Before we dive into the training and certification/licensing aspects of LPN’s we’ll first provide a brief overview in order to familiarize you with the field.
An LPN or licensed practical nurse is a nurse who provides basic care to individuals who are dealing with mental, physical and/or psychological challenges often caused by an illness or injury.
LPN’s assist individuals with getting dressed, cleaning up, taking medication, performing basic movements, caring for themselves and a host of other important tasks.
In fact LPN’s play a critical role in providing bedside care to individuals that need basic medical assistance in a long-term care facility.
In many cases LPN’s can be trained to enter the field of nursing within 12 – 24 months allowing them to quickly begin working and provide basic care to patients who need medical assistance.
Beginning a career as an LPN is also a great way for individuals to learn about the medical field early on and decide whether or not it’s right for them before making the jump into a long term education program.
What do LPNs do?
LPN’s provide basic medical assistance to patients who need help with many of the day to day tasks they have trouble completing in their own daily lives.
This may include getting in and out of bed, getting dressed/undressed, using the bathroom, bathing/showing, preparing and eating meals, taking medication, massages and even assisting the children of medical patients.
LPN’s may provide care to a wide range of age groups that require care and assistance with a variety of medical injuries, illness and mental disorders.
Some of the daily tasks performed by LPN’s include:
- Assisting patients with getting in/out of bed
- Dressing or assisting patients with difficult clothing
- Assisting with using the bathroom, shower/bathing and cleaning
- Providing medication and feeding individuals who are unable to feed themselves
- Recording vital signs and updating/maintaining medical records
- Working with registered nurses, physicians and other medical professionals to improve the patients overall care
In regard to providing patients with excellent all around healthcare LPNs act as a liaison between the patient and other medical staff by caring for and monitoring the patients health, and reporting any issues or abnormalities to the registered nurses, doctors and physicians who are trained to treat the patients condition.
Because LPN’s share such a close bond and working relationship with their patients it is vital that LPN’s maintain a sense of security and non disclosure about their patient when talking to non licensed medical professionals and those not in direct care of the patient.
The path to becoming an LPN
Becoming an LPN begins with earning a High School Diploma, G.E.D. or equivalent as it will be required before you can enter the LPN program.
Students who are still in the process of earning their Diploma may want to consider taking complementary courses such as anatomy and microbiology.
Some High Schools may even offer there own LPN programs as a way to prepare students for the NCLEX-PN state exam that is required to become an LPN.
For individuals who have finished high school and earned their Diploma or G.E.D. you can find a local LPN program by going to your local college, university or vocational school or by searching online to find it if your local school offers an accredited program.
In addition to finding and applying for an LPN program some schools (not all) may require students to pass certain prerequisites before joining the program.
Prerequisite courses may include Chemistry, Anatomy & Physiology, Developmental Psychology, Microbiology and courses in both English and Math.
In some cases these courses will have already been taken and passed in high school allowing you to skip the prerequisites courses.
Once you gain entrance into the program you will then spend the next 12 – 24 months learning how to become an LPN.
The amount of time it takes to complete the program depends on whether you want to earn a certification/diploma (1 year) or associates degree (2 years).
at the end of the training program students will then be required to take and pass the state NCLEX-PN exam in order to become licensed and begin working as an LPN
While participating in the LPN program students will learn a wide range of skills and assessment techniques to help them become proficient in their work.
During the course students will be taught how to:
- Perform basic patient assessments
- Assisting patient with proper hygiene care
- Properly perform and manage patient mobility
- Assist with Basic medical care
- Understand pain management
- Perform basic medication administration
- Understand and perform proper infection control and prevention
Students will also learn about human anatomy and biology, technical terminology, the legal aspects of LPN work and a host of other important topics that will allow students to be great LPN’s.
How to find a good LPN program
If you’re interested in becoming an LPN there are a number of ways you can go about looking for a good LPN program.
First, you’ll want to make sure you look for a program that is accredited by an organization such as the ACEN (accreditation commission for education in nursing), which ensures schools provide adequate training programs for students so that they’ll be able to successfully pass the NCLEX-PN exam.
