From Nursing School To Payday: Steps To Becoming An LPN

Graduates of a nursing school or nursing program -- typically called LPN in the industry, or just 'nurses' by the layman -- are a vital part of our nation's health care system. The Licensed Practical Nurse (or Licensed Vocational Nurse in some states) is the entry point of nursedom, the position that has the least stringent requirements to get into. Surprisingly to some, even those 'least stringent' requirements can be pretty tough. 

It takes a minimum of two years' education at a classical nursing school or a practical nursing program in order to become an LPN/LVN. Most people find it easier to get an LPN certification over three or four years, taking nursing school alongside their normal college education rather than cramming it all into one all-nursing-class bonanza. Of course, most people want to get their LPN certification as quickly as is practical. Nursing school is expensive, after all, and it can pay to get a jump on the workforce. Just as often, however, you run into students who want to leverage their LPN and remain in school to get an RN (registered nurse) certification or even a Masters in Nursing Education.

On the other hand, the nurses' assistants who go into the practical nursing program at their hospital will generally pack all of the relevant learning into...surprise!... two years of on-the-job training that they do alongside their normal duties as nurses' assistants. The advantage of taking an in-hospital nursing program rather than a practical nursing school, as you might guess, is the social aspect -- you're learning under the people you'll be working under, and alongside the people you'll be working alongside. That can mean a lot when the alternative is going to a new hospital for the first time and trying to prove yourself as a 'fresh from the chalkboard' LPN.

Both groups will have to pass the same basic test in order to acquire their certifications: the National Council of Licensure's Examination of Practical Nursing, or NCLEX-PN. The exam is taken on a computer, in the form of a long series of written questions. The NCLEX of Practical Nursing has four sections: health promotion and maintenance, safe and effective environment of care, physiological integrity, and psychosocial integrity. A nurse must past all four sections independently of one another in order to obtain their certification; failure in any one area means trying again next year.

Once they have obtained their certification, a newly-minted nurse can expect to have a very easy time finding a job; nurses are one of the most in-demand jobs in the country right now. Institutions from hospitals to home health services, from hospice care facilities to the Red Cross -- all of them are desperate for more qualified nurses. Of course, this means that nurses' salary and benefits are much better now than they were even a few years ago. It's rare to find a proven nurse that doesn't at least make median wage these days.

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