How to Become a LPN If You Are Already CNA
Many certified nurses aides eventually decided they would like to move forward in their careers. One obvious step to take is to become a licensed practical nurse, also known as "licensed vocational nurses" in some states. A CNA who does decide to go this route will need to complete an educational program and then pass a national licensing exam.
CNA vs. LPN
Although both CNAs and LPNs are critical part of any health care support team, they are separate professions and they have significant differences in their scopes of practice:
CNAs: Typically, CNAs are employed in hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, and they assist both licensed practical and registered nurses by providing basic patient care. This care may include helping patients with washing, getting to the toilet, eating and getting in and out of bed. A CNA may also take vital signs, and with appropriate training, may administer medication to patients.
LPNs: The scope of practice for a licensed vocational or practical nurse can vary significantly by state. Depending on state laws and regulations, an LPN may provide a range of patient care services, including taking and monitoring vital signs, giving injections, changing dressings and bandages, inserting catheters, interviewing patients and managing records. In addition, an LPN may also be able to start IVs, and provide patient and family education. According to the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, some states also allow LPNs to undertake limited supervisory roles over LPNs, CNAs and other unlicensed health care workers.
Education and Training Requirements
Typically, becoming a CNA requires the completion of a short course that can take as little as six weeks. Private vocational schools offer CNA training, but so do nursing homes as well as the American Red Cross. CNA's are not licensed, but usually must pass a competency examination and register with their state's board of nursing.
A CNA who wishes to be licensed as an LPN will need to apply to and be accepted by an LPN certificate or diploma course. Community colleges, as well as private vocational schools, offer LPN programs. Programs typically take a year of full-time study to complete. After graduation, an aspiring LPN will have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). The "PN" after the NCLEX refers to "practical nursing." Registered nurses (RNs) take the NCLEX-RN exam.
One reason for a CNA to consider becoming an LPN is financial. As of May 2017, the median annual wage for a CNA was $27,520, which means that 50 percent of CNAs made more than this and the other half made less. LPNs, on the other hand, earned a median salary of $45,030.
Other Career Options
After becoming an LPN, some nurses will want to go on to become registered nurses. Registered nurses have an expanded scope of practice, with more opportunity to move into supervisory and management roles. In addition, the annual median income for RNs as of May 2017, was $70,000. While becoming an RN requires additional education, and passing another licensing exam, some schools offer LPN-to-RN bridge programs that allow LPNs to apply their educational credits toward a nursing degree.
Lainie Petersen is a full-time freelance writer living in Chicago. She holds a master’s degree in library and information science from Dominican university and spent many years working in the publishing, media and education industries. Her writing focuses on business, career and personal finance issues. Her work appears on a variety of sites, including MoneyCrashers, Chron, GoBankingRates and 8th & Walton News Now.