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If you've ever spent time in a nursing home, long-term care facility, doctor's office or hospital, you've probably come in contact with capable and knowledgeable licensed practical nurse (LPN).

Licensed practical nurses perform the majority of basic care for patients in nearly every healthcare setting. Common duties include monitoring patient's basic health and recording notable signs of improvement or deterioration in a patient's condition.

LPNs also help patients bathe or dress and perform routine laboratory tests as required by the doctor or registered nurse overseeing their work. Candidates for LPN degree programs should be caring, detail-oriented, and able to provide compassionate care for patients who are often in a state of distress or in pain.

What to expect from online LPN degree programs

LPN programs may vary in duration and rigor depending on the educational requirements in the specific state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many LPN programs award a nursing major certificate or diploma upon completion, and may be completed in as little as one year of full-time study.

Many LPN programs also offer a path toward an associate degree in nursing (ADN) as well, which can take as long as 24 months or more to complete. Upon completion of state-approved LPN degree programs, the path toward licensure requires taking and passing National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). All LPNs must be licensed in the state where they practice, and many states require that additional criteria be met including fingerprinting and passing a background check.

Students in online LPN programs typically complete the majority of their classroom instruction online at their own pace, while completing the clinical component of their nursing program at an approved site. This setup offers students the opportunity for hands-on learning and an experiential education in addition to general classroom instruction that can be completed anywhere.

Students working toward LPN degrees need to master basic concepts in human health and anatomy before transitioning to the specific nursing techniques commonly covered during the hands-on portion of each program. Topics commonly covered in the classroom portion include:

  • Anatomy & physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry

According to the BLS, many licensed practical nurses choose to specialize in a certain field and may pursue advanced specializations or credentials in fields such as gerontology and IV therapy.

Career outlook for graduates of online LPN programs

The BLS predicts steady growth in overall healthcare consumption over the coming decade, which translates into healthy job opportunities for licensed practical nurses and other related occupations:

  • LPNs:The BLS predicts that employment for LPNs will increase 25 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022. BLS numbers place median annual income for LPNs at $41,920 in 2013.
  • Nursing Assistants: These professionals often provide assistance to licensed practical nurses and registered nurses, and usually gain employment by learning on-the-job or completing a state-approved education program and passing a competency exam. An overall increase in the use of healthcare services is expected to improve employment opportunities for nursing assistants and orderlies at a rate of 21 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022. Median income for nursing assistants in 2013 was $24,890 in 2013.
  • Occupational Therapy Assistants: These professionals need to earn a minimum of an associate's degree from a state-approved and accredited occupational therapy assistant program. After earning their degree and becoming certified to practice, occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients do therapeutic activities and provide general assistance to occupational therapists. Median income for occupational therapist assistants in 2013, going by BLS data, was $55,270. According to the BLS, employment for occupational therapy assistants and aides should increase 41 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupation combined.

"Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm#tab-1
"29-2061 Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 14, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm
"Nursing Assistants and Orderlies," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm#tab-1
"31-1014 Nursing Assistants," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 14, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes311014.htm
"Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapy-assistants-and-aides.htm#tab-1
Hocking College, Diploma in Practical Nursing, http://www.hocking.edu/programs/nursing_practical

Pursue your LPN/LVN: Licensed Practical Nursing major today…