How Long Are LPN Programs — and What Will You Learn?

If you’re interested in becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN), congratulations. You’re looking at a profession that’s not only rewarding but highly in demand. As with any skilled profession, you’ll need to go through a certified training program before you can get licensed, but exactly how long do you need to train before you can start working? And how does an LPN license differ from that of an RN (registered nurse) or CNA (certified nursing assistant)?

To understand the length and scope of LPN programs, it’s a good idea to first know the differences between RN, LPN, and CNA programs and qualifications.

RN, LPN, and CNA Programs

What’s the difference between an RN and an LPN? The RN vs LPN question often comes up with aspiring nursing students, and the answer has to do with training, as well as basic duties. Because they undergo more advanced training, RNs can act more independently and without supervision from other nurses. This enables them to practice at a higher level of nursing care, which means they can administer complex drug therapies, assist at surgeries, perform diagnostic tests and even analyze results, as well as educate patients on illness management.

LPNs can do some of these things under RN supervision, but the primary role of an LPN is to provide basic nursing care. This includes bathing and dressing patients, checking temperatures and blood pressure, changing bandages, inserting catheters, changing IVs, and administering injections and other medication therapies.

Likewise, is there a difference between an LPN and a CNA? Compared to CNAs, LPNS have more advanced training that allows them to perform tasks requiring more medical skills. CNAs provide fundamental patient care (such as bathing patients and taking vital signs), but they typically practice under the direction of LPNs and RNs.

Essentially, LPNs do everything from checking vital signs and administering medications to monitoring hospital patients and collecting lab samples. In their role, LPNs are exceedingly valuable to the nursing profession, as they deliver crucial frontline care to the patient.

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How Long Will I Need to Train for an LPN License?

Compared to other medical certifications, you don’t have to train as long to get an LPN license. First, you’ll need to finish high school, and then you’ll need to complete about a year of full-time nursing training from a board-approved school. You can take this training at any time in your life, just as long as you already have a high school diploma.

Is there a fast track that allows you to bypass that full year of training? The answer is yes, but you need to know exactly what you’re getting into. Many vocational schools offer fast-track programs offering an LPN license in six months. These programs can be entirely legitimate, and in many cases, offer a viable way to get your license in less time. However, before you apply, it’s crucial to make sure that the school’s nursing program is board-approved by your state. Fortunately, board-approved programs are recognized and accepted nationwide, so once you graduate, you’ll be able to take the exam and get licensed in any state in the US.

What Kind of Training Will I Receive?

This is another question that involves some understanding of the training required for an RN vs LPN. Each role has similar duties, but RN training is significantly more advanced and more time-consuming.

If you decide to become an LPN, you’ll begin your journey by learning about the essential duties expected of an LPN. You’ll also learn how, you’ll relate to patients, doctors, RNs, and other professionals in the healthcare field.

Here’s a look at some of the other specialized courses you’ll be expected to take:

• Science and Medicine: Your LPN program will include courses in basic biology, anatomy, and physiology, plus training in human growth and development.

• Pharmacology: You’ll be given a basic overview of commonly prescribed medications, and, in some courses, some basic chemistry training. You’ll also learn about intravenous therapy and study ways to administer various drug treatments.

• Health Maintenance: This will include courses in nutrition, after-care, and patient well-being. You’ll also take courses in infection and disease control, and learn how to minimize patient risk.

• Specialized Nursing: These courses will include basic training in pediatric, geriatric, and maternity care, and nursing.

How Many Credits Will I Need?

A board-approved LPN program will usually require at least 40 credit hours. In addition, you’ll put in a number of hours in a local clinic, where you’ll undergo the medical equivalent of on-the-job training. As a nursing student, some of your most valuable (and fascinating) time will be spent doing on-site work in a clinical setting, where (under close supervision) you’ll be allowed to practice some of the things you’ve learned.

What Happens After I Complete an LPN Program?

Once you complete your LPN program, you’ll be given an LPN certificate, and you’ll qualify to take the NCLEX-PN exam, which is required for nursing employment in all 50 states.

How difficult is the NCLEX-PN exam? This test isn’t easy — it’s not supposed to be — but if you completed your LPN program with flying colors (and paid plenty of attention in class), you should have the knowledge to pass your exam without any problems. To help, there are several online practice tests you can take to familiarize yourself with the types of questions you’ll be asked.

If you’re still pondering the differences between an RN vs LPN, the important thing to remember is that both roles play a crucial part in the health care industry. If you’re interested in becoming an LPN or RN, you probably already know that there’s a critical nursing shortage, which has been greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), studies show that there may be a worldwide need for at least six million more nurses by 2030. This means that there are abundant opportunities for long-term job security, as well as career growth potential, in the nursing field. For prospective nurses as well as their future patients, this is one of the best — and most crucial — times to consider nursing not only as a job but also as a full-time, lifelong profession.