Can Registered Nurses (RNs) still work as an LPN? That’s a great question, and a complicated one in some ways.
At first it seems common sense: Since RN is a higher license than LPN, it would seem like a no brainer than an RN could work as an LPN at any time. But things aren’t always so simple, and states may vary in how they treat this situation. Some may allow RNs to work as LPNs, others may allow it with some caveats, and others may not prefer this at all.
We recently received a question regarding LPN and RN Licensing:
If a LPN graduates from school to become a RN and passes the boards and gets her RN license, is it legal for them to still work as a LPN in the state of Wisconsin.
Can an RN Work as an LPN?
Thanks so much for your question Stephanie.
As I said above, this can be a tricky situation. In the rush of doing nursing duties, it can quite often happen that an RN may want to give a hand to an LPN or CNA to help aid them and get the job done more quickly. At the same time, working an extended period of time as an LPN or CNA would create some questions as to whether it is allowed under the legal rules set forth by each independent state.
The short answer to this question is: Some states allow it, some may not, and some hold certain requirements in place for when it happens.
Because of this, we sent an email to the Wisconsin board of nursing, and asked them directly. The response we got was:
They can work as an LPN, but they would be held to the standards of an RN doing the same work.
In other words, according to the response we received from the State Board of Nursing in Wisconsin (as of 10/31/12) they do seem to allow RNs to work as LPNs as long as you recognize that you will still be fully responsible as an RN (ie, held to the same legal standards and liabilities).
I’ve also read that some states may not prefer to let RNs work as an LPN or CNA at all, and in those cases there may be legislation in place that forces you to only work under your highest license you have. So in other words, if you are an MD, you can’t be an RN. If you are an RN, you can’t work as an LPN. If you are an LPN, you cannot work as a CNA, and so forth.
The bottom line is this: We do not deal with legislative issues here, nor do we have any control whatsoever on these factors. Laws are constantly changing and they may change them even this year. We do not make an effort to try and keep up with all of the licensing changes among the different state legislative bodies. It would be far too difficult.
Therefore, it is always important to contact the board of nursing in your state directly to inquire about such matters for the most accurate response. In most cases, they are very happy to answer questions and often respond within a day or so at most. We do receive quite a few questions regarding licensing renewals and legal issues, however, we are unable to give authoritative advice in these areas.
For convenience, anyone looking for answers to complex licensing issues should contact the State Board in which they work or plan on working to find the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding these licensing questions. You may see the contact information State Nursing Boards here for each state. Please do not consider advice on this website to be superior or accurate at all times, as things can and do change often.
LPN or RN Pay?
LPN nurses are great nurses. My mother was an LPN, and my husband’s mother was an LPN as well. But I would hope that an RN working as an LPN would get RN pay. If not, then it probably doesn’t make sense to ever work as an LPN, since you would be held to the same standards and responsibilities anyway (according to the response we got from the State Board in Wisconsin).
Nevertheless, I have heard that some RNs do want to work as an LPN for various reasons. But unless you are getting paid RN pay, then it would probably make more sense to find another part-time job or a new full-time job that allows you to get the hours or experience you want, while working under your RN title (with RN salary).
I hope this helps, and I wish you the very best of luck with your future nursing career!