As a licensed practical nurse or LPN, you may experience a multitude of employment opportunities that offer limitless options in the healthcare field. Depending on your state of residence, you may earn an LPN license in a state-approved program that takes about 13 months to prepare you for licensure by examination. LPNs must follow specific guidelines to get a license by their particular state board or regulatory agency.
What is the Difference Between an LPN and an LVN
The LPN and licensed vocational nurse (LVN) are terms used to designate the same nursing practice description, licensure process and require the same formal training for state license preparation. Depending on your state of practice, your state board of nursing may grant you the title of LPN or LVN after you obtain your license. An LPN may move out of state and practice as an LVN in another. Essentially, both the LPN and LVN work within the same nursing scope of practice and perform care for patients equally in their communities such as:
- Work under the supervision of an RN or physician
- Practice in long-term, rehabilitation or hospital care settings
- Administer oral, intravenous and topical medications to patients
- Assist patients with the management of chronic conditions
- Document medical information and chart in medical records
What is an LPN Licensure
The state board of nursing regulates the process and requirements for obtaining an LPN license in your individual state. After graduation from an accredited nursing education program and completion of the NCLEX-PN examination with a passing score, your state board of nursing may grant you permission to practice with an LPN license on the state nurse registry. Your LPN testing and license assures healthcare employers that you are appropriately prepared to provide nursing care, perform medication administration and practice as a safe, knowledgeable nurse.
How to Earn an LPN License
Although LPN programs may differ by state, most follow similar guidelines for the application process, student selection criterion and admission policies. Like most LPN programs of study, the Penn State Berks program provides an application for download on their website and lists admission criteria such as:
- Age 17 years or older
- High school diploma or GED transcripts
- Pass a criminal background check and drug screen
- Complete the required LPN entry examination (post course prerequisites)
- You may require a personal interview with a faculty member
As the majority of LPN programs require course prerequisites on the application form, the Emily Griffith Technical College designates specific classes for admission to their LPN program such as:
- English Composition
- Dietary Nutrition
- Basic Anatomy and Physiology
- CPR in BLS
Application Process and Deadlines
LPN programs, such as South Seattle Community College, designate application deadlines for enrollment of students in 2014 for admission in 2015. A practical nursing (PN) student orientation may be mandatory to ensure the application process is completed correctly and you are given the correct information concerning course policies and procedures.
Costs of an LPN Program
Program costs vary widely and depend on your state and city registration location. For example, the Northern Virginia Community College lists tuition for the full year at $16,500 for 2013. However, a legitimate program may be eligible to provide student aid, scholarships, loans or federally funded programs that may help you pay for your classes and accomplish a practical nursing license.
Licensure Process for LPNs in Three States
The State of Florida requires the completion of a state approved LPN program that is at least one year in length. After completing your program and receiving a PN certificate, contact the Florida Board of Nursing or go online and download the LPN license application for authorization to test. Part of the application criteria may include:
- Background check or fingerprint scan
- Fees for Pearson VUE computerized testing
Once your information is processed by the Board of Nurse Examiners, you may sit for the licensure examination to become an LPN.
Programs in Texas require a high school diploma or GED. Although LPN programs are required to be at least one year, many programs in Texas are 18 months in length. The Texas State Board of Nursing requires an application for LPN licensure post graduation that includes criteria such as:
- A criminal background check
- Electronic fingerprints at Live Scan
- License fees and LPN school transcripts
The Texas LPN licensure examination consists of 50 questions that pertain to training. If you do not pass the examination, the NCLEX-PN may be retaken after seven days.
All LPN programs in California require applicants to pass the Career Program Assessment Test before course enrollment. Training may generally take 18 months of courses that include:
- Formal classroom training
- Manual medical skills instruction
- A clinical practicum in a medical setting
After graduation, the California Board of Vocational Nursing requires transcripts from your LPN licensing program, copies of fingerprint cards and a completed application for testing.
LPN License Examination
The NCLEX-PN is the accepted licensing exam that is used by all state boards of nursing to make licensure decisions. Although the number of questions may vary by state of practice, the examination focuses on the course content you have learned in program training. The test has traditionally presented multiple-choice questions that pertain to areas of nursing such as:
- Nutrition and fluid balance
- Basic nursing care and safety
- Medication administration
- Management of chronic conditions
For more information on licensure exams, read the article: LPN Testing Guide and Tips now.
LPN License Renewal Requirements
Generally, your LPN license renewal is due every 24 months and may require proof of mandatory continuing education units (CEUs). States may require CEUs are completed on specific topics that relate to your practice such as:
- Prevention and treatment of resistant bacteria found in local hospitals
- New reporting regulations related to child, elderly or disabled persons abuse
- Expansion of the LPN’s scope of practice or the availability of new opportunities
- Current medical research on HIV/Aids, diabetes or other chronic conditions
If you need more information on renewing your nursing license, visit LPN: License Renewal now and learn more about license requirements.
How to Verify an LPN License Online
Visit your state board of nursing online and select “look up a license” from the webpage menu. Next, a page with a search form appears and provides a form to fill-in a name, license or social security number to find the nurse in the registry database. If the information is correct and you have an active nursing license, your LPN license status will appear with your identifying number and expiration date.