Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work closely with registered nurses and doctors to provide patient care in a wide variety of health care settings. Becoming a licensed practical nurse requires completion of an LPN certification program. This program may prepare students to enter the workforce with the basic knowledge and skills required to provide high quality patient care.
As the population ages and outpatient care centers become more popular, job opportunities for licensed practical nurses are expected to increase. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports projected job growth of 22 percent from 2010 through 2020 for LPNs, which translates to approximately 168,500 new positions for those who have completed their certification and licensure (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). The average annual wage nationally for a licensed practical nurse was $42,040 in May 2011, or $20.21 per hour (bls.gov/oes, 2012).
About LPN certification programs
Completing the LPN certification programs is the basic requirement to earn a licensed practical nursing certification. This formal training program, combined with supervised clinical instruction, may prepare students to enter the nursing workforce (nflpn.org). The program also typically helps prepare students to take the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN. Passing scores on this exam are required in order to practice nursing.
LPN certification programs are offered through community colleges, high schools or vocational schools. Students enrolled in the program engage in a mixture of hands-on instruction and classroom training, some of which might be administered online. Typical courses in the LPN certification program include growth and development, mathematics, pharmacology, nursing fundamentals and more (oakland.edu).
The education requirements can vary from one program to another, and so completion time also varies. Some programs can take as little as seven months to complete, while others might take two years or more (nflpn.org).
Those who complete the LPN certification program and earn passing scores on the NCLEX-PN could find work in a variety of areas, including offices of physicians or dentists, hospitals, clinics, community centers, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools, armed forces and other health care settings (nflpn.org).
Aspiring nurses who want to enter the LPN certification program must adhere to program eligibility requirements. These requirements can vary from one program to another, but the basic expectations are a high school diploma or GED, passing grades on an entrance exam and letters of recommendation. Other requirements might include passing a physical exam, taking the ACT, undergoing a background check and having valid CPR certification (mariacollege.edu, oakland.edu).
Because each LPN program has different requirements, speaking with an admissions counselor before starting the application process is recommended.
Career opportunities for LPN certification holders
Becoming a licensed practical nurse can open doors to work in many different industries and settings. Though some students choose to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation, some might use the LPN certification as a stepping stone to further educational opportunities, such as the LPN to Registered Nurse (RN) program. Some health care settings offer opportunities for LPNs to advance, such as those assigned to surgical teams, IV teams and the like (nflpn.org).
The industries with the highest level of employment for LPNs include nursing care facilities, general medical and surgical hospitals, offices of physicians, home health care services and community care facilities for the elderly (bls.org/oes, 2011). Top paying industries include grant making and grant providing services, junior colleges and employment services (bls.org/oes, 2011).
Licensed practical nurses with an eye toward advancement and higher pay might take advantage of certification programs for various nursing specializations. Certifications in long-term care, IV therapy and pharmacology are offered by the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service, while many other certifications are available through employers, health care facilities and nursing organizations (napnes.org).
In addition to the possibility of advancement or higher pay, certifications can appeal to employers. For instance, a licensed practical nurse who holds certification in long-term care might have an advantage when applying for positions with nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Certification can also expose nurses to new employment options within the nursing field, and that can lead to lateral career movement. A good example would be a nurse who earns certification in pediatric life support, then chooses to make a permanent move to the neonatal intensive care unit.
A final word on LPN certification
LPN certification programs can be a great way for aspiring nurses to get into the workforce quickly and begin earning the experience necessary for advancement. Earning the licensed practical nurse certification can also expose nurses to a wide variety of employment options. For those who want to dedicate their lives to helping others, LPN certification programs can be the first step to a lifelong career.
"Certifications," National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service
"Education," National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses
"Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses," Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012
"Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics
"Practical Nurse Certificate (LPN Training)," Maria College
"Practical Nursing Program (LPN Certification)," Oakland University