Should you study in an undergraduate program that will get you your RN licensure or is a Practical Nurse program enough to get you a good career in the nursing field? What’s the difference between the RN and an LPN?
The nursing field is expanding in both directions and for good reason. The recent ongoing nursing shortage has strained even the most vital nursing staffs. One solution? Create additional LPN jobs to take up some basic patient care and urge experienced RNs to pursue Advanced Practice.
The LPN is an entry-level nursing licensure, not a degree. An LPN studies in a Practical Nurse program and once successfully completes it is then eligible to take the NCLEX-PN exam, which awards the LPN licensure.
The outstanding differences between the RN license and the LPN license are: scope of nursing practice, salary, and career advancement. The job or care responsibility accorded an LPN varies from state to state based on regulations, but for the most part the job has significant restrictions especially when it comes to intensive patient care areas. LPNs are trained to do very basic patient care, even dispense some medications, but some of the real meat of nursing practice – ie patient care plans – is well beyond the scope of an LPN’s training in most locales.
Since the Licensed Practical Nurse is a career program the most common avenue is your local community college, where allied healthcare programs are commonly offered or even Associates degrees. Here you have flexible class schedules allowing you to continue working or caring for your family, and access to very well-trained faculty, many of whom are experts in their fields.
Alternative educational options include vocational nurse training schools that specialize in delivery of LPN and CNA programs.
Make sure before you sign on for any quick and dirty program that the school is appropriately accredited to provide the training they sell.
A full-time course of study leading to an LPN license costs you about 1 full year of your time.
Most LPNs learn the following core curriculum before taking their test and getting a job. And some of it is very similar to the basic courses any Associates-focused nursing student might study:
Once an LPN is always an LPN unless you choose to take the step to RN licensure. The LPN to RN is a common bridge program—also called “ladder” or “transition” program-- that offers the missing training so you can get your NCLEX-RN under your belt and move upward in your career.
The balance of this bridge program is coursework focused on bringing the LPN nurse up to the scope of practice equal to that of RN. This includes a great deal of time devoted to hands-on clinicals in a variety of patient care facilities (your experience as an LPN would be helpful) as well as including course work that teaches you proper patient assessment and development of care plans.