There are many individuals looking for lucrative and fulfilling jobs today, especially the position of LPN. The job market fluctuates with the changing needs of society. One job that will always be needed is nurse positions. The salary rates for nurses is substantial, and this field offers many rewarding experiences. Healthcare is always needed in society. This fast-growing field always needs new people entering the profession. Some wonder what the difference between a Licensed Practical Nurse and RN (Registered Nurse) is. One of the differences is the amount of training required to take the state board exam. If wondering how to become an LPN, read on for informative details.
What is an LPN?
An LPN has a license to practice practical nursing in the state where the license was obtained. There are many educational programs available today. Some are vocational programs that are heavy on clinical skills. Most states allow LPNs to pass most medications with the exception of a few. They typically work under the RNs in the facility. They are generally responsible for patient care, charting, monitoring patients and other duties. They are also typically hired for nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Duties and responsibilities vary from state to state.
Schools that offer programs often assist students in finding out how to become an LPN. Salary levels for vary in different states and geographical regions. This rate is less than an RN salary but is dependent on experience and the particular job. There are many scholarships and other financial aid options for eligible students. Schools often have flexible classes scheduled to meet the changing needs of students. Some LPN job positions have other duties. With convenient online programs, it is easier to become a professional and get higher paying jobs.
LPN vs RN and How to Go from LPN to RN
The following are some designations regarding differences between LPN vs RN requirements and expected training differences:
- Requires advanced educational training. This is anywhere from 1 year full-time classes to 18 months (typical) or more part-time classes. Both require clinical time in hospital or nursing home setting.
- Requires high school education or GED. It is preferred to have high school chemistry. A good understanding of English is necessary. Algebra and general math skills required.
- Can attend physical nursing school programs. Most are vocational school LPN programs.
- Must pass state board exam
- Requires continuing educational certifications
- Online programs available. Must still complete actual clinical rotations and pass the clinical skills test.
- Must hold a license in state practicing.
- Requires advanced educational training. This can be a 4-year B.S.N. degree, additional training for higher degrees like M.S.N. or specialty degree or certification programs. These courses can be through a college, diploma school of nursing of typically 2-3 years, A.D. nursing programs of 18 months to 2 years. Variety of part-time or full-time schedules. All nursing students must complete clinical rotations in hospital and/or nursing home settings.
- Online programs available. Must still complete actual clinical rotations and pass the clinical skills test.
- Requires high school diploma or GED. High school chemistry preferred. Algebra and general math skills. Good command of English language a must. Must complete required nursing courses. Additional nursing courses and some electives for M.S.N degree.
- Requires continuing educational certifications.
- Must pass state board exams for registered nurses.
- Must be licensed in state practicing.
LPN to RN programs are a popular route which typically last 12 to 18 months and may be fast-tracked. There a few online programs available. All of which require clinical rotations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average LPN salary for a is $42,400. The breakdown of this amount is $20.30 per hour, $815 per week and $3,533 per month. There is only a slight difference in comparison to the national average wage, as shown below.
|LPN Average Salary||$20.30||$815||$3,533||$42,400|
|National Average Salary||$22.01||$880||$3,815||$45,790|
Licensed practical nurses can earn close to $60,000 annually, depending on their location, experience, and industry. The pay of LPNs can differ considerably from state to state, and also in proportion to their experience and additional training. Licensed practical nurses are employed in a variety of industries and this affects their salaries as well.
The latest statistics show LPNs being paid $30,970 on the low end and the highest as being $57,360. Below are figures gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, depicting LPN salaries by state.
|State||Hourly Wage||Monthly Salary||Annual Salary|
|District of Columbia||$24.51||$4,248||$50,980|
As you can see, the state of Connecticut pays the highest salary to licensed practical nurses. Other factors that affect the salary structure is supply and demand, as well as the cost of living.
