All You Need to Know About The LPN Degree

A good entry point for a career in the health care industry is an LPN degree. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) are a vital force in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, clinics, dental offices, and in other medical settings.

Among its benefits over other degrees is the fact that a licensed practical nursing degree does not require so many number of years to complete. An LPN program can run for only about 12 months, and then you can already be working and making a decent income. Plus, in these times when job security is practically nil many industries, a degree in LPN can be your ticket to stable employment.

Basic Duties of the LPN

Working under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or a physician, a licensed practical nurse tends to the sick, injured, handicapped, and recovering patients in various medical facilities, and their duties are wide-ranging. These include assisting patients with daily living activities such as eating, bathing, dressing, grooming and other personal hygiene tasks, walking and exercising them, and teaching them and their family members about proper health habits.

Other than seeing to patients’ comfort and basic needs, LPNs also assist RNs and physicians in ensuring that patients get the right and timely treatment. An LPN or LVN is tasked to obtain information from the patients, take and monitor vital signs, dress wounds, collect lab samples and conduct lab tests, and even prepare and administer injections. Experienced LPNs may also supervise nursing assistants and orderlies.

How to Obtain the LPN Degree

Practical nursing programs take about 1 year and are offered in most vocational schools and community colleges. Most states have their own standards for practical nursing programs and it’s important to get into a State-approved training program to be eligible for licensure.

Individuals who intend to enroll in a practical nursing program are required to have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Preparatory high school courses that may be useful if you intend to pursue a career in licensed practical nursing include biology, chemistry, algebra, psychology, and physical education, and foods and nutrition.

The program for a licensed practical nursing degree which runs for around 12 to 18 months, involves both classroom instruction and actual patient care training in a hospital under the supervision of a registered nurse. Classroom coursework covers basic nursing and patient care subjects, and related concepts such as anatomy, physiology, pediatrics, obstetrics, pharmacology, nutrition, and first aid.

Tuition costs for a licensed practical nursing degree can start from $2,000 upwards. However,  aspiring nurses can avail of financial grants and student aid from various scholarships offered through schools, state programs, and non-profit organizations.

After completing the program, the student then needs to pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-PN, which is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to become a licensed practical nurse.

Average Salaries of LPNs

Depending on the number of years work experience and on the particular industry where one is employed, LPNs and LVNs can earn anywhere from $28,260 to $53,580 per year. As of May 2008, the median annual salary was $39,030.

Licensed practical nurses working through employment services were found to be among the highest-paid with a median annual salary of $44,690. Second to them are those in nursing care facilities and home health care services who have average annual incomes of $40,580 and $39,510 respectively.

Lower down the pay scale are LPNs employed in hospitals who average about $38,080 in annual income, and those in doctors’ clinics and offices with median annual salaries of $35,020.

Career Prospects for the LPN

Individuals setting their sights on a career in licensed practical nursing will have no trouble finding jobs in the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 14 percent growth in employment prospects for this industry within a 10-year period — from 749,000 LPN jobs in 2006 to an expected 856,000 by 2016.

While hospitals will continue to absorb a good number of licensed practical nursing degree holders, the growing elderly population will spur the creation of additional job openings in nursing care facilities and home health care services. Further, demand for competent practical nurses will also rise in clinics, doctors’ offices, and even in patients’ homes as medical procedures previously only performed in hospitals, can now be administered in alternative health facilities.

With the LPN degree on hand, you will find a fulfilling career, the opportunity to help others on a daily basis, and a host of options to advance your career in the health care field.

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