Career Advancement for LPNs

Licensed practical nurses have developed skills in patient care and medical terminology. Some advancement possibilities to consider include becoming an RN, a midwife, a recreational therapist or a medical sonographer.

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Career Growth Options for Licensed Practical Nurses

Licensed practical nurse is an outstanding entry-level position in the medical field. LPNs provide basic medical care such as updating patients' charts, administering prescribed medications, or answering patient questions and calls under the supervision of a doctor or nurse. Typically only requiring a one-year certificate or diploma, there is quick entry to the field with solid job growth and employment prospects. However, after working as an LPN, some nurses may wish to advance their careers. Some possible career tracks are presented below.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)* Education
Registered Nurse $70,000 15% Bachelor's Degree
Nurse Midwife $100,590 21% Master's Degree
Recreational Therapist $47,680 7% Bachelor's Degree
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer $71,410 23% Associate's degree

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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Career Information

Registered Nurse

The most common advancement taken by licensed practical nurses is to earn a bachelor's degree to progress as a registered nurse, or RN. Some colleges and universities have fast-track programs for currently employed LPNs who wish to earn a bachelor's degree. RNs may work in hospitals, doctor's offices, clients' homes, or community agencies. Registered nurses collaborate with doctors and other health professionals to promote the health of patients. While most registered nurses are generalists, some choose specialty areas in which to gain more training. Once a potential RN has earned his or her degree, the final licensure requirement is to sit for the national exam called the NCLEX-RN.

Nurse Midwife

LPNs who truly enjoy caring for new mothers and babies may enjoy the challenging position of nurse-midwifery. A nurse midwife is considered an advanced practice nurse. To enter advanced practice, an LPN must first become a licensed RN and then pursue a master's degree in nurse-midwifery. This fast-growing field allows professionals to work in hospitals, clinics, or birth centers. Nurse midwives counsel expectant and post-partum mothers, provide routine gynecological services, and deliver babies. They refer clients to specialists if higher levels of medical treatment or surgical birth is medically indicated. Certification in nurse-midwifery is required and can be earned through the American Midwifery Certification Board.

Recreational Therapist

Becoming a recreational therapist is another option for LPNs to consider. Recreational therapists work in community agencies, hospitals, and nursing homes. Intervention is provided to individuals with disabilities or other health conditions. Recreational therapists use different techniques such as arts, sports, exercises, and community outings to enhance quality of life, support health improvement or rehabilitation, and promote leisure needs. Recreational therapists collaborate with other members of the medical team. To become a recreational therapist, one must earn a bachelor's degree. To become certified, the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification offers a credential upon the completion of an exam, internship, and degree in the field.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

LPNs who want to continue to work directly with patients in hospitals or doctor's offices may want to apply their skills to a diagnostic medical sonography position. A diagnostic medical sonographer uses complex medical equipment to perform medical imaging of the body. Sonographers may specialize in particular areas. Examples are cardiac sonographers who study the heart and obstetric sonographers who perform fetal ultrasounds. The most frequent path to becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer is to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography and earn certification through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.

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