For people who would like to work in the healthcare field, becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is a viable alternative to becoming a RN (Registered Nurse). LPN roles are performed by what are called Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) in the states of Texas & California. A LPN requires less time and study than a RN, but still does require licensure.
Universities may offer LPN training as part of the RN program. Some four-year BSN programs, offer students the opportunity to opt-out and become a LPN after two years of study in the program.
The typical duties of a LPN are a step above those of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Licensed Practical Nurses may assist patients with personal care, but their primary duties are assisting patients in gathering and preparing samples and injections. In some cases, LPNs may administer injections or assist with more complicated procedures such as labor and delivery. LPNs work under the supervision of Registered Nurses and other senior health professionals.
Licensed Practical Nurses record the vital signs of patients and also their height and weight, which are passed onto senior nurses or other professionals that make a diagnosis and recommend treatment. Ultimately, each state has guidelines of what duties LPNs are able to carry out. In certain states, LPNs carry out more senior duties such as administering medication or tests.
Prior to pursuing education to become a LPN, prospective students should have a high school diploma or GED. LPN courses may require prerequisites in English, math or a passing score on an institutional placement test.
More commonly, students pursue LPN training at the community college level. The actual LPN program consists of coursework, followed by a clinical practicum and is just over a year long. Programs are at minimum 12 months, but can be as long as 18 months. Though there are several accrediting nursing bodies, aspiring LPNs should look for a program that is accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) does not accredit LPN programs.
While the LPN program cannot be completed online in its entirety, many programs are offered in a hybrid format, in which some theoretical classes may be completed online. Clinical practicums must be completed in person. LPNs who choose to pursue an ADN can often to do so in so in a year, and a BSN in three years, as they receive credit for their previous nursing coursework.
LPN vs RN – What is the Difference?
As with the RN, after completing coursework in a LPN program, students are required to take the National Council for Licensure exam for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). Students may take additional time off to study for their exam, before officially becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse. The main difference between LPNs and RNs, is that LPNs typically assist RNs and do not perform administrative or supervisory duties. However, LPNs still make a good salary, often above $36,000 yearly and as high as $50,000 in some areas. Licensed Practical Nurses complete slightly more education than Certified Nursing Assistants, yet earn a higher salary.