A practical nursing or vocational nursing program prepares students to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). Coursework for LPN and LVN programs typically takes 12 to 18 months to complete and leads to the award of a nursing certificate. Becoming an LPN or LVN (which are the same level of practice, with a different title preferred based on the state) can be an excellent introduction to the field of nursing. Practical nursing programs are typically offered at community colleges, vocational or technical schools, and through some hospital-based education programs. The completion of an accredited LPN program is required to obtain LPN or LVN licensure in each state, so an LPN program can be a good place to start a nursing career. The following is a guide to LPN and LVN nursing programs, the types of courses involved, and the job outlook for people who complete this type of nursing program.
Why Pursue an LPN Program?
An LPN or LVN program will prepare graduates to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN), which is required for LPN and LVN licensure in all 50 states. A state-approved, accredited LPN program is required to take the exam, so completing an LPN or LVN program in nursing is essential in order to become an LPN or LVN. Licensed practical nurses provide care for patients who are sick or injured, or who need routine exams. LPNs are usually supervised by registered nurses (RNs) or doctors. They are responsible for providing basic care to their patients, such as changing bandages, checking vital signs, and assisting them with eating, bathing, and personal hygiene.
An LPN program is a relatively short time commitment for people who are interested in starting in the nursing field. Some people might pursue their LPN certification prior to pursuing an associate’s degree if they are trying to save time and money. Since these programs are offered at vocational schools, community colleges, and hospitals, they may be more flexible for prospective nurses who are working during coursework or who need to take classes in evenings or on weekends.
LPN Program Requirements and Prerequisites
Each LPN or LVN program will have its own requirements, but the minimum requirement for most accredited LPN programs is a high school diploma or GED. In addition, many programs will require that students take some prerequisite courses such as biology, English composition, and anatomy and physiology. Some programs might have requirements based on GPA or ACT or SAT scores. No prior work experience is usually necessary. Some programs require students to be certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to be admitted.
Prospective LPNs and LVNs should be good with people and possess a desire to help people. They should also have excellent communication skills and organizational skills, and deal well with stress since the nursing field can be tiring and demanding. LPNs often work long shifts and may work rotating schedules that change each week, so it helps to be flexible.
LPN Program Coursework
The coursework for an LPN program will vary by school or program. After general education requirements, LPN programs usually include coursework such as:
- Introduction to the Human Body
- Practical Nursing Learning Lab
- Medical Terminology
- Pharmacology for Nursing Practice
- Gerontological Healthcare
- Family Nursing
- Mental Health Nursing
- Maternal Infant Nursing
- Pediatric Nursing
The courses taken in an LPN program will give prospective nurses an idea of the various fields of nursing and may give them an idea of a particular field they wish to pursue as a career. In addition to the coursework listed above, LPN programs ordinarily include practicum or clinical work, which provides real-world experience working with patients in hospitals or clinics. LPN coursework also forms a foundation for transferring to an LPN to RN program to earn an associate’s degree and higher-level licensure in the nursing field.
Career Opportunities for Graduates of an LPN Program in Nursing
Graduates of LPN and LVN programs will need to be licensed before getting hired. All states require licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses to pass an exam called the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nursing (NCLEX-PN). The NCLEX-PN covers the skills necessary for entry-level nursing practice, testing the basic knowledge and critical thinking ability of each test-taker. The computerized test is customized to each person, selecting successive questions based on the previous answers. Most questions are multiple-choice, but some open response questions may be given as well.
The nursing field is extremely popular and in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed practical and vocational nurses earned a median salary of $44,090 in 2016.1 The outlook for LPNs and LVNs is good. LPN jobs are expected to increase by 16% through 2024, significantly faster than other occupations.1 The increased demand is partially due to the aging of baby-boomers, but also growing rates of chronic illnesses and the retirement of other nurses. Rural and medically underserved areas may offer a greater number of LVN jobs than other areas.
National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses (NALPN) – The NALPN is an organization for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses and students of LPN or LVN programs. It offers information about accredited LPN programs, and other training and educational opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are LPNs or LVNs different from RNs?
Licensed practical nurses have less responsibility than registered nurses, with fewer opportunities for advancement. In some states, LPNs cannot administer medicine or give intravenous (IV) drips. RNs are more often placed in positions of authority, sometimes supervising LPNs and LVNs, and are permitted to perform a wider range of patient care tasks. Talk to your school or program of choice for more insight.
Are there any online LPN programs available?
Yes. Many LPN programs are available online, or at least partially online. Check with each particular school or program to see how much, if any, of their LPN program is offered online.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm