Prerequisites & Requirements for LPN Programs

Licensed Practical Nurses, or LPNs, are critical staff members in hospitals and other healthcare facilities who perform basic tasks that help monitor patients and keep them comfortable. Learn what it takes to get into an LPN program and gain the education needed for this career.

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Requirements for LPN Programs

Programs that train students to become Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) generally take place at the certificate or diploma level but may have some prerequisites that must be met before students can enroll in the program. LPN prerequisites may, for example, require that a student complete a program designed for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) or Medical Assistants (MAs). These are generally brief and can be completed in anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months. Other schools may require prerequisite courses completed that establish a common baseline for all students in the program to work from, such as fundamental English and math courses, or courses on medical terminology.

Generally, LPN program candidates will need to hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. Background checks and drug screenings are also commonly required as part of the admissions process, and drug screenings may even occur regularly. While the exact age varies from state to state, most states will require LPNs to be 18 years old.

LPN Courses

Certificate and diploma programs in practical nursing are likely to include courses with titles such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Principles of nursing
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Introductory pharmacology
  • Pathology

LPN programs may also include classes that delve into particular specialty areas of nursing, such as geriatrics, pediatrics, surgery, and maternity. Nearly all LPN programs, even those offered online, will include a practicum or clinical segment, where students can put into practice what they've learned and acquire real-world experience with patients.

LPN Job Description

Licensed Practical Nurses, also known in some states as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN), are healthcare professionals who work in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and other care facilities. LPNs are typically responsible for performing simple tasks, especially those that must be done regularly, such as changing bandages, checking vitals, recording and monitoring their condition, and assisting patients with hygiene-related tasks such as bathing. LPNs work alongside other types of nurses, such as CNAs or RNs, as well as doctors. To succeed as an LPN, an individual should be physically capable, since they spend their shifts on their feet and may need to help move patients, and should be compassionate in their dealings with patients, level-headed in emergencies, and meticulous in their recording of data.

Licensure Requirements

As implied by the name, LPNs are required to receive a license from the state to practice. LPN programs are generally designed with this requirement in mind, and often must be approved by the state's board of nursing, so students should be careful when enrolling in online programs to ensure that they will be eligible for a license in the right state. To get a license in most states, it is necessary to complete an accredited program in practical nursing, apply for licensure, and then pass the National Council Licensing Exam for Practical Nursing (NCLEX-PN). Check with your state's board of nursing to find out what will be expected of you.

Advancement Opportunities for LPNs

LPNs may have the opportunity to continue their education and become Registered Nurses (RNs). Some LPN programs are structured such that their courses will count as credits towards an associate's degree in nursing should an individual decide to return to school. There are also what are known as LPN-to-RN 'bridge programs,' which are designed primarily for experienced LPNs who wish to return to school after a long break to become RNs. RNs generally have more responsibilities, more freedom to make decisions, and are typically better paid than LPNs.

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