Programs and Schools
LPN programs prepare students for the duties and responsibilities of working as a licensed practical nurse and to sit for the NCLEX exam to obtain certification. The exam covers various areas of delivering medical care as an LPN, and related subjects as it pertains to that particular vocation.
LPN students learn the basics of anatomy, nutrition, physiology, and pharmacology. Basic nursing is taught, as well as specialties, to include surgical nursing, emergency care, pediatric nursing, and obstetric nursing. The psychosocial aspects of caring for patients is also covered, as well as mental health. There’s hands-on training in a clinical work setting, as the courses progress.
LPNs receive training to assist physicians and nurses and to alleviate their workload by performing routine care. They administer injections, record vital signs, and assist patients with dressing and bathing. They dress wounds and help patients to move around.
Choosing an LPN program involves many factors. One of the best ways is to check the pass rate of the state exam by previous students. The Board of Nursing offers a wealth of information, and this includes the pass and fail rate of students for every school that has an LPN program.
Those looking for LPN programs should make sure their school of choice is accredited. Accreditation means the school meets standards set by nursing accrediting agencies like the National League of Nursing Accrediting Agency. This is important to those seeking certification as a licensed practical nurse for a number of reasons; LPNs continuing their education to get a bachelor’s or masters degree, will find that a requirement is graduation from an accredited school.
Some schools don’t offer online courses for LPN programs, and that may be a deal breaker for some aspiring nurses with limited time and resources. The overall cost of the program is one of the biggest determinants for many people. Check to see if tuition assistance is provided by the school.
Some schools may not give you credit for previous coursework and that’s something else to consider if you have substantial credits to apply to an LPN program. The location of clinicals may be important to some students who prefer to gain experience in a specific area.
If you’re able to speak with students that are currently in the program or have already completed it, you could gain a lot of insight into various aspects that could help you with your decision.
The application process to become a licensed practical nurse is something else to consider, especially if you’re applying to multiple schools. It can be time-consuming, so getting a headstart by completing it as soon as possible will be beneficial.
The application may be lengthy and require a lot of reading and writing. Information regarding your background, criminal history, employment history, and school transcripts will have to be gathered and provided through various means.
Letters of recommendation usually have to be provided, as well as an essay about yourself and the reasons you are pursuing a career as an LPN. Evaluators consider the body of information provided, to determine your suitability and qualifications for the profession.
Most LPN schools require students to pass some type of entrance exam. This is usually to test your basic academic skills in the areas of math, science, grammar, and spelling. A well-known test for LPN programs is the TEA or test of essential academic skills.
Some schools may ask you to come in for an interview. No need to panic, just do some research about the school and prepare for questions that you think will more than likely be asked. Questions like “why do you want to become an LPN” or “why did you choose this school/program?”
Below are some of the best programs in the country:
- Antelope Valley College, Lancaster, California
- Helena College University of Montana, Helena, Montana
- Coahoma Community College, Clarksdale, Mississippi
- Eastern Center for Arts and Technology
- River Valley Community College, Claremont, New Hampshire
- Bridgerland Applied Technology Center
- Centura College, Norfolk, Virginia
The requirements for entry into an LPN program differ depending on the specific program and the state, but there are basic requirements for most programs. Most programs require a high school diploma or GED, but there are exceptions, as some high schools offer a special training program to prepare students going into an LPN program. Some programs will also allow you to enter if you’re close to graduating.
Your grade point average is another consideration, especially if you’re allowed to enroll in a program to become a licensed practical nurse, before graduating from high school or receiving a GED. The majority of schools require an overall GPA of 2.5 or higher, but some will accept a 2.0. It may be harder though, to find LPN programs that accept a 2.0 GPA or lower or those that make exceptions for special circumstances.
Payment for the LPN program of your choice must be arranged and in place, in order to start the program, in most cases. The cost of programs can differ greatly, but many are usually affordable, especially in comparison to other nursing programs like the registered nurse, as most LPN programs can be completed in a year at a community college or vocational school. Many schools have financial aid available through the state and/or federal government. You can also search for scholarships at a local library.
