Many certified nursing assistants make the jump from CNA to licensed practical nurse (LPN) to advance their careers. Having experience as a CNA can be very helpful for someone looking to advance their career in the nursing field. Gaining experience in basic patient care, learning to manage patient relationships and working with other nurses can be invaluable as you progress through various different roles in nursing and healthcare as a whole.
What Does an LPN Do?
An LPN is the next step up the nursing career ladder for a CNA. LPNs work under a Registered Nurse (RN) as part of a nursing team and have more technical responsibilities than CNAs which include:
- Assisting with minor medical procedures
- Administering oral and intravenous medication
- Collecting patient data and monitor patient conditions
- Collect blood, urine, sputum specimens
- Take vital signs
- Change wound dressings
- Care for items such as catheters, tracheotomy tubes and ventilators
The Benefits of Becoming an LPN
Becoming a licensed practical nurse offers a number of very significant benefits which is why so many CNAs make the transition to become an LPN.
- Increased pay. LPNs make substantially more than CNAs with the average salary being roughly 60 percent higher. More experienced LPNs will see that gap widen even further.
- Specialized knowledge. Depending on your program and/or where you work as an LPN you’ll have the opportunity to gain specialized knowledge that can increase your marketability within a specialized nursing role or as you advance your career to another role such as an RN.
- Greater career and educational opportunities. Growth in nursing is projected to continue into the mid-2020s, and with the ability to manage CNAs there are even greater opportunities for LPNs. In addition to increased job placement opportunities, credits from an Associate Degree can also be used towards a bachelor of science in nursing or an RN program which both offer even greater pay and placement opportunities.
As mentioned above, there are many areas an LPN can practice and gain specialized skills and unique experiences to increase your marketability. Some example practice areas include pediatrics, labor and delivery, neonatal, trauma ICU, gerontology, emergency room and rehabilitation. Obviously, there are many career doors that can be opened by making the transition from a CNA to an LPN.
Before you go headlong into signing up for an LPN program there are some key things to research and consider. First, you need to know the difference between programs that offer an LPN certificate or one that provides an Associate Degree. The former can be achieved more quickly, but the benefit of an Associate Degree is that those credits can be transferred forward and used toward further education should you choose to progress to a more advanced position such as an RN.
Each program will have its own set of requirements, but the following are fairly common for a CNA to LPN bridge program:
- Minimum of 18 years old
- Admissions application, fee & tuition payments
- Currently employed as a CNA with a successful work track record
- CNA diploma or certificate
- CPR certificate
- High school diploma or GED
- Grade point average of at least 2.0
While you can start CNA courses as a virtual blank slate, some states require prerequisite courses for LPNs that can include things like anatomy, physiology, math and more. Regardless of where you’re located, you’ll need to pass the Test of Essential Academic Skills or TEAS exam to prove you have the academic skills necessary to succeed in the program.
You’ll need to do some research on your own to find the right LPN program for you. The links below may prove helpful in finding an online bridge program or a CNA to LPN program in your area:
Once you identify an accredited program in your area, you’ll be trained to become an LPN through a combination of classroom work and clinical experience in hospitals. There are a variety of options for these programs including:
- CNA to LPN bridge programs (usually available at community colleges)
- Specific vocational training schools
- Online bridge programs
While online CNA to LPN programs are attractive, these programs will still require students to work with a training facility to administer hands-on training. Regardless of the type of program you pursue, the curriculum will include some standard LPN subjects such as:
- Nursing care for families
- Mental health nursing
- Nursing foundations
- Surgical nursing
- Health assessments
- Clinical skills lab
- Medication administration
Once you’ve completed an accredited program, you’ll need to register and pass The National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). You will have to produce an authorization letter from your state to register for this examination and pay about $200. You can register and schedule your exam here. If you pass the exam you can then apply for a license in your state. If you do not pass you will have to wait 45 days for your second attempt at the exam.