)/ Registered Practical Nurse (RPN)

Registered Nurse (RN) versus Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)/ Registered Practical Nurse (RPN)

Nurse at work

By Brandon Miller
Monster Contributing Writer

When it comes to nursing credentials in Canada, things can often get a bit confusing. An acronym that means one thing in the Prairies might be related to a completely different position in Central Canada. And something that exists in Ontario might not in, say, Prince Edward Island.
Not to worry, aspiring and current nursing professionals. Here’s a match-up of the two main types of nurses in Canada. Read on for a spotlight on Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses/Registered Practical Nurses.

Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners

Registered Nurses, commonly called RNs, exist in all provinces across Canada. An RN holds a four-year baccalaureate degree in nursing from a Canadian university or its international equivalent. These nurses may specialize in a variety of areas such as surgery, obstetrics, psychiatrics, pediatrics, community health, occupational health, emergency, rehabilitation or oncology, just to name a few.

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) holds a master’s degree or advanced diploma in nursing. All provinces and territories require these RNs to register with a regulatory body, and in Ontario, successful completion of the Extended Class Registration Examination (ECRE) is required for an RN to register as a Registered Nurse in the Extended Class, called an RN (EC).

In Ontario, four specialty certificates for NPs exist. They are NP – Primary Health Care, NP – Pediatrics, NP – Adult and NP – Anesthesia. Once an authorized RN (EC), these nurses can complete annual physicals, counsel patients, provide immunizations, monitor patients with critical conditions and complete certain procedures, such as defibrillation. According to the Health Force Ontario Web site, they can perform certain acts that regular RNs cannot, such as ordering diagnostic tests (X-Rays, lab tests, ultrasounds), communicating diagnoses to patients and prescribing certain drugs.

Licensed Practical Nurses/ Registered Practical Nurses

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) are essentially different names for the same role. The term LPN is used in all provinces and territories except for Ontario. In Ontario, the preferred term for these nurses is RPN, though the role that they serve in the community is similar.
LPNs/RPNs hold two-year practical nursing diplomas from accredited colleges. After completion of their studies, aspiring LPNs/RPNs must complete the national licensing exam before beginning a career in health care. Once licensed, LPNs/RPNs may provide nursing services in a variety of settings including acute care, long-term extended care, home care or community care.

The Other RPN

Here’s a confusing fact: Registered Practical Nurses aren’t the only type of nurses using the acronym RPN. There are also Registered Psychiatric Nurses in some parts of Canada, namely British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. These nurses must complete psychiatric nursing college programs and register with a provincial regulatory body.

Three tips on finding nursing jobs:
  1. Go North! Northern Canada offers rich employment opportunities for nursing professionals. And according to the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), Northern nursing jobs offer an increased level of independence, with community health centres often being run entirely by nurses.
  2. Think about home and retirement care. As Canada’s population ages, nurses are more in-demand than ever. There are many prospective LPN/RPN roles in nursing facilities and as personal home-care workers employed by private agencies.
  3. Find a specialty. The more experience you have in a particular area, the more you stand out amongst other applicants. No matter what interest you hold – be it pediatrics or oncology or AIDS care – developing a niche solidifies your commitment to a particular specialty.