Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Programs

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What is an Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)?

A licensed practical nurse, known is some states as a licensed vocational nurse, provides medical care to patients at hospital, clinics and private practices. To be become a licensed nurse an individual must study for approximately two years, earning an associate degree in nursing. LPNs/LVNs will usually pursue a program of study at a community college or accredited school and such programs typically have more stringent admissions guidelines than the school as a whole. LPNs/LVNs may enter programs after graduation to become registered nurses which is a bachelor level degree.

What Classes Do LPN's Take in College?

Students interested in a nursing program will find they must focus on a variety of sciences alongside medical coursers. Additionally, nurses will learn about patient care, including treatment and mental health. Most nursing programs will offer classroom courses along with laboratory work, and eventually practical experience through local internships at clinics or hospitals. The experience earned through a nursing program is important, thus online programs in the field are often looked down upon.

A licensed practical nurse program curriculum may include:

Nursing programs should be accredited by one of several accrediting agencies in order for their degrees to be recognized by clinics and hospitals for the purposes of work. Accreditation agencies include:

LPN Degree Program Requirements

Unlike many other types of nursing careers, a licensed practical nurse will not necessarily need to earn a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree to enter the field.  In fact, many colleges and universities will require a high school diploma or GED plus a minimum GPA as LPN prerequisite items.  Once accepted into an accredited program, you will need to successfully complete a state-approved nursing program can sit for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s NCLEX exam followed by any other state-specific licensing requirements.

In most cases, the LPN college program will last about a year.  You will find state approved licensed practical nursing programs at a variety of community colleges, trade schools, and vocational programs online and on-site.  LPN’s and LVN’s provide basic nursing care to patients and must successfully complete a state-approved nursing program from an accredited college or university prior to applying for licensure.

Can I Earn an LPN Degree Online?

Yes, you can earn an LPN degree online from a number of higher education institutions and nursing providers.  A LPN degree can be earned from a community college, vocational school, trade school, technical institute, or hospital.  Your essential key to finding the right program starts with ensuring the school of your choosing is a state-approved educational provider.  If a school or hospital does not have state-approved nursing program, you will not be able to sit for a licensing examination.

Other considerations you will need to think about include the school’s curricular design, program requirements, tuition, financial aid package, clinical experience requirements, and graduate rate.  For online colleges offering programs for an LPN, make sure to ask the admissions office the type of online learning modality.  The two primary learning modes for online colleges are synchronous and asynchronous.  In short, the synchronous learning model is where things happen at the same time for each student.  Meaning you attend class online at the same time as your professor and other LPN students to learn the material concurrently.  On the other hand, asynchronous learning happens at different times.  An asynchronous online learning modality allows students to learn on their own schedule at their own pace while working towards the completion of a course or program.

More and more students are enjoying the benefits of earning an LPN degree online given its flexibility for working professionals and busy schedules for students around the globe.  The Online LPN program will have a similar course structure when compared to a classroom-based program, taking similar tests and compulsory examinations.  Through the technology advances in video chat and video conferencing, students can readily connect to learning modules through a computer and internet connection.

How Long is an LPN program?

An LPN and LVN nursing program is typically a twelve-month program that includes lectures plus supervised clinical experience.  Both academic professionals and nursing professionals alike support the blend of classroom learning with hands-on learning to help solidify concepts, theories, and decision making skills.  With repetition and exposure, LPN students will be able to index knowledge for future use and establish a framework for thinking about patient needs proactively.

Upon completion of the LPN program, nursing students will be eligible to take the NCLEX-PN examination.  By passing this exam plus any state-required examinations, students are granted an LPN license of LVN license for their state of residence.   Graduates can then begin to work in a licensed care facility or hospital setting or elect to apply to a transitional program from a state-approved higher education institution to become a Registered Nurse (RN).

What is the Difference Between an LVN and LPN?

The difference between a Licensed Vocational Nurse and a Licensed Practical Nurse is nominal.  Other than the geographic preference for a LVN versus an LPN, they are essentially different acronyms used to describe the same job functions.  IN fact, the job functions, educational requirements, skills, roles, and licensure of an LVN is the same as a LPN and vice versa.  The nursing boards in Texas and California use LVN’s while other boards tend to utilize LPN to describe the degree program and job function.

How is an RN Different from an LPN?

The difference between an RN and LPN is the degree requirements and job duties after graduation.  An RN is a Registered Nurse with a 4-year Bachelor of Science (BS) degree or 2-year associate degree from a nursing school.   Generally, RN’s have an expanded set of job responsibilities with more critical thinking and analysis than an LPN.  In fact, an RN can supervise an LPN and make independent decisions across a greater span of issues.

A Licensed Practicing Nurse works under an RN or qualified nurse in a medical facility, hospital, or care facility.  An LPN will help maintain proper patient records, provide basic care for patients, assist in managing a patient’s care plan, and communicating with patients and family members.  LPN’s have successfully completed a year-long program with a state-approved nursing college or school and passed the NCLEX and any state-required examinations.

What is the Difference Between LPN and CNA?

The primary differences between an LPN and CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) comes down to education qualifications, job functions, and compensation.  While an LPN and CNA provide basic care for patients under the supervision of a qualified nurse, the job responsibilities vary greatly.  A Certified Nursing Assistant will provide rudimentary patient care such as feeding patients, helping with dressing and undressing, answering call lights, making beds, transporting patients, and reporting changes to nursing staff.  A CNA is a highly important role in healthcare and significant to the overall care and wellness of a patient.

CNA’s must obtain a certification from a state-approved higher education institution along with successfully passing requisite state-based nursing examinations. The median annual income for a Certified Nursing Assistant is currently $26,590 with a proposed growth trajectory of 17% through 2024, adding nearly 270,000 during this reporting period.  On the other hand, the median annual income of an LPN is $44,090 with a 16% growth projection during this time.

Job Responsibilities of a Licensed Practical Nurse

Some job responsibilities an LPN may perform include:

  • Take Vital Signs
  • Gather Patient Health Information
  • Assist Patients with Personal Hygiene
  • Help Care For and Feed Infants
  • Educate Patients and Family in Good Health Habits

Licensed practical nurses may find work through a single employer, or fill out their schedule through multiple employers and/or agencies. Some individuals looking to establish flexible hours will prefer to work with agencies, as they can accept or deny work as need be, and there is rarely a shortage of opportunities. As stated above, most LPNs and LVNs will typically pursue a registered nurse degree, often while working, and as such the need for flexible yet consistent work hours is high.

Online Colleges Offering Nursing Programs:

Employment Opportunities: Career Paths with an LPN Degree

Students earning an LPN degree from an accredited college or university will be able to work in a variety of settings across the country.  The 6 most common work settings for a Licensed Practical Nurse are: nursing facilities, physicians’ offices, hospitals, home health care providers, travel nursing, and military installations.

  1. Nursing Care Facilities – A nursing care facility is the umbrella term used to describe a number of nursing facilities such as a nursing home, skilled nursing facility, convalescent home, long-term care facilities, intermediate care, and rest home. Nursing care facility specialists care for individuals that require continuous nursing care and supervision.  Job responsibilities range from administrative work to nursing activities and patient health assessments to managing treatment plans.
  2. Physicians’ Offices – LPN’s working in a physicians’ office will quickly discover the contrast in pace and scope of work as much different than that of a hospital. Licensed Practical Nurses are client-facing positions that are not likely to entail emergency care situations.  A typical day may include administrative duties, patient assessment, minor surgical procedures, and administration of medications.
  3. Hospitals – Contrast to a physicians’ office, an LPN working in a hospital will be working in a high-demand, fast paced environment during chunks of the day. Depending on the hospital and your experience, you may be given additional job responsibilities as an LPN working in a hospital.  A common set of job responsibilities for an LPN working in a hospital include assisting physicians and RN’s in surgery, maternity wards, and emergency rooms.
  4. Home Health Care – The home health care sector continues to see rapid growth as an aging population in the Unites States requires additional care and the insurance industry continues to evolve. Home health care services is dominated by elderly patients but also provides services to patients recovering from illnesses, diseases, and accidents.   LPN’s working in home health care entails assisting patients in their home with defined care plan coupled with an emphasis on education to benefit patients & family members.
  5. Travel Nurse – A travel nurse is expected to spend a significant percentage of their time traveling, locally and regionally, on short-term contract assignments. A contract assignment may be to assist a hospital experiencing a shortage of qualified nurses or assisting others part of an emergency situation.
  6. Armed Forces Nurse – An armed forces nurse or military nurse works with or works in a military installation assisting others in need of care. Military nurses will need a bachelor’s degree and specific training related to the armed forces branch they are associated.  As a military nurse, you may have the opportunity to be trained in other areas such as a medic while receiving substantive tuition discounts while on active duty.

Career opportunities for licensed professional nurses are plentiful, even though the pay and responsibilities of a LPN are not as great as that of an RN. For individuals interested in career advancement, the ability to continue one's education and become an RN while working is appealing and often utilized. LPNs will be responsible for patient care and monitoring, including various forms of patient assistance though due to their licensing, will be unable to administer medication.

Average Salary for an LPN

The average salary for LPNs and LVNs is approximately $44,090 per year. The growth of jobs for LPNs is expected to increase 16% over the next ten years adding approximately 117,400 jobs during that reporting period.  This expected growth is due to a large portion of the United States population approaching retirement age, which in turn has created a need for more health care professionals.  Job opportunities will be higher in developing and established urban centers, as the higher population along with population density requires more individuals.

States with Highest LPN Employment

  • Texas             70,810
  • California     68,110
  • New York     46,990
  • Florida          44,820
  • Ohio               39,920

Top Employers of LPN’s

  • Nursing Care Facilities                   211,940
  • Physicians’ Offices                           93,470
  • Medical and Surgical Hospitals    93,050
  • Home Health Care Providers        85,410
  • Continuous Care Facilities             48,920

Highest Paying States for LPN’s

  1. Connecticut                  $55,720
  2. Rhode Island                $55,410
  3. District of Columbia   $55,200
  4. Massachusetts             $55,190
  5. Alaska                            $53,760

For More information about earning a LPN degree, simply visit the accredited colleges and universities below or visit our online nursing resource page or career portal to learn more careers in nursing.   Individuals interested in licensed practical nursing may also be interested in occupational therapyphysical therapy, or physician's assistant.  For additional information about the nursing profession, read our Complete Guide to Nursing on the MatchCollege blog today.  Additionally, you can learn a great deal about associations such as the NALPN and the NAPNES by visiting their websites.  Members receive tools and resources to help advance the field of knowledge for LPN's across the nation.

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Career Summary: Licensed practical nurse Major




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