Once you have made the decision to become a Licensed Practical Nurse, the first thing that you need to do is to research schools that offer reputable accredited LPN programs in order to source the right program for you. This is critical because your choice of school or program will inform the rest of your career. Although there are many LPN programs offered, not all of them are reputable and not all of them are accredited, which will count against you in the end, as employers give preference to LPNs who have graduated from accredited LPN programs when sourcing staff. Graduating from a program that is not accredited will also prevent you from registering and gaining licensure. A quick search of the Internet will give you access to hundreds if not thousands of LPN programs, some of which are accredited and some which are not.
The best institutions will advertise that they are accredited and will have proof of their accreditation and statistics on their websites. If you are not sure, then contact the applicable person and enquire as to their accreditation status. LPN training is not regulated nationally but by the State Board of Nursing in each individual state, therefore is it important that you ascertain what the requirements are for the state in which you intend to work. The Board will also be able to provide you with a list of accredited institutions and accredited LPN programs that adhere to their rules and regulations governing LPN training. You should be able to access this information by either visiting the Board’s offices in person or alternatively accessing their website. Once you have completed your practical nursing course successfully you can apply to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses, and upon passing this exam you will receive licensure and can register as an LPN with the state nursing registry and begin your career as a Licensed Practical Nurse.
What Are LPN Accreditation Institutes?
LPN Accreditation Institutes are those non-governmental bodies which are recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as official accreditation organizations for nursing education programs. There are currently only two such institutions, the National League of Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). CCNE only offers accreditation to graduate and baccalaureate programs, so most of the LPN programs are accredited by the NLNAC, which accredits education programs for clinical doctorate, baccalaureate, associate, masters, diploma and practical nursing. Nursing programs are not automatically accredited, and accreditation is a voluntary, self-regulatory process. This means that the programs themselves need to actively seek accreditation by proactively demonstrating that they either meet or exceed the accrediting organization’s criteria and standards for educational quality.
The Benefits Of Accredited LPN Programs
The accreditation organizations stay current with changing state laws, as they are constantly in contact with state governments and health departments. This means that they are always up to date with any changes and adapt the requirements for accreditation accordingly. Attending an accredited LPN school ensures that you meet the basic criteria as set out by your state in order to practice as a licensed practical nurse, as their accreditation is proof of a quality education. A reputable LPN school will also prepare you adequately for what lies ahead, including the NCLEX-PN exam and your career as a Licensed Practical Nurse. It will also greatly increase your chances of obtaining employment as an LPN and improve your occupational mobility. Although you may find employment, you will not be able to sit for the NCLEX test and therefore not be able to register unless you have attended an accredited LPN course. As an LPN that studied at an accredited school it will be easier to get licensure in a new state should you move, as many of the states have agreements regarding LPNs that attended accredited LPN programs in another state.
How To Find The Best LPN Program
There are literally hundreds of LPN programs out there and it can be very difficult to make a choice as to which one to attend. The following are some things that should be important to you when making your choice:
- Accreditation – as previously explained, you will not be able to register as an LPN unless you graduate from an accredited program. You also stand more chance of employment when attending an accredited LPN program, so ensure that the school that you are interested in is accredited and recognized by the appropriate bodies, which is generally the State Board of Nursing for the state in which you wish to practice.
- Coursework – reputable accredited LPN programs will offer coursework in Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, Child growth and development, Contemporary Health Issues Vocational Adjustment, Diet Therapy, Emergency Medical Technology, First aid, Fundamentals of Nursing, Foods and nutrition, Maternal Child Health, Medical-Surgical Nursing, Pharmacology, Physical education, Physiology, Psychology and Psychiatric Nursing, mostly on the theoretical side of the course.
- Hands-on Training – this practical aspect where you get hands-on training in a clinical facility is an important part of your studies, and all accredited LPN programs should have it. If the program does not offer practical training it means that you will have to source a facility to do this yourself, and that can be difficult.
- Quality of Tuition – a good program’s reputation hinges on the quality of the tuition that they offer. This includes the quality of the coursework, the qualifications and experience of the teachers and the clinical facilities available for the clinical side of the training. All of these are important considerations in your evaluation of the school you wish to attend.
- Flexibility – this is important if you want to continue working at your present job whilst studying to become a Licensed Practical Nurse. Some schools offer evening classes for those who cannot attend during the day. If you are currently employed as a CNA, enquire from your employer if they offer LPN courses, as these are often geared to fit in with your work schedule. There are many online courses offered but not all are accredited, so be careful in your choice.
