Best Online LPN Programs

Oct 19, 2021

What is an Online Certificate LPN Program?

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) are essential to healthcare, assisting Registered Nurses (RNs) and physicians in various environments. Whether in a hospital, nursing home or a long-term care facility, LPNs help ensure quality care for patients. They are the frontline workers of patient care, performing duties such as bedside care, cleaning and bandaging wounds, providing alcohol rubs, giving injections, and ensuring patient hygiene and safety.

While similar to RNs, LPN education is not as rigorous. A certificate program is enough to get a position, so long as you are licensed. Students need to complete an accredited certificate program and pass a national licensing exam.

LPNs should have interpersonal skills and be effective communicators. LPNs work directly with patients and family members and must communicate vital information to both them and medical staff. Time management, critical thinking and decision-making skills are a must.

Most LPNs work in patient care, but there are possible opportunities in labs or as a nursing writer.

What is the Difference Between an Online Certificate and an Online Degree in LPN Programs?

Certificate programs prepare students to become LPNs, while those