There are many pathways to becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse. Depending on which state one lives in, an LPN may also be referred to as a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). When choosing a career path as an LPN or LVN, one can first choose a career as a Certified Nurse Assistant to prepare for further studies in healthcare.
Becoming a CNA may also slightly reduce the coursework or time required to become an LPN. The LPN is an intermediary nursing career. It’s a step above the CNA. LPNs earn about 1.5 times a CNA, approximately $40,000 annually and are generally given more independence in their duties. However, RNs are a step above LPNs, and in most cases provide them with instructions to be carried out under minimal supervision. RNs are more likely to implement or modify a plan of care, while LPNs carry out steps.
Most LPN programs have little if any prerequisites. Applicants should be 18 years or older and have a high school diploma or GED. Some colleges may have GPA requirements, which are usually low, such as a 2.0. In the event that a student’s GPA is low, they can usually be admitted to the program upon completion of one-two college semesters with a satisfactory GPA. In certain cases, students may be required to take an entrance exam, usually testing general math and English skills.
LPN training traditionally involves three parts-the coursework, clinical practicum experiences and exam preparation. When searching for an LPN program, students should pursue a program that is accredited by or pursuing accreditation with the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. NLNAC is the only nationally recognized accrediting authority for LPN programs. Students begin their LPN program by completing general education courses, with an emphasis on math, sciences and health related material.
Once the training portion of the LPN program is complete, students will then pursue a clinical practicum. Each state has different requirements for the LPN, specifically as it relates to length and type of clinical training, so it is imperative to review these requirements before pursuing nursing education. Some states may require a prospective LPN to have a certain amount of hours in various areas of practice.
Taking the NCLEX-PN exam for licensure is the last step in becoming an LPN. It’s important to take the test as soon as possible after graduation. Some students may take time to study, but in favorable circumstances, the test should be taken within a year of graduation. For example, in Delaware, students who wait more than a year to test are required to submit a formal petition to take the certification exam.
Finally, students must secure a job in the field. The nation has seen a surplus in the geriatric population, which has created a need for more health professionals, particularly in nursing and extended care homes. Most LPNs find work in a nursing or assisted-living home, though some work in hospitals, doctors offices and home healthcare settings.