How to Become an LPN?

Become an LPN

There are many different types of nurses, all with very specific working duties that require certain levels of training, certification and education. Licensed Practical Nurses are responsible for providing very basic nursing care to individuals within a nursing care facility, hospital or home. Their duties vary from one state to another according to health care regulations, but their work mostly consists of supporting registered nurses and doctors.

In some states, LPNs may be trained to administer intravenous drips or give medication, but other states do not allow LPNs to do this. Duties that the majority of LPNs can take part in include feeding patients that cannot feed themselves, changing bandages, reporting patient health statuses to doctors and registered nurses, and providing basic care - like bathing and dressing - that helps keep patients comfortable.

Providing health care of any variety is very serious, which is why training and certification and education is absolutely necessary for employment. LPNs are required to complete an approved educational program, which is often a degree or certificate program that can be completed within one year. Afterward, all LPNs must complete the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN, to receive certification to work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics[i]

 
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Are LPN Degree Programs for You?

Here are some things to consider when choosing an online LPN program:

  • The most important element in an online educational program is that it is approved by the state. Before signing up for a course, make sure that the diploma or certificate you receive will be accepted beforehand. Contact your state board of nursing to check if a specific program is approved.
  • All approved programs include education in biology, nursing and pharmacology. However, they also include supervised clinical experience. Make sure the program you are exploring offers a method of obtaining this form of training. 
  • To become a certified LPN, all prospective workers must pass the National Council Licensure Examination. Make sure your program specifically provides courses that prepare you for this test.
  • There are other certifications you may be interested in exploring to become a stronger candidate during your job search. Explore whether online programs offer certifications in IV therapy, gerontology or other areas to bolster your resume in the future.

LPN Careers and Potential Salaries

LPNs are primarily responsible for providing basic care to patients, supporting more experienced health care professionals and making sure individuals are comfortable in a health care facility. This often may be the first step for individuals seeking more enhanced careers in health care. Research careers that you may pursue in the future before signing up for an online program or other options you may consider:

LPNs and Licensed Vocational Nurses[i]

The responsibilities of an LPN or LVN may vary greatly according to what sort of health care facility they work for and what state they work in. Some of these professionals help deliver, feed and care for babies. Others collect tissue samples for testing or conduct laboratory tests themselves. Others serve a strictly supportive role alongside other professionals.

  • See the BLS for median annual salary information
  • Job growth through 2022: 25 percent (much faster than average)
  • Entry-level education: Postsecondary non-degree award

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies[ii]

These professionals, sometimes called certified nursing assistants, always work in a strictly supportive role in a health care institution. They feed, bathe, clothe and help patients move in the health care facility. They may monitor vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature, to inform other medical personnel.

  • See the BLS for median annual salary information
  • Job growth through 2022: 21 percent (faster than average)
  • Entry-level education: High school diploma

Registered Nurses[iii]

These professionals typically have more advanced training, education and responsibilities than LPNs. They administer medicines and treatments, set up health care plans or add to current plans for patients, conduct tests and analyze results. Some may take up certain specialties to assist particular patients.

  • See the BLS for median annual salary information
  • Job growth through 2022: 19 percent (faster than average)
  • Entry-level education: Associate's degree

[i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm#tab-4

[ii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm#tab-1

[iii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-1