Second, you can find a number of online resources that provide a chart or breakdown of the average passing/failure rate of students who join their programs, which can help you narrow down which schools potentially offer the best training.
Third, consider the payment options each program offers and compare the cost of each school and their average passing rate to help you determine which school you’ll want to join.
Choosing a decent school with a relatively high passing rate and has a reasonable price will offer you the best of both worlds when it comes to training and cost.
Paying for the LPN program
Now that you’ve found one or several LPN programs that you’re interested in you’ll have decide on how you’ll pay for the program.
Depending on the school you might be offered several payment options that may include:
- Work-study program
Each option allows students to pay for the program in a manner that best suits their needs/abilities.
Cash – If you have the money available than paying with cash is a great way to pay for the program as you won’t have to worry about interest, payment plans or a work-study program, and it will allow you to get the financial part of your education out of the way so you can focus on other things.
Loans – If you don’t have the money available or you’d prefer to pay for the class over time than you can always take out a loan, which will allow you more time to for the LPN program and books, stethoscopes, uniforms and any other costs associated with school.
Grants – Some programs or organizations offer to students in order to help them pay for education. If you are able to obtain a grant for the LPN program it can help significantly with costs and cut down or eliminate what you’ll owe for the program and make it easier for you to attend the school.
Scholarships – As with grants some organization / schools may offer scholarships which help cover the cost of the nursing school and allow students to save some money so that they can afford to attend the nursing program.
Work – study program – Lastly, some LPN programs may offer to cover the cost of the program as long as students agree to work for them or their partners for a specified amount of time. Depending on your goals this may or may not be a great option.
On one hand you’ll be able to eliminate much of your cost and possibly get a job after you finish your training. On the other hand you may be paid less (not always) as a way to compensate for your education and be unable to apply/work for another healthcare center until you finish your work – study agreement.
Other factors to consider
Aside from paying for the program itself there are a number of other secondary costs you should consider when signing up for an LPN program.
Some of these costs include:
- Uniform & Supplies
- NCLEX-PN exam
Each of these costs can be added up on top of the program cost, so be sure to calculate these in the overall cost of becoming an LPN.
Career outlook & opportunities
The career outlook for the nursing field as a whole (including licensed nurse practitioners) is on a continuous incline.
As society continues to age and more individuals find themselves in need of long-term care over the next decade LPN’s can expect to see continued career growth within their profession.
In addition to seeing continued growth, which means better job security, increased career opportunities and higher pay, starting a career as an LPN is a great way to gain early experience as a nurse and decide what career path may be best further down the road.
Some healthcare centers and organizations may offer opportunities for LPN’s to become specialized care providers and managers, however LPN’s can take their experience and training and apply it to other nursing programs such as the RN (registered nurse) program.
In fact there are a number of schools that offer LPN to RN bridge programs that will allow for a somewhat seamless transition into an RN program that will apply vital credit and experience they’ve earned from the LPN program and work experience.
Many registered nurses who work in the field begins their career as LPN’s, which not only looks great on a resume, but also provides important insights into the career.
Why become an LPN
The role of an LPN is to help improve the lives of patients by reducing the patients stress, performing basic medical care, reducing pain and improving the patients mood/outlook on life.
LPN’s work with registered nurses, doctors and physicians to provide well rounded medical care to patients who are in long-term facilities or require personal long-term care within their own environment.
These healthcare providers have a deep responsibility and appreciation for improving society as a whole and their efforts in helping other can be extremely self rewarding.
As mentioned earlier the career outlook for licensed practical nurses is on an incline, which means their expertise will become increasingly important and opportunities for being in the field will also grow as a result.
LPN’s (as well as CNA’s) are in a unique position to gain vital experience that other individuals or nursing students may not have by spending valuable time in the field in order to gain experience and a better understanding of what nurses do before transitioning into a higher education program such as registered nursing.
If you’re considering a career in the medical field and want to gain some first hand experience before making a long term education decision, such as becoming a registered nurse or practitioner than starting off as an LPN will give you critical insights that will help make your decision easier before you spend additional years working towards a degree and/or career as a medical professional.