Testing and prerequisite courses are not a big concern for those entering programs to become a licensed practical nurse, as the general high school subjects are normally enough to suffice and prepare students for any testing that may be required. If an entrance exam is required, it should only be to make sure the applicant is competent in general education requirements.
A criminal background check is required before admittance into programs to become a licensed practical nurse. A portion of the training in LPN programs takes place in clinical settings at healthcare facilities, so students are in direct contact with patients. As such, it’s imperative for all involved to require every student to undergo this test, to make sure there’s nothing untoward in their record.
Drug screening is another requirement that may be asked of you. Nurses work directly with patients and are responsible for their care, so it’s another measure to make sure you are qualified to take on this responsibility. Evidence of a complete physical being done may also be required to prove your fitness for this kind of work.
Online LPN programs to become a licensed practical nurse exist, but you still need the clinical portion, which has to be completed at a healthcare facility. These are sometimes called hybrid programs. Students will have to live in close proximity to the facility or school where the clinical portion is taught.
The core courses for the program, many of which pertain to science and mathematics, are usually completed in a classroom of a local community college. These courses are often offered online as well. As your program progresses, these classes will prepare you for the clinical portion of the program.
The facilities used for clinical rotations for students of a licensed practical nurse program include public health clinics, patients’ homes, nursing homes, psychiatric facilities, and various hospital settings. LPN students gain hands-on experience, that includes interacting with medical professionals, developing critical thinking skills, and working with patients.
Programs for licensed practical nurses are very short in comparison to other kinds of nurses. Many other nursing programs require a bachelor’s degree, and some others a masters or PH.D. Formal training is required for most careers in nursing, followed by an examination to make sure a student is competent enough to perform the duties of their position.
LPN programs are offered by a multitude of community colleges, and vocational and trade schools, but it’s critical to ensure your program has the necessary accreditation and approval of the state’s board of nursing. Many people choose the LPN program to get their “foot in the door,” so to speak. Potential students that don’t have the time or money to pursue more advanced degrees, required for upper-level nursing careers.
Upon completion and certification to work as a nurse, and with some experience in the field, many further their career by becoming registered nurses or nurse practitioners. There are programs available that can be completed on a part-time basis while you continue working as a nurse. LPN-to-RN or LPN-to-BSN programs, which are sometimes called bridge programs. You will receive credit for the courses you completed for your LPN certification.
Upon completion of your LPN coursework, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) exam before you can work as a nurse. Your state’s board of nursing will have information about the necessary education requirements to become certified. There are many different types of certification available; some are mentioned below.
The advanced cardiac life support certificate is managed by the American Heart Association and the training teaches nurses how to take care of people during heart-related emergencies like cardiac arrest.
The basic life support certification programs are also governed by the American Heart Association and deal with life-threatening situations, resuscitation, and stabilization of patients.
The case management certificate is for those interested in becoming professional case managers. These programs teach the basics of social work required to work at a variety of healthcare facilities.
If you wish to work in a correctional facility, you will need to get certified as a correctional health professional through the program approved by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. Proper techniques for delivering health care in a correctional facility are taught.
Certification to work in nephrology is given by the Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology. Students will learn the use of hemodialysis to treat kidney disease.
Hospice and palliative care for terminally ill patients is another area where LPNs can receive certification to provide care. This certification is sponsored by the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses.
The pediatric advanced life support certification is offered by affiliates of the American Heart Association and equips LPNs to work in pediatric care in facilities that specialize in the treatment of infants, children, and adolescents.
The developmental disabilities certification is funded by the Developmental Disabilities Nurses Association and prepares LPNs to work with disabled patients needing long-term care.
Wound care certification is very popular and allows LPNs to participate in the cleaning and treating of every kind of wound.
The gerontology certificate is another popular certification and covers a broad range of duties in the care of elderly patients. The long-term care certification is similar, as it enables LPNs to work with the elderly population in long-term care settings.