What is an LPN?
An LPN is as Licensed Practical Nurse; it is defined by the Occupational Outlook handbook as one who cares for “people who are sick, injured, convalescent or disabled under the direction of registered nurses and physicians.” The LPN degree, alongside the RN, creates the epitome of the “bedside” nurse.
LPN Job Description
The OOH further defines the LPN as the person to provide bedside care and assessment. They will record and report vital signs, give injections and administer similar medical procedures, assist with basic patient bathing/dressing, and move patients from rooms to operating theaters.
They also collect, according to the OOH, lab samples, record food/fluid intake and clean medical equipment. They can act as midwives, and monitor patients for adverse medical reactions to pharmaceuticals.
They can work in hospitals, crisis centers, hospices and nursing homes.
The LPN Degree Programs: How to Get the Degree
If you knew early on (as in high school), that you wanted to be a nurse, working your way to the RN, then the LPN degree is an excellent stop on the way. In high school and college, you should have taken regular and then advanced courses in mathematics (sorry, but a nurse must be good at math) and the sciences (including chemistry and biology, then at college level physiology, anatomy, psychology and advanced sciences and medical ethics).
Unlike the RN position, however, an LPN need not have a college degree nor any education for basic LPN training beyond high school (some states even accept high school equivalency).
We would be remiss here if we failed to mention that nursing is a lifelong opportunity, and even those who set their sights on an LPN should be enrolled in a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program or MSN (Master’s level, even more competitive in the job market), with an eye to attaining an RN certificate.
We mention this because virtually all hospitals and medical facilities now hire only BSNs or higher; in other words, you may attain the LPN certificate, but you will not be hired for a well-paying position without the BSN or MSN. You should therefore consider the LPN program as foundational to moving up the nursing and educational ladder.
Once enrolled in a nursing program, there is the option of online courses. The LPN, unlike most nursing programs, can be completed in a year without setting foot in a classroom. In addition to this, most online courses are accredited (do check to make sure before enrolling) and are a stepping stone to the LPN, BSN and the RN (at which point you can be considered marketable).
What Happens In LPN Degree Training?
You can choose to complete an LPN degree either online or at a facility (and LPN training, unlike nursing, can take place at a community college or vocational school). In addition to class work, you will be required to fulfill a certain number of hours (most schools require between 250 and 500) in supervised patient care.
Classroom and training topics include the following:
-Psychiatry and the behavioral sciences, particularly in interactions with patients of different socio-cultural backgrounds.
-Anatomy (a fairly extensive and precise set of courses mapping the body and organs extensively)
-Drug administration and pharmacopeia, instructing you in proper dispensing of pharmaceuticals.
-Physiology, including physical reactions to environments, drugs and the hospital milieu
What Happens When I Have My LPN Degree?
Once you graduate from the LPN program, you will need to sit for the licensing exam, known as the NCLEX-PN. The test questions cover such areas as hospital environment, safety and health care issues, promotion and health advocacy and psychosocial/ethical situations.
The LPN Career Outlook and Salary
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that LPN positions will grow up to 21 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average 9 percent for RNs. The reason for this appears to be hospital overcrowding, and the immediate need to get staff that may not be RN certificated assisting the facility. The median average yearly salary for LPNs is $39,000; RNs, once certificated, earn closer to $60,000.
It may just be the best time ever to gain an LPN degree.