Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), like Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) work under a doctor in a health care setting. However, Licensed Practical Nurses have significantly more responsibilities and therefore demand higher salaries than CNAs in the same practice. After spending time working as a Certified Nursing Assistant, if you find that you enjoy the medical field, chances are you will enjoy the increased responsibilities and opportunities you will have as a Licensed Practical Nurse. If you are a CNA and are looking to further your education, increase your salary, and take on more responsibility, consider becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (also known as a Licensed Vocational Nurse or LVN in some areas).
The Licensed Practical Nurse is often like a middle-manager in her practice. The Licensed Practical Nurse does much of her work without supervision, including preparing procedure rooms, set up IVs, and administering medication. Licensed Practical Nurses are often responsible for more patient care duties than the average Certified Nursing Assistant, and they perform more advanced procedures on patients. Registered Nurses (RNs) look to the Licensed Practical Nurse to be their right-hand-man (or woman). The average CNA in the United States earns about $27,000 per year. On the other hand, Licensed Practical Nurses earn an average salary of about $40,000 annually.
To become a Licensed Practical Nurse, you will need more education. The type and amount of education will vary from state to state. If you want to obtain a clinical specialty license, you will often need as many as 200 hours of additional education in some areas like pediatrics, maternal medicine, and gerontology. Other specialties like pharmacology require fewer hours. You will also need experience in a hospital, clinic, or private practice that you can use toward your license. Many nursing schools offer programs that allow you to use on-the-job experience as “credit hours” toward your degree, so be prepared with your work history and any past education as you visit different schools. Each state will require a slightly different program to obtain licensure, so be sure to ask the school if their program meets state licensure requirements. To find out what the specific requirements are in your state, contact your state’s Board of Nursing for details.
Like CNAs, Licensed Practical Nurses work in a wide variety of settings. These can include areas where CNAs traditionally work such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, schools, correctional institutions, or other facilities. As registered nurses become more and more available, hospitals are moving away from CNAs and Licensed Practical Nurses and hiring more RNs. The demand for Licensed Practical Nurses in skilled nursing facilities has grown tremendously and shows no sign of stopping due to the increase in the elderly population in the United States. This trend will likely compensate for the decrease in Licensed Practical Nurse jobs in hospitals.
There are Licensed Practical Nursing programs available at many different vocational and community colleges throughout the country. Programs vary in length and cost based on the requirements of each individual state, but most programs will require two years of study. Licensed Practical Nurses must pass the national NCLEX-PN exam before they will be able to work in a hospital setting.