- Specialization – if you are interested in specializing in something like long-term patient health care, venipuncture, ECG rhythm interpretation or IV therapy then it is important that the program you choose includes those options. Specialization allows you to work in the field of nursing for which you have a passion and it will influence your salary positively.
- Job Placement – some schools have arrangements with medical facilities to take their graduates, which means that you need not waste time looking for employment but can begin working immediately upon passing the NCLEX exam and registering. Speaking to LPNs that you know should give you a good idea of how many graduates from a certain school are gainfully employed.
- Tuition Fees and Financing – if you are financially strapped then it is very important that the school in which you enroll can give you assistance in securing government, state or federal grants or loans to assist with the education fees so that you can get ahead. Many of the more reputable schools offer financial aid options such as loans, bursaries or private scholarships and grants. If you are currently working in the healthcare field your employer may also cover your costs in return for you agreeing to work for them for a certain period of time after graduation.
- Graduation Percentage – the percentage of students that graduate from a school will tell you how good their courses are. These statistics are generally posted on the websites of reputable schools. If they are not posted you can request the figures. Look for schools with 75% graduation or better, and an excellent NCLEX-PN pass rate.
- Online Reviews – can be quite informative and of great help in assisting you to make a decision about a particular school or program. Be aware that dissatisfied students could post negative reviews for spite, so read a good percentage of the reviews posted to get a good overall picture.
- Location – attending a school that is near to where you reside is important, as you do not want to have to commute far; it is wasted time and could add to your costs quite considerably. If there are no accredited LPN programs near to you it may be worth your while to relocate whilst studying. Remember though that you still need to study in the same state in which you intend practicing to be sure of meeting the requirements of your state’s Board of Nursing.
Accredited Online LPN Programs
Apart from the on-campus LPN programs offered by traditional colleges and vocational schools, there are also many institutions that offer online LPN programs. Online schools must be accredited with the Distance Education Training Council in order to offer certified programs. Accreditation for LPN programs can also be obtained from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. These programs are well suited to those who want to either study to become Licensed Practical Nurses whilst still employed at another job, or those who are already LPNs and want to study further and do bridging programs, as well as those of you who have financial constraints or are still raising families. Although there are, as with all online courses, some unreliable programs, there are also many genuine programs, including accredited LPN programs offered by reputable institutions. Many top schools have heeded the call for quality online LPN programs. These courses are usually fully booked quite quickly because of the quality of the courses and the wide range of resources and specialized opportunities. These schools make use of skilled LPN practitioners to teach the courses and offer strong support to students.
Some Schools That Offer Online Accredited LPN Programs
- The University of Phoenix LPN programs are top quality, extensively designed programs that will equip you with all the cultural, theoretical, scientific and social aspects of an LPN career, and are recognized by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
- Both the campus-based and online LPN programs offered by Kaplan University are accredited with the CCNE. Online classes are offered via video conferencing, teleconferencing, prerecorded lectures, and access to online libraries.
- Other schools that offer online accredited LPN programs that are both nationally accredited and recognized are Grand Canyon University, Liberty University, South University, Walden University, Indiana State University, Capella University, Jacksonville University and Utica University.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to online programs: Advantages include the fact that the programs are virtually identical to traditional programs, you can set your own pace, and you can study from home in your own time. Lecture materials and presentations are professionally compiled and this saves you a lot on buying expensive textbooks. Disadvantages include the fact that there is minimal hands-on training, you will not have any face-to-face time with your lecturers, no interaction with classmates, and staying motivated may be a problem if you are not a self-disciplined person. That being said, some online universities have better standards of excellence and reputations than average community colleges. As with traditional programs, it is important that you only study through a reputable online facility that offers accredited LPN programs, as employers will not give credence to online courses that are not accredited. The minimum entrance requirement for online LPN programs is a high school degree or diploma. Remember that in some states the term LVN or Licensed Vocational Nurse is used instead. As with traditional programs, once you have completed your online course you will need to sit for the NCLEX-LPN examination and pass it before you can get certification and register as an LPN. Studying to become a Licensed Practical Nurse via a reputable institution in the state in which you intend to practice is highly recommended, as different states have different requirements. The best institution for you to choose for your studies is the one that offers accredited LPN programs, a full curriculum, modern clinical equipment for the practical portion of the course, top class lecturers, a good graduation percentage, access to financing, and if possible offer assistance with job placement upon passing the NCLEX-PN examination.