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Online Practical Nursing Schools: How to Choose

Find out what practical nurses do and how a hybrid program in practical nursing can prepare you for such a career. Then, review what educational awards are offered for aspiring LPNs and where you might find these programs.

How to Select an Online School for Practical Nursing

Students considering online practical nursing schools must make their decision based on several key factors. Practical nurses work under the supervision of physicians and registered nurses and care for patients who are sick, injured or disabled. The duties of these nurses include taking vital signs, collecting body fluids, dressing wounds and assisting with personal hygiene. They must weigh not only the requirements for the program and the location of facilities, but the level of award and licensure preparation as well.

Some schools have prerequisites for their online nursing programs. Requirements may include courses in nursing assisting, medical terminology or biology. Some schools also require that nursing students be certified in first aid and CPR and submit to a criminal background check before they can begin the nursing program.

Campus Location

Online practical nursing programs offer only part of the coursework online; students are also required to attend campus for lab classes and clinical studies. Prospective practical nurses should focus on schools located within a close proximity to their residence.

Award Level

Schools offer practical nursing diplomas that require fewer credit hours for completion than an associate degree. A diploma prepares students for employment and the practical nurse licensing exam.

After completing the diploma program and examination, students can transfer their credits towards a nursing associate degree program. After students earn an associate degree in nursing they may be eligible to take the registered nurse (RN) licensing exam.

Preparation for Licensure

Aspiring practical nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nursing (NCLEX-PN) in order to become a licensed and practicing practical nurse. Students need to make sure that graduating from their diploma program qualifies them to become eligible for the NCLEX-PN.

List of Online Practical Nursing Programs

Online Practical Nursing Diploma

An online practical nursing diploma requires students to complete 37 to 84 credit hours, depending on the program. Students will need to attend lab courses on campus and complete clinical hours at a local medical facility. Coursework includes:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Role transition
  • Nursing concepts
  • Medical-surgical nursing
  • Gerontology nursing

Schools with Online Programs in Practical Nursing

Edmonds Community College offers a part-time, licensed practical nursing certificate program that's designed for working CNAs in Washington State who want to advance their careers. The program uses online and hybrid courses, in addition to on-campus lab and clinical experience requirements, to prepare students for the NCLEX-PN examination. The curriculum takes seven quarters, or just under two years, to complete.

Rasmussen College has a hybrid diploma program that also prepares students for the NCLEX-PN examination. This program uses traditional on-campus courses as well as online self-directed assessments that allow students to study for and test out of some of the programs' coursework. With this option, the curricula can be completed in about a year.

Since the job duties of a practical nurse are very hands-on, most distance education practical nursing programs are going to be hybrid programs requiring some in-person training. These programs are designed to prepare students to pass the NCLEX-PN, which is required to become a licensed practical nurse.

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