Licensed Practical Nurse Programs (LPN)

By Sarah Collins

04/11/2022



A licensed practical nurse (LPN) works alongside registered nurses (RNs) and physicians in hospital environments. Even though the tasks are different, LPN roles are vital to the healing process of a patient.

The duties of LPNs fall in the lines of non-clinical medical care, meaning their tasks are usually essential. In executing their roles, they help RNs and doctors focus on more advanced treatment.

Typical daily tasks of an LPN include ensuring patients’ comfort, monitoring vital signs, and reporting patients’ statuses to RNs and doctors. It happens that LPNs also perform easy procedures such as blood draws and injections.

Common Duties of LPNs

As an LPN, your daily tasks will include the following:

  • Educating relatives on care specific to patient’s condition
  • Collection of urine, blood, and other samples
  • Routine lab testing
  • Checking patient’s vitals, such as temperature and blood pressure
  • Performing entry-level patient care tasks
  • Observing patients for changes in health
  • Administering medication
  • Providing immunizations
  • Obtaining medical history when patients arrive

Differences Between LPNs, CNAs, and RNs

If you’ve visited any healthcare facility, you’d have probably come across the different nursing roles. The healthcare team is made up of licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs), and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). They all share responsibilities in the nursing process.

While these nursing roles often have to collaborate in the care of patients, they each tend to different needs. If you intend to become an LPN, it’s only normal to know what sets them apart.

Registered Nurse (RN)

The most advanced role of the three is the registered nurse. RNs oversee both LPNs and CNAs in the hospital setting, and they perform the most advanced job duties. RN roles demand more autonomy and critical thinking skills as they treat more complex cases.

To work as an RN, you’ll need an associate degree in nursing (ADN), although it’s becoming more common for employers to ask for bachelor’s degrees. An ADN program takes an average of two years to complete, making it a longer route to nursing than LPN.

However, RNs perform more advanced roles. They perform diagnostic tests, analyze results, determine treatment plans, and instruct patients on managing their illness.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

An LPN, for the most part, sits under the RN in the professional ladder. Sometimes, their duties overlap, which can confuse both roles. In some states, LPNs are referred to as licensed vocational nurses. Regardless of the terminology, the role involves providing primary nursing care.

Accredited practical nursing programs usually take between 12 to 18 months. Since the duration of a practical nursing program is shorter than RN programs, the difficulty of their tasks is lower.

LPNs help RNs with what’s needed for patient care and sometimes oversee CNAs. As LPNs have fewer responsibilities, their compensation is smaller. They perform entry-level medical duties assigned by the RN.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Certified nursing assistants are there to perform the most basic duties at a hospital. They take vital signs, clean rooms, and help patients with their daily activities such as getting dressed and eating.

Even though the role requires some education, CNA programs are sometimes as short as four weeks. The role offers a fast way into the industry if you’d only like to give it a try.

Why Should You Become an LPN?

If you intend to get into the nursing profession, you should consider a licensed practical nursing role. Since it’s one of the quickest ways of obtaining a medical license, it saves you both time and energy.

Spending four years to earn a bachelor’s degree can feel like a lot. LPN programs offer you an easier way into the profession. It also saves you money, as nursing programs are usually costly. Spending one year is cheaper and gives you the chance to save some money before taking the next step.

Gain Practical Experience

The LPN role offers a way to gain real-life experience, which is advantageous for future job openings. An LPN will always have plenty of possibilities in the healthcare industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of LPNs is expected to grow at a rate of 9% per year through 2030. That’s the same rate for RNs. This positive projection for both roles is due to certain factors, like an aging population that requires medical care.

Opportunity to Advance

A great benefit of the LPN position is the ease of advancing. After taking your first steps in the nursing profession, you might decide to progress in your knowledge. You can do this via specialized LPN-to-RN programs that exist to help LPNs earn a complete nursing degree.

Keep in mind that more employers look for BSN graduates for RN roles. The implication is that you need more time and money for a degree. Working a year or two before studying for a full degree helps finance your education. You could even work simultaneously to avoid missing out on the valuable experience.

How To Get an LPN License

To earn your LPN license, you must attend an accredited practical nursing program. It can be considered a more effortless and cheaper way of getting a nursing job.

RNs require a minimum of two years in college to obtain an associate’s degree. You’ll need less to complete a practical nursing program. Find out more about the best online LPN schools to help you get your LPN license.

Practical Nursing Program

Accredited practical nursing programs are commonly found at community colleges and vocational schools. Admission requirements for accredited LPN programs usually include a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent.

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accredits these licensed practical nurse programs. It’s important not to confuse state board approval with accreditation as the licenses will differ.

A practical nursing program will typically prepare students for patient treatment using nursing theory, widely accepted around the country. With substantial clinical experiences, practical nurses get hands-on experience before entering the profession.

Becoming a licensed vocational nurse or LPN is a great stepping stone for the next step in your career. The program cost for students averages $10,000 to $15,000. So, a practical nursing program isn’t the most expensive for students.

To fully complete a practical nursing (PN) program as a student, you’d typically need to invest about 12 months. However, some programs require students to spend up to two years for completion.

NCLEX Test

Upon completing an LPN program, students will need to successfully take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) test. The exam is quite similar to the one that RNs take after receiving their degree. Afterward, you can apply with the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for your license.

LPN Salary

The salaries of licensed practical nurses (LPNs) differ depending on which state they reside. According to BLS, the average salary for an LPN in the U.S. is $48,820 annually.

The salary can seem low compared to what’s obtainable in the healthcare industry. But keep in mind that there’s no extensive education needed to practice. When compared to similar roles in other sectors, it’s still relatively high. With enough job experience, LPNs can push up their salaries, with top earners making over $65,500 a year.

Best LPN Salary by State

If you’re looking for the highest-paying location for LPNs, then Alaska is what you need. Here are the top 5 states:

 

CityLPN Salary Per HourLPN Annual Salary
Alaska$32.51$67,620
California$30.81$64,090
Massachusetts$29.04$60,400
Washington$28.74$59,780
Nevada$28.70$59,700

 

More information about LPN Salary 

LPN Job Outlook

The LPN career outlook looks good, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics expecting job opportunities to grow by 9% annually through 2030. Spending a year to become licensed will almost guarantee a job for licensees.

The underlying reason for the growth rate is the increasing age of the population. The number of people aged 65 or over is expected to double by 2060, meaning nurses of all kinds will be in high demand. Even though science helps promote better health, health issues usually arise as we get older.

Some health conditions such as diabetes and obesity become more prevalent as we age, which will require medical professionals in nursing homes.

Another factor is that most basic services for patients are possible outside of hospitals. This possibility creates a demand in outpatient care and other healthcare facilities.

Final Word: Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

You’ll need a nursing degree for most nursing roles, but you won’t have to bother about such requirements to become an LPN. All you need is to complete an accredited degree in about 12 months, get a license, and you’re good to go.

As an LPN, you’ll find jobs in nursing homes, hospitals, doctor’s offices, healthcare agencies, extended care facilities, and home healthcare services. Although your job will revolve around basic tasks, they are rewarding nonetheless.

So, if you’re looking for a fast way to become a nurse, consider becoming an LPN. The good thing is that you can also progress to more advanced roles. There’s nothing to lose.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)​

Most LPN accredited programs require about 12 months to complete, although some are shorter and others longer. An associate’s degree, on the other hand, will take a minimum of two years. LPN programs are to be found all over the country in community colleges.

Requirements for a practical nursing program vary from school to school, but most programs ask for a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. Other prerequisites may apply, including a minimum GPA, criminal background check, or proof of citizenship.

Although both roles are pretty similar, they differ in the difficulty of duties. LPNs report to RNs and do more entry-level tasks, handling primary patient concerns. There’s also a difference in the time spent in school.

However, both roles work as part of a health care team, treating patients and providing long-term care.

According to the BLS, the average salary of LPNs is $48,820. Salaries vary from state to state, with Alaska paying the highest. If you consider the program cost for practical nursing and the possibility of financial aid, the salary isn’t a bad one.

Currently, the demand for LPNs is high and expected to grow. The BLS expects job openings to grow at a rate of 9% through 2030.

After gathering enough clinical experiences, LPN program graduates can move from practical nursing to advanced roles. A bridge program approved by the state board of nursing makes such career plans possible.

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