Picking the right program to qualify you to be a licensed practical nurse or “vocational” nurse can be complicated. Key things you need to be aware of are
- Degree requirements and job rules for LPNs vary from state to state.
- LPN certificate (sometimes called “diploma”) programs are offered by large state universities, individual hospitals, community colleges, private education companies and even very small local technical schools.
- LPN programs are accredited by a variety of groups. You can double check on the accreditation status of a school by searching the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission’s (NLAC) search engine. If a school does not appear there, you might simply want to contact the hiring office at an area hospital and ask if the program you want to take is considered valid by that employer. As with other types of certificate programs, accreditation is less clear with LPN education than it is with associates and bachelors degree programs in nursing.
- There will be costs beyond your tuition. LPN students are generally required to buy their own medical “scrubs” or a uniform, a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and often more than $500. per year in books. You may also have to pay small fees for liability insurance and even cover the fee for a background check on yourself (most LPN programs will not accept anyone with a criminal record).
- If you’re currently working and have a family, you’ll need to factor in the cost of child care while you attend school and any travel expenses for a classroom program (an online licensed practical nursing program can obviously help cut down on these expenses).
You’ll want to evaluate whether the cost and the length of time involved in an LPN program makes sense when compared with a two-year associates degree in nursing. Many LPN programs take about one year. A program that takes two full years may not be a great option for getting you working and earning money quickly. On the other hand, you should probably be suspicious of any LPN certificate program that takes only six months, as it may simply be a diploma mill.
There are many LPN programs in large, affluent states like California, New York and New Jersey that cost over $20,000 in fees and tuition. In many states, however, you can reasonably expect to find a program with a total price tag running from $7,000 to $12,000, including your supplies.
Be aware that you may get a bargain from a community college near your home. Community colleges often give the same low tuition rates for local residents that state universities provide for in-state students. Just as an example, Mercer County Technical College in West Virginia has a practical nurse program which, for the 2008 – 2009 school year, will have tuition rates for local county residents of about $3,300, a rate for in-state but out of county residents of $6,600 plus, and over $13,000 for out of state residents. Studying close to home can clearly provide you with savings.
Typical courses you’ll take for an LPM certificate will include nursing fundamentals, medical mathematics, pharmacology, pediatrics, obstetric nursing and anatomy.
Many schools are a bit “cagey” about showing what their tuition rates are online. You can find out more, and get more individualized course information, but getting free information packets from nursing programs.
Next: What’s the Value Of A Licensed Practical Nursing Certificate?