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LPN to RN Programs

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Between 2010 and 2020, 28 percent of all new jobs in the nation's economy will come from the health care and social assistance industry, according to projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Industry growth of 33 percent, or 5.7 million new jobs, is expected due to the increased life span of the population and advances in medical technology and treatment.

Registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) are projected to account for about 15 percent of these newly created health care jobs. The titles LPN and LVN vary based on the state in which the nurse practices; LPN will be used here to denote both careers.

A number of issues, including whether or not there is, or will be, a nursing shortage have recently been hotly debated in the news and are the subject of a number of surveys and research studies. Experts indicate that the projected number of nurses reaching retirement age and nursing burnout as nurses are required to work longer hours and increase their patient workloads are negatively affecting the nursing profession.

Two objectives seem to be at the top of the list for the nursing profession - increasing the number of those entering nursing to avoid any employment shortfall and encouraging existing nursing professionals to pursue higher education. According to O*NET Online, 64 percent of RNs have associate degrees and 29 percent have bachelor's degrees; 23 percent of LPNs have associate degrees and 67 percent have completed some college coursework. "Research has shown that lower [patient] mortality rates, fewer medication errors, and positive outcomes are all linked to nurses prepared at the baccalaureate and graduate degree levels," stated "Creating a More Highly Qualified Nursing Workforce," a nursing fact sheet published by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Nursing Education Options

A number of campus-based and online nursing educational options are available, with options such as:

  1. Completion of an accredited hospital certification program or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) to become an LPN.
  2. Completion of a non-degree program for LPNs who want to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
  3. Completion of an LPN to RN bridge program that results in an associate or bachelor's degree.
  4. Completion of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) through LPN to BSN or RN to BSN programs.

Full-time study for LPN certification programs can normally be completed in one year, associate degrees in two years and LPN to RN bridge programs from one year for an associate degree to two to three years for a bachelor's degree.

LPN to RN courses can include general education and math and science prerequisites; nursing prerequisite courses in areas such as methods of patient care, nursing theory, pharmacology for nurses and nursing theory and practice and advanced practice nursing courses for those pursuing a bachelor's degree. Programs also require clinical practice, either on-campus or in the community, depending on the specific program and school. Online LPN to RN schools can be an excellent option for current LPNs or RNs who want to continue working while pursuing additional education.

RN Certification and Licensure

To practice in the U.S., all states require RNs to be licensed. Licensing requires completing a state-approved nursing program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. For other state-mandated requirements, contact a specific state board of nursing.

Nursing Work Environment and Responsibilities

Most LPNs work in nursing care facilities (12.82 percent) with the remainder working in general medical and surgical hospitals, physicians' offices, home health care facilities and community elder-care facilities. Most RNs, however, work in hospitals (29.51 percent) with a smaller number working in other types of health care facilities (bls.gov/oes, 2013).

RNs and LPNs perform many of the same patient care support duties such as listening to patient health concerns, providing for their comfort and recording patient health information, although RNs usually oversee LPNs and most often have more advanced levels of responsibility for patient care such as reporting to physicians and devising plans for patient care. Most states regulate LPN duties and how much supervision they are required to have; some states permit LPNs with advanced training to perform more advanced procedures. RNs in specialized fields such as critical care or surgery usually have bachelor's degrees and those who wish to become advanced practice RNs in areas such as midwifery or anesthesiology generally pursue master's degrees.

Nursing Salary Information and Employment Outlook

In May 2012, mean annual wages for RNs were $67,930 and for LPNs were $42,400 (bls.gov/oes, 2012). In 2010, 2,737,400 RNs were working in the U.S.; that number is expected to increase by 26 percent to almost 3.5 million by 2020. There were 752,300 LPNs; that number is expected to increase by 22 percent to 920,800 in 2020 (bls.gov, ooh, 2012). The employment outlook for those pursuing nursing careers is excellent and even better for those who pursue additional education.

Sources:

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, "Fact Sheet: Creating a More Highly Qualified Nursing Workforce"
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, "Nursing Shortage"
Appalachian State University, "Nursing (RN-BSN): Program Description"
College of San Mateo, "Nursing Overview"
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, "Contact a Board of Nursing"
O*NET Online, "Summary Report for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses"
O*NET Online, "Summary Report for Registered Nurses"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition, "Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocation Nurses"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition, "Registered Nurses"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012, "Registered Nurses"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012, "Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition, "Overview of the 2010-20 Projections"


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