The healthcare industry is booming, with the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) projecting that there will be about 1.8 million healthcare job openings annually from 2022 to 2032. Thus, it’s no wonder many people are launching their careers in healthcare. One way to fast-track a nursing career is by becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) through an accelerated LPN program. Below, we discuss accelerated LPN programs, including admission requirements and curriculum, potential benefits and challenges and post-graduation career opportunities to help you evaluate this rewarding healthcare career path.
Understanding LPN and Accelerated LPN Programs
To become an LPN, you must complete an accredited LPN program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses exam (NCLEX-PN). Most traditional LPN programs take between 1 to 2 years to complete before sitting for the NCLEX-PN. Increasing healthcare industry demands, coupled with the LPN projected job growth of 5% from 2022 to 2032 (per the BLS), have driven many teaching institutions to offer accelerated LPN programs to fill the healthcare gap. Those looking to fast-track their nursing career can start an accelerated LPN program and graduate in less than a year, depending on their background and experience.
Curriculum and Coursework
Licensed practical nurses assess patients’ health statuses and provide direct patient care, like taking vital signs and changing wound bandages. LPNs also support registered nurses (RNs) and assist patients with their activities of daily living, which may include bathing, walking, dressing and toileting. In some states, LPNs can administer medications and insert catheters with appropriate training and under the direct supervision of an RN. In California and Texas, LPNs are called licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). LVNs perform the same duties as LPNs based on their state practice guidelines.
LPN programs require students to complete didactic coursework and clinical rotations. Some core subjects include the following:
- Fundamentals: Learning basic assessment and communication skills, patient care duties and creating nursing care plans.
- Medical-Surgical Nursing: Focusing on patient assessment, nursing process and building critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
- Maternal Nursing: Caring for mothers throughout their pregnancy and their newborn child.
- Leadership: Building knowledge and understanding of effective communication, supervisory skills and conflict resolution.
- Pharmacology: Learning drug and nursing calculations, medication information, side effects and administration.
Most LPN courses have a clinical rotation where students precept with a nurse at a healthcare institution to gain hands-on experience and skills for a required number of hours. For example, in the medical-surgical clinical course, you might practice nursing skills in a hospital or long-term care facility. Alternately, for the maternal course, your clinical rotation may be in a mother-baby unit or obstetric doctor’s office.
Accelerated LPN programs have strict admission requirements that typically include having a high school diploma or general education development (GED) certificate and some experience in the medical field. Most institutions require you to take the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) and possess Basic Life Support certification prior to application.
Many accelerated LPN programs also require the completion of several prerequisite courses that vary depending on the institution. These prerequisites may include:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Human Growth and Development
- Intro to Psychology
- Intro to Pharmacology
- Medical Terminology
Fast-track LPN programs are highly competitive due to the increasing job demand, clinical excellence standards and program intensity. Some tips for making your application stand out amongst others include:
- Obtaining an above-average or excellent score on the TEAS
- Earning a grade “A” in the required prerequisite courses
- Having at least one year of prior healthcare experience
- Demonstrating your passion for healthcare by volunteering
You may also find it beneficial to contact current faculty members to express your interest and discuss career goals. Faculty members may recognize your name or career aspirations while reviewing applications.
4 Key Advantages of Accelerated LPN Programs
Fast-track LPN programs offer many advantages compared to traditional LPN programs. Besides the shortened time to graduation, additional advantages may include some of the following:
While you’re still required to take the same number of credit hours to graduate, it takes fewer semesters to complete accelerated LPN programs than traditional LPN programs. The fewer semesters required often means paying less in institution fees and student loan interest. Additionally, most fast-track and traditional LPN programs are full-time, making it difficult for students to hold jobs during school due to the rigorous program demands. Those who choose an accelerated LPN program can reduce their chances of potential lost income by graduating sooner.
Most accelerated LPN programs provide students flexibility by offering hybrid or online classes. Many fast-track LPN programs allow students to complete all their didactic coursework online without ever attending an in-person class. Additionally, accelerated LPN programs have rolling admissions and several start dates throughout the year, while traditional programs offer only one or two start dates annually. Thus, accelerated LPN programs offer a quicker start, adding to their flexibility.
Most accelerated LPN students find it easy to remain focused on their studies and career goals. It’s easier to retain vital information when courses are condensed and with shorter delays between semesters compared to traditional LPN programs. You also stay hyper-focused on your career goals since all accelerated LPN programs are full-time.
Boosted Career Growth
The healthcare industry offers plenty of career growth opportunities, even for those just starting. Individuals considering a career change or seeking a second degree can quickly boost their career and increase their earning potential by becoming an LPN through a fast-track program that gets them on the job sooner.
Challenges and Considerations
The intense pace of an accelerated LPN program can present a significant challenge. These programs are a full-time commitment, so you most likely won’t have time for a job or vacations while in school. Plan your finances accordingly, save as much as possible before starting or carefully consider applying for student loans, including how to repay them.
Additionally, you may find it difficult to spend time with family and friends or keep up with the rigorous class schedule. Practice time management skills by planning and scheduling your days each week, including time to study and rest. Prioritize your deadlines and set reasonable time limits with personal tasks and schoolwork. To help reduce stress, consider self-care strategies like taking a hot bath, reading a book or practicing yoga. Having a strong support system during a fast-paced LPN program is also key. Stay in contact with your support system by scheduling phone calls or planning fun activities to unwind.
Career Opportunities for LPNs
Licensed practice nurses can work in various healthcare settings including hospitals, physician’s offices, urgent care clinics and long-term care facilities. Some potential career paths for LPNs include the following specialties:
- Behavioral Health LPN
- Clinical Coordinator LPN
- Home Health LPN
- Hospice LPN
- Long-Term Care LPN
- School Nurse LPN
- Travel LPN
According to the BLS, LPNs can expect around 54,400 LPN job openings annually from 2022 to 2032. This demand leaves plenty of room for growth and advancement opportunities in the nursing field. Many LPNs aspire to earn an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and further increase their earning potential or move up the career ladder. Since LPNs already possess basic clinical skills, some universities and colleges offer LPN to ASN and LPN to BSN programs.
Working as an LPN is a gratifying career with great earning potential. The average staff LPN salary per Vivian Health on November 6, 2023, was $30.90 per hour. However, overall earnings heavily depend on your location and specialty. We pulled Vivian’s salary data for the top five states where staff LPNs earned the most. The maximum hourly salaries by state were:
- California: $40
- Georgia: $40
- Virginia: $39
- Massachusetts: $37
- Idaho: $36
Per Vivian, during the same period, travel LPN salaries averaged $1,489 per week. Some cities where travel LPNs earned the most were Oakland, California, with a maximum weekly salary of $2,627 and Centreville, Illinois, at $2,599 per week.
Becoming a licensed practical nurse is a rewarding career choice. Fast-track your career goals and salary potential by earning your degree in less than a year with an accelerated LPN program. While these rigorous programs can pose challenges, having a strong support system and time management skills will help you succeed.