Licensed Practical Nurse programs are practical in nature — at the end of the program, you will be qualified to work as an LPN. So, it makes sense for these programs to be practical rather than online. Working as a Licensed Practical Nurse involves a lot of time around other people, and you will need strong communication skills with patients and also other health-care professionals. LPN programs that are mostly offline will prepare you for the work with people because you will have to communicate and work with classmates, instructors, and supervisors for practical work.
Licensed Practical Nurse programs are shorter than the RN degree, that would lead to a Registered Nurse qualification. The focus of LPN programs is on teaching you the practical nursing skills that will be of use helping RNs in their daily work. Most Licensed Practical Nurse programs only last around 18 months, by comparison with two to four years for RN degrees.
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By comparison with an RN degree, the shorter length of LPN programs is a bonus — you can get through school and begin paid employment more quickly as an LPN. The obvious downside is that Licensed Practical Nurses do not usually earn as much as Registered Nurses.
There are a lot of LPN programs available throughout the United States, due in part to the high demand for qualified people to work in nursing. Broadly speaking, you will be qualified to work as an LPN in the state where you attended school. Some employers and authorities will recognize LPN qualifications from other states, however.
When choosing where to do your Licensed Practical Nurse qualification, it would be a good idea to think about where in the country you would plan to work after graduation. Each state has a Board of Nursing, or an authority with a similar title, that has the power to license nursing staff. The website of your state’s Board of Nursing will tell you all the LPN programs that are approved for licensure.
Choosing an LPN school can take some time, as you will want to find the best place to prepare you for working as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Looking at the “pass rate” of different LPN programs is one way to compare their quality. The pass rate is typically published by your state’s Board of Nursing (or similar authority) and it shows how many students from a specific LPN course took the state examination for licensure, and how many of these students passed.
Obviously, a higher pass rate means that the students likely received a better quality of education, support and preparation during their LPN studies. Programs with a lower pass rate may be a reasonable option for you if you are extremely self-motivated and determined to succeed. But most students will want to choose a school with a higher pass rate so that they know they are receiving good instruction from teachers with a proven track record of student success.
LPN programs and schools can be accredited by the National League of Nursing Accrediting Agency. An accredited institution is likely to be more respected by future employers than a non-accredited program. So, attending an accredited school will probably increase your chances of finding the LPN job you want after graduation.
If you think that you might want to continue your nursing education further, choosing an accredited course for your LPN qualification is smart. Most nursing programs at the Bachelors and Masters levels will only accept LPN students who completed an accredited qualification.
While many programs are offered partly or entirely online, you should check out how much of your education will be on-campus or at practical placement locations. Before choosing from all the various programs available, you should think about your own preferences, learning style and the logistical setup of your life. Questions to consider include how motivated you are to do homework alone between class sessions, how your classes and placements will interact with your job or family commitments, and the additional cost of travel to school or placement locations.
As well as thinking about your schedule and fitting an LPN program in with the rest of your life, you will probably want to consider the financial cost of different programs. At the time of writing, programs in the United States cost anywhere between about $4,000 and about $20,000 to complete. Certain programs may simply cost more than you can afford, and that is fine — the LPN qualification is the same wherever you study, and this is a field of work with high demand and a lot of open job positions.
Programs that are more expensive are likely to attract more experienced and qualified teaching staff. Because they can pay teachers better, these schools are attractive to lecturers and instructional staff who have been teaching for a long time and have a lot of experience in nursing. However, in certain situations — for example, in rural areas with a well-established school that is the only institution for miles around — you might find an inexpensive nursing school with excellent teaching staff.
The other financial factor that can vary greatly is how much tuition assistance, scholarship funding or other money is available to students. Student loans can be seen as an investment in your future — if you complete the degree, pass the exam and begin working in nursing — but these loans can be a major financial drain in the long run. If your school offers a lot of non-loan financial help for students, this can be a great thing as it reduces the number of loans you need to take out.
Other things to consider are whether you like the area and the school and whether you can see yourself working in nursing after graduation. If you are unsure about nursing work, it might make sense to try a short course at an inexpensive school. That way, if you decide to transfer out of the nursing field and study something else, you have not made a huge financial gamble.