Many experienced CNAs at some point in their career will consider advancing to a Licensed Vocational Nurse or a Licensed Practical Nurse. The average starting pay of a graduate LVN/LPN can be nearly twice that of a C.N.A. depending on your location. After all, you are already able to perform several of the same basic duties of the LVN/LPN. You also possess a basic understanding of disease processes and you are certainly able to recognize and perform the basic skills necessary to effectively care for a patient. You may as well reap some of the reward in the form of a bigger paycheck. An increase in pay and a higher working status will also be accompanied by more responsibility and a higher level of accountability. You must complete the required college courses and complete the nursing program as well. This is not something that will be accomplished over night so you must have the right attitude in your pursuit of higher education.
You must have the determination. The first year nursing program is no joke. It can take 12 to 18 months to complete the LVN/LPN program depending upon how many prerequisite courses are needed and whether or not you have completed any college credits to meet the criteria for the pre-nursing courses. The nursing program course involves a theory course intermingled with clinical rotation. You already have a basic understanding of disease processes and your knowledge base may very well exceed that of a first year nursing student on many levels. The nursing program will help you to expand upon that knowledge base.
You must submit an application to an accredited school of nursing and be accepted before you can attend the LVN/LPN nursing program. If you do not make the cut the first time, try not to let it put a damper on your enthusiasm. It is wise to apply to more than one program to increase your chances of acceptance. You will be required to attend and pass several pre-med courses including Physiology, Biology, and Anatomy, to mention a few, which will necessitate a lot of memory work and even more reading. Be prepared that you will have to actually do the work in order to pass. Upon the completion of the nursing program you will then be required to pass a state licensure exam called the NCLEX. Many do no not pass the first time that they take the test, however, you are allowed after a certain period of time to retest.
Secondly, you must be able to dedicate your time to going to school full time. Several LPN/LVN nursing students choose to work part time or even full time aside from attending classes. Working while attending school full time can certainly be done but can often be a challenge; make sure that your current employer is aware of your plans as some adjustments may need to be made regarding your schedule. Clinical in the LVN/LPN program is a form of kinetic education performed by shadowing and working under the supervision of a LPN in a position of employment. Rotations may include, Emergency care, Doctor’s office, Hospice, Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Obstetrics, Surgery and Home Care. You can learn a great deal from these rotations which are varied in content, level of skill and time frame. You will sometimes be required to work the night shift or evening shift on top of the usual day at class and you do not get paid for doing so.
Most importantly, you must have an understanding of what the LVN/LPN responsibilities entail. There is a higher accountability working as a LVN/LPN as you will have a broader scope of practice and will be involved in more direct patient contact. An LVN/LPN is able to perform all duties of a C.N.A. but there are certain tasks that can be performed by a LVN/LPN which are forbidden for a C.N.A. Some of the duties that a LVN/LPN can perform which a C.N.A. cannot include: the administration medications and injections, giving I.V. medication, drawing blood, administration of blood, TPN and Lipids, and performing nursing assessments. A well trained LVN/LPN can even serve as charge nurse in some situations. Malpractice suits can be a worrisome factor as with more responsibility comes a greater liability. It is to your own benefit to find out if you are covered by malpractice insurance by your employer and it is wise to consider purchasing your own private insurance as well.
With so many factors involved, transitioning from a C.N.A. to a LVN/LPN can seem intimidating at first, but with some careful planning and hard work on your part you can be well on your way to becoming a graduate nurse. The preparation, determination, hard work, long hours and self sacrifice will eventually pay off and you will find yourself in an exciting new career, abundant with a lifetime of opportunity and learning.