The licensed practical nurse (LPN) also is known as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) in some states and a registered practical nurse (RPN) in Canada. When a graduate nurse enters the health care field as a licensed practical or vocational nurse, that nurse will have distinct advantages to advancing a nursing career. This license is for those students who want to enter the nursing field as quickly as possible, yet leave room for further education and advancement later.

Prerequisites for Becoming an LPN

The student who attempts to enter an LPN course will need a high school diploma or GED. Once enrolled, students who enter an LPN course can expect to earn their practical nurse training within one to two years.

How to become an LPN

In addition to a high school diploma or GED, the nursing student who wants to become an LPN will need to graduate from an accredited LPN program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN. The LPN coursework covers biology, chemistry, anatomy, psychology, emergency medical technology, first aid, physical education, foods and nutrition, child growth and development, so it may seem that the nurse could obtain a full education online. The drawback to this assumption is that the LPN is expected to learn clinical practice under supervision. This requires classes in a local hospital, and some LPN programs will help students obtain this education through local health care institutions. Before you sign up for an LPN program, make sure that it is approved by your state’s Board of Nursing. Otherwise, you may not qualify to sit for the NCLEX-PN exam.

Careers Available After Becoming an LPN

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, LPNs and LVNs held 749,000 jobs in 2006. This number is predicted to grow to 854,000 by 2016, indicating a 14 percent increase in employment over a 10-year span. While employment opportunities for LPNs are strong in hospitals, a growing trend toward finding a greater number of jobs in home health care and in nursing care facilities is expanding.

Depending on work environment and work experience, licensed practical nurses can earn salaries of $31,208 to $41,617 annually. The LPN can work directly with patients under the supervision of an RN and/or a physician. LPNs are responsible for a wide range of duties including injections, vital signs, basic diagnostic tests, wound dressing and administering medication. Some LPNs can specialize in a specific unit or department, depending upon the health care employer environment. A specialization can enable the LPN to be fit for duties such as patient and family education and office careers. Jobs for LPNs are available in hospitals, nursing care facilities, doctor’s offices, public health offices and other health care agencies.

LPNs often take the leap into registered nursing after earning an associate’s degree. This degree, along with other appropriately accredited programs such as a hospital diploma or a BSN, qualifies a nurse to take the NCLEX exam in any given state. If you want to earn that BSN, some colleges offer special programs that will allow credits for work experience and prior courses. These LPN/LVN-to-BSN programs may take up to three years to complete, depending upon whether the nurse can attend online or on campus courses on a full- or part-time basis.