Earning a certificate in practical nursing prepares students for a medical career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). In the states of Texas and California, nurses at this level are referred to as vocational nurses. Both certificate programs cover the basics of nursing theory and the necessary skills for entry-level nursing practice. After graduating, students must take the Practical Nursing licensing exam (NCLEX-PN) in order to obtain licensure. LPNs/LVNs may work in hospitals and other medical facilities under the supervision of licensed registered nurses, physicians, or dentists. Graduates may build on their certificate education with an associate’s degree, which is the basic education requirement for registered nurses (RNs). A practical nurse may also choose to participate in a LPN to BSN program in order to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Practical Nursing and Vocational Nursing Certificates
Participating in a practical nursing certification program prepares future nurses for their licensing exam. Once the certification and licensure processes are complete, LPNs/LVNs are eligible for entry-level jobs in the healthcare field. According to government data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for LPNs are growing faster than average at 22%. In addition to high job growth, the average salary for LPNs was listed by BLS at an average of $42,400 in 2012. Moreover, education for LPNs is widely accessible, and there are many online practical nursing programs designed for working adults. Consider these common admissions requirements as an example:
- High school diploma or its equivalent.
- Official transcripts demonstrating a minimum GPA determined by the program.
- Passing scores on pre-entrance exams.
- The desired ACT or SAT score.
- Letters of academic and/or professional recommendation.
A practical nursing program typically requires 1-2 years of study. Students will take courses in the fundamentals of nursing, nutrition, pharmacology, anatomy, and human growth and development. Additionally, students will study more specialized concepts of nursing in the areas of maternity, mental health, pediatrics, and geriatrics. More advanced concepts of medical surgical nursing, applied pharmacology, and IV therapy are also taught in these programs. LPN/LVN programs also include core clinical requirements in which students gain hands-on experience in a medical setting. Those who hope to earn a practical nursing certificate online will be required to partner with a local medical facility to complete clinical practice.
What’s Next for LPNs and LVNs?
To keep up with the rapidly diversifying healthcare industry, LPNs/LVNs may choose to continue their education in a professional or academic setting. Practical nurses can enter associate degree programs to prepare for the next level of licensure to become RNs, or they may choose to build onto their LPN licensure with professional certifications*. Listed below are a few of the certifications available to LPNs and LVNs:
- IV Therapy: LPNs can expand their knowledge in intravenous (IV) therapy by studying vein anatomy and physiology, infection control, equipment complications and more.
- Long-Term Care: Certification for long-term care covers best practices for chronic illnesses that affect patients of all ages.
- Pharmacology: This certification covers the body’s immune system, medication side effects, IV flows and diuretics
- Intellectual Developmental Disability: Nurses who specialize in working with patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities can seek further training in order to identify problems and create appropriate solutions for their patients.
- Foot Care: This certification is designed for LPNs who are interested in providing routine foot care for patients who are unable to perform foot care or who suffer from pain and disorders in their feet as a result of illness.
- Gerontology: The disciplines of long-term care and gerontology overlap in many instances, but a certification in gerontology will focus specifically on the ailments and diseases of aging patients.
*Please note that professional certification requirements vary from state-to-state and may require professional experience as a prerequisite.