The Role of RNs and LPNs in a Seniors’ Care Community

Ever wondered what a day in the life of a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) who works at a Canadian seniors’ care community looks like? For these dedicated healthcare professionals, enriching the lives of the elderly through expert care is all in a day’s work. While the responsibilities of an RN and an LPN differ, both of these dynamic roles play a vital part in ensuring the health, safety and well-being of senior residents. Continue reading to explore the differences between an RN and an LPN and the day-to-day duties that are involved in each position.

What are the key differences between RNs and LPNs?

In the context of long-term care, registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are both crucial members of the healthcare team, but they have different roles and responsibilities. Think of RNs as the captains of the ship—they have advanced education and training, allowing them to assess patients, develop care plans, administer medications, and provide complex treatments. LPNs, on the other hand, are more like the first mates—they provide hands-on care under the supervision of RNs and physicians, assisting with tasks like taking vital signs, dressing wounds, and administering basic medications. While both roles are essential for providing quality care, RNs have a broader scope of practice and often take on leadership and decision-making roles within healthcare settings. With this in mind, the average annual earnings of a registered nurse is roughly $20,000 per year higher than a licensed practical nurse (though compensation varies by province and employer).

What type of education is required to become an RN or an LPN in Canada?

RNs in Canada usually complete a four year post-secondary university nursing program in order to become a generalist registered nurse. During this time, students complement their studies with practicum placements in order to gain valuable, hands-on experience in the field. Before becoming licensed, RNs must pass a National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) or Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Canada Examination (RPNCE), and meet the registration requirements in the province that they are setting out to work in (the requirements may vary from province to province). 

LPNs must complete a two year post-secondary program at the college level that involves nursing theory, and clinical instruction in both medical and surgical nursing; this program must be recognized by the health regulator in the province that the student is intending to work. LPNs must also pass the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Examination in order to be recognized as a licensed practical nurse. 

What are the roles of RNs and LPNs at a long-term care home?

RNs in long-term care homes play a pivotal role in advocating for residents’ rights, dignity, and quality of life. Their expertise, compassion, and dedication contribute to the delivery of person-centered care that promotes comfort, independence, and meaningful engagement for residents.

LPNs provide essential care and support to residents under the supervision of Registered Nurses (RNs) and other healthcare professionals. LPNs are skilled healthcare providers who bring expertise in practical nursing to the care team. Their role encompasses a wide range of responsibilities aimed at promoting the health, safety, and well-being of residents.

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of RNs and LPNs include:

  1. Assessment, Care Planning and Direct Care: RNs conduct comprehensive assessments of residents’ health status, including physical, mental, and psychosocial needs. Based on their assessments, RNs develop individualized care plans in collaboration with residents, families, and the interdisciplinary care team to address residents’ unique needs and preferences. LPNs are responsible for the direct patient care, assisting residents with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, toileting, and feeding. They also perform routine nursing procedures, such as taking vital signs, administering medications, and monitoring residents’ health status.
  2. Medication Management: RNs and LPNs are responsible for administering medications to residents according to prescribed dosages and schedules, as well as monitoring for adverse reactions or interactions. They also educate residents and caregivers about medication management and safety practices.
  3. Wound Care and Treatment: RNs and LPNs collaborate to assess and manage residents’ wounds, including pressure ulcers, surgical incisions, and skin tears.
  4. Monitoring and Evaluation: RNs closely monitor residents’ health status, vital signs, and symptoms, as well as response to treatments and interventions. LPNs also monitor residents’ vital signs, symptoms, and changes in condition, reporting any concerns or changes to the RN as needed.
  5. Coordination of Care: RNs serve as key liaisons between residents, families, physicians, and other members of the care team, coordinating services and communicating changes in residents’ conditions or care needs. LPNs collaborate with RNs, physicians, personal support workers (PSWs), therapists, and other members of the care team to coordinate resident care effectively.
  6. Patient and Family Education: RNs and LPNs provide education and support to residents and their families on topics such as disease management, medication adherence, healthy lifestyle choices, and coping strategies.
  7. Emergency Response and Crisis Management: RNs are trained to respond to medical emergencies and crises that may arise in a long-term care setting. They provide immediate assessment and intervention, initiate emergency protocols, and coordinate with emergency medical services as needed.
  8. Record Keeping & Documentation: LPNs maintain accurate and up-to-date documentation of residents’ care, including medication administration records, nursing assessments, and progress notes. They ensure that all documentation complies with regulatory requirements and facility policies.

Additional Resources 

Ready to pursue a fulfilling career that gives you the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the elderly? Here are some additional resources to help you kickstart your journey as an RN or an LPN in long-term care:

As Canada’s leading provider of seniors’ care and housing, Park Place Seniors Living is always on the lookout for talented individuals to join our dynamic team. With a large, unique portfolio of seniors’ communities across BC, Ontario, and Alberta, the career opportunities are endless. Visit our careers page to discover the benefits of working at Park Place Seniors Living and to explore the volunteer and professional positions that are currently available.