Licensed Practical or Vocational Nursing Schools: How to Compare
Now that you have decided on a fulfilling career in the field of nursing, it’s essential that you choose a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) college that will deliver the right education. California or Texas students will alternatively enroll in an LVN school to train to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse. There is no distinction, apart from the names, between an LVN and an LPN. They both practice in medical facilities under the supervision of Physicians and Registered Nurses and fulfill identical job functions. However, as we will discuss in this article, their routine job functions can vary based on the state where they are employed. When beginning their search for schools, many potential nursing students start with the ones that are the closest to their houses or that are the least expensive. Although cost and location are relevant factors, they are not the only qualifications that you should base your selection on. Such as do the schools offer job placement assistance and do they have high placement rates, which are both extremely important as well. There are various other questions that you should ask prospective schools before enrolling in a LPN or LVN program that we will discuss later in this article. But to start with, let’s take a look at the role of an LPN and what is involved in the instruction and licensing process.
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What does an LPN or LVN Do?
LPNs and LVNs perform a wide range of functions in the hospitals and healthcare facilities where they work. Unlike CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants), they are licensed in every state. They work under the supervision of a Physician or an RN, but may be responsible for the supervision of Nursing Assistants. They work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and even in private homes. Each state regulates what duties an LPN or an LVN can and can’t perform. Their broad mission statement is to provide patient care, but depending on the state where they practice, their duties may include but are not limited to:
- Administering intravenous and oral medications
- Taking a patient’s vital signs
- Changing dressings
- Collecting urine and blood samples
- Monitoring patients for changes in condition
- Performing CPR in an emergency
- Calling a Physician when needed
Even though each state regulates what a Licensed Practical Nurse can do, each healthcare facility or organization can limit the scope of duties within those regulations. LPNs and LVNs can also specialize in various areas of nursing practice, such as Pediatrics, Oncology, Rehabilitation and Gerontology.
Taking LPN and LVN Classes Online
First of all, there are no 100% online courses for Licensed Practical Nurse or Licensed Vocational Nurse certificate or diploma programs. Much of the training is clinical and must take place either on campus or in an approved hospital environment. But since the rest of the non-clinical course work can be accessed online, this option may be more convenient for some students. And it can be a big advantage for those who are working or have family or other obligations to juggle as well. Plus online schools are sometimes less expensive than traditional options. Even ancillary expenses, such as commuting and text books can be reduced to some extent. Between the extensive offline clinical training and the online courses, everything needed to achieve competency is provided. So if you are disciplined and motivated enough to dedicate yourself to this style of learning, then obtaining your certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Narrowing your Nursing School Options
Now that you know what a Licensed Practical Nurse and Licensed Vocational Nurse are, let’s take a look at a general check list of items you should review for each potential school you are considering to help narrow down your nursing school options.
Is the Nursing School Accredited? It is important that the school you choose is accredited. The better LPN/LVN schools are accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC). The NLNAC guarantees that not only are the nursing schools state approved, but that they also adhere to the highest standards for education. Attending an accredited school also makes you more marketable and in higher demand once you are ready to begin your new career in the healthcare industry.
What is the NCLEX Exam Pass Rate? Once you receive your certificate or diploma, you must sign up for and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). Enrolling in a school with at least a 75% pass rate is highly preferred. Lower pass rates may indicate that a school’s program, curriculum or instructors are ineffective in teaching its students. You can find out from the school what their passing rate is for the last 5 years, or request the information from the State Board of Nursing.
What is the Total Cost of Education? LPN/LVN programs can vary in cost from state to state and by type of program, depending on the amount of classroom and clinical training provided. However, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Remember to include the cost of books and commuting as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in your area. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as commuting, may be reduced.
Does the School Accommodate your Schedule? If you require certain class hours be available for your class schedule due to work or family obligations, be sure to find out if they are offered. Also, weekend or evening classes may not be provided by all schools, so be sure to verify that they are if needed. Most schools are becoming more and more flexible to accommodate students with demanding schedules, but it is best to inquire. If you have decided to study online, you will still need to find out when clinical training hours are offered.
Does the School Provide the Clinical Rotation You Need? Each school has relationships with different types of area hospitals for training purposes. It is important that you choose a school that offers clinical training in the type of facility you are most interested in. For example, if you want training and experience in pediatric care, make sure that the school you choose provides adequate clinical rotation in an area Pediatric Hospital.
What are the Class Sizes? Smaller classes generally provide greater access to instructors when students have questions or need extra help. Larger classes tend to be more impersonal and limit one-on-one instruction.
Is tutoring offered? It is important to find out if tutoring is available if the need should arise. There may be no cost alternatives available, such as a school forum or chat room for sharing information and resources among nursing students.
Pick the Right Licensed Practical Nurse Training
Picking the right Licensed Practical Nurse training program is very important for your long term career goals in the exciting field of healthcare. As we have discussed, you can choose to take your classes either by attending a traditional brick and mortar school in person, or you can take your classes online in your home in conjunction with your clinical training. However you choose to receive your education, by following the previous guidelines, you will be better able to evaluate each nursing school. And by choosing the right one, you can achieve your career goal to become a LPN or LVN.