The first step to becoming an LPN/LVN is to decide which type of credential to undertake. A diploma or certificate is often the fastest route into the workforce, but credits from these programs cannot be used toward further education. Students aspiring to become registered nurses may find an associate degree offers the best option for future career goals.
After deciding on the type of program to pursue, students need to find one approved by their state. Each state establishes its own educational requirements for LPNs and approves the schools offering credentials. Most yearlong programs are offered by junior colleges, hospitals, community colleges or technical schools, and provide the opportunity for supervised practical nursing clinical experience. Coursework may include studies in:
Anatomy and Physiology
Nursing care of the adult and child
Psychology/Human growth and development
In some cases applicants can get a head start by completing prerequisites in mathematics, chemistry, biology, English and psychology prior to enrolling; however, these are not always required so students should check their program’s requirements first. Admission varies by state, although applicants need at least a high school diploma or equivalent to enroll in a nursing certificate or diploma program. Additionally, some schools may require applicants to pass an entrance exam prior to acceptance to an LPN certificate program.
Upon completion of an approved LPN/LVN diploma or certificate program, graduates sign up to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). All states and the District of Columbia mandate the NCLEX-PN competency exam as a core requirement to be employed as an LPN. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing develops and administers the exam. The NCLEX version for practical nurses is computerized and includes approximately 85 to 205 test items to be completed within 5 hours. The computerized test monitors progress, adjusting the difficulty and subject matter of the questions based on the student’s demonstrated aptitude. Those who do not pass must wait 45-90 days before retaking the test. This multiple choice examination focuses on specific areas of nursing practice, including:
Health promotion and maintenance
Safe and effective care environments