Registered nurses and licensed practical nurses often have interchangeable responsibilities in nursing homes, which can lead to more medication errors, according to newly announced results of a study.

As nursing homes increasingly are being used as a transfer point between care settings, RNs and LPNs are performing tasks, such as medication reconciliation, in the absence of physicians and pharmacists.

This is a problem, notes University of Missouri nurse researcher Amy Vogelsmeier, RN, Ph.D., because there is a significant difference in how LPNs and RNs identify discrepancies. RNs are trained to see the “bigger picture” when it comes to coordinating the care of today’s more complicated nursing home residents, Vogelsmeier said in a statement.

“The solution is not to replace LPNs with RNs but to create collaborative arrangements in which they work together to maximize the skill sets of each to provide the best possible care for patients,” Vogelsmeier said.

Nursing homes have changed in that now they often are used to help residents transition from the hospital to their homes.

The study was published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.