From CNA to LPN: Taking the Next Step
Current Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) might be able to find new job opportunities and responsibilities by completing a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program. In general, the LPN is considered an entry-level nursing job and the first step towards more challenging roles in the nursing. But what's the best way to take that first step?
Let's start by looking at some fast facts to illustrate the commonalities and differences between these two positions:
From CNA to LPN: Fast Facts
|Required Education||Completion of CNA program; pass a state competency exam||Completion of LPN program; pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN)|
|Training Length||Several weeks or longer||One year or longer|
|Median Pay (2018)*||$28,530 ($13.72 an hour)||$46,240 ($22.23 an hour)|
|Job Outlook (2018-2028)*||9% growth||11% growth|
Source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
CNAs and LPNs both provide basic medical care to patients and help them with daily activities, like dressing, bathing, and eating. They may both take/report vital signs and discuss care with patients and their families; LPNs may perform more medically focused tasks like assisting with wound care and laboratory specimen collecting, or administering medication/IVs. While there is some crossover between the two jobs, the LPN generally has a higher salary, more autonomy, and increased chances for promotion or supervisory opportunities. LPNs also have the opportunity to apply their skills and experience towards specialized certification (such as in IV therapy).
To become an LPN, you must complete additional education and pass a licensing examination. If you already have CNA certification, you can apply your experience and training in a CNA to LPN bridge program. However, it can be difficult to fit more classes into your schedule, especially if you are working as a nursing assistant. In this case, some CNA to LPN online coursework might be a more convenient option to consider.
CNA to LPN Bridge Programs Online
First, it is important to note that there are no 100% online LPN programs. All nursing programs contain laboratories and clinical components that must be completed in person. However, nowadays students will find that many programs offer courses in a hybrid format. This means that students are given the option to take some coursework remotely, such as lecture courses, seminars, or general education classes (like math or science).
A CNA to LPN bridge program is intended to provide the additional training and education that a CNA would need to pass the NCLEX-PN exam and become a licensed practical nurse. As expected, these programs require prior nursing experience and education before entry, but this is intended to result in a lighter course load and faster completion time. CNA to LPN bridge programs are available at community colleges and technical schools, with daytime and evening hours (in addition to hybrid format classes) to suit a range of schedules; some schools provide the option to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree along with career certification. While pursuing higher education, an LPN may also complete additional coursework to become a Registered Nurse (RN).
Online LPN Programs: Requirements
To gain admission into a CNA to LPN program, students will likely need to satisfy criteria like the following, whether they plan on taking online courses or not:
- Active and valid CNA certification (the exact title of this certification may vary from state to state)
- Minimum amount of job experience
- Letter(s) of recommendation
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Passing scores on basic skills assessment tests (e.g., TABE, TEAS)
- Satisfactory GPA / passing grades in chemistry and biology classes
- Immunization documentation
- Criminal background check
- Drug screening
- Basic life support / CPR certification
Specific requirements will vary from college to college.
Online LPN Programs: What Can I Take?
While you will have to complete laboratories and clinical units/simulations in person, you might be able to complete a significant portion of your LPN courses online. Availability will vary by campus, but might include online or hybrid options for subjects like these:
- Nursing fundamentals
- Medical terminology
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Psychological development
- Communication for nursing
- Medication administration
- General education, like English composition, algebra or statistics