How to plan your jump from CNA to LPN

No matter your level of education, there are numerous career advancement paths available for a Nurse. HCPs can choose among countless fields and specializations to work towards, to the point that it can be a bit overwhelming. For Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) overcome by choice paralysis, the Licensed Practice Nurse (LPN) route is well worth considering. With programs that build on a CNA’s basic nursing skills, while expanding on their responsibilities and salary opportunities, it is a natural and fruitful transition. To help you take that next step, this guide will cover everything you need to know about becoming an LPN nurse.

LPN Overview

LPNs are professionals who provide routine care for sick and injured patients. With supervision from RNs and physicians, they ensure that these patients are adhering to a care plan. Specifics can vary depending on facilities, but LPNs can expect to handle these responsibilities anywhere:

  • Providing personal care, such as bathing or feeding
  • Recording patient history
  • Administering IV drips and medication
  • Monitoring vitals
  • Consulting with RNs on care plans
  • Explaining procedures to patient families

Why become an LPN?

As mentioned earlier, making the leap from CNA to LPN comes with a host of benefits and advantages. For one, the pay is considerably higher. The median salary for LPNs sits at $48,820, compared to $32,050 for a CNA. This can vary depending on experience and setting, but the Licensed Practical Nurse will make more in most instances. LPNs also take on considerably more responsibilities. With greater knowledge and credentials, they can more easily find jobs in more healthcare settings. This includes hospitals, nursing homes, rehab facilities, home healthcare, private practices and more.

Once you have committed to the LPN path, you have to choose the right practical nursing program. Luckily, there are a host of programs and options available to you.

CNA to LPN Bridge Programs

These classes build on your previous CNA education and training in order to develop you into an LPN. Typically, these LPN programs last nine months to one year fulltime and two years for part time students. No matter what program you choose, the courses and topics will usually be the same. You can expect pharmacology, physiology, anatomy, basic nursing skills, biology and more. These programs seek to blend classroom instruction with practical experience, in order to provide a comprehensive training and learning regimen. These practical nursing programs allow students to gain the confidence to apply their skills in medical settings, while they increase their LPN knowledge.

Online LPN Programs

If you prefer the flexibility and accessibility of remote learning, you can find various LPN online programs. These are often offered by trade schools and community colleges, along with the occasional hospital. On top of purely remote offerings, nurses can also opt for online hybrid learning. You will take virtual instruction on many topics, but you must report to the campus for hands-on practical training. Depending on your school, some of these in-person requirements can be fulfilled at school-approved facilities.

Importance of Accreditation

Whether you opt for in-campus or remote learning, you want to validate your LPN program’s accreditation. When a school or program is accredited, they have been rigorously evaluated by an independent body to ensure that they meet certain standards. In other words, there is a baseline guarantee that you will be receiving top-quality learning.

Regional or national accreditation is awarded to the school as a whole, while programmatic accreditation is awarded to the practical nursing program itself. The Accreditation Commision for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is in charge of accrediting LPN programs. Meanwhile, the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs provides a list of regionally accredited schools. Additionally, you also want a convenient location and a good NCLEX-PN passing rate. You should be confident that the program consistently produces quality LPN nurses.

Program Requirements

Before enrolment, make sure you meet the minimum qualifications for your program. You can usually find these on the institution’s website. That being said, there are a couple of essential requirements that remain a constant, among multiple practical nursing programs:

  • Documents reflecting your previous CNA experiences
  • Certificate of completion for your CNA-to-LPN program
  • College transcripts and a cumulative GPA of 2.0

Licensure Tests

As soon as you finish your CNA-to-LPN bridge program, the next step is registering for and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). To do this, you will need an authorization letter from the applicant state to the National Council of The State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), along with an entrance fee of around $200. You can register and schedule your LPN nursing test on the official NCSBN website, here.

The test itself is a computerized adaptive exam that can last anywhere from 85 to 205 questions. It adapts to how well you are answering. The better your answers, the fewer the questions. Make sure to study thoroughly for this test. There are a host of practice reviewers available online, along with numerous reviewers of varying formats. Even if you fail, there is usually a 45-day waiting period before you are given a second attempt. Certain states may have additional requirements for LPN nurse candidates who failed their first attempt

Acquiring your License

Once you pass the exam, you can apply for licensed practical nursing licensure in the state you wish to practice in. Depending on your location, there may be additional requirements such as background checks and character references. After all these processes, you will finally acquire your LPN nursing license. Though state-specific, you still have the option to transfer your LPN license state to state through either an endorsement process, or nurse licensure compacts that allow you to practice across state lines