Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Education
To become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) you must attend an LPN program, which can usually be completed in 12-18 months. Admission into an LPN program is often competitive. Coursework includes anatomy and physiology, pharmacology and math. Graduates receive a certificate and are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN), which you must pass for licensure as an LPN. Licensed practical nurses are employed in entry level positions in settings such as hospitals, extended care facilities, clinics and physicians’ offices.
LPNs can return to school to become a registered nurse. LPN to RN transition or bridge programs give credit for your previously earned coursework, where applicable. Many programs offer flexible scheduling and online options that accommodate busy personal and professional lives
Registered Nursing (RN) Education
In order to become an RN, you must attend college, either for an associate’s degree (ASN) or a bachelor’s degree (BSN). Many ASN and BSN programs use a two-step process for admission: first you complete the school’s pre-requisites and other requirements, then you submit your application for admission into the nursing program. Nursing school admission is fairly competitive and is often dependent on your pre-requisite grade point average (GPA). Both ASN and BSN degrees prepare you for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX), which you must pass for licensure as an RN.
As healthcare delivery becomes more complex and community based, there is a growing emphasis on baccalaureate preparation in the nursing profession. The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) 2010 report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, recommends that the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree increase to 80% by 2020.
Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degrees can usually be completed in two to three academic years. ASN programs are found at community colleges, colleges and universities. The ASN curriculum includes courses in physical and behavioral sciences. This degree prepares you to serve in an entry-level nursing position where you provide direct care to individuals and families with well-defined health needs. ASN graduates have numerous career opportunities in a variety of settings. By earning an ASN, you have completed the basic course requirements for entering an RN-BSN completion program.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees can usually be completed in four academic years. BSN programs are found at colleges and universities. The curriculum includes courses in the physical sciences, behavioral sciences and humanities. Emphasis is placed on communication, health education and promotion, community health, leadership and research. Clinical experiences occur in acute, chronic and wellness settings. A BSN degree prepares you to provide direct and indirect nursing care to individuals, families, groups and communities in a variety of settings. BSN graduates find greater career options and advancement opportunities in nursing. Obtaining your BSN also serves as the foundation for graduate study.
Accelerated BSN programs, which give you credit for your prior coursework, are available if you already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field.
As healthcare reform proceeds, nurses with advanced degrees–master’s or doctorate–will assume exciting new roles and responsibilities. In particular, nurses with advanced degrees are needed to educate the next generation of nursing students.
For future employment and educational opportunities, consider whether your nursing program is accredited by one of three nationally-recognized nursing accrediting bodies. Many employers require graduation from a fully accredited program as part of their employment policies. Accreditation also helps to ensure that your course credits will transfer, should you decide to pursue further nursing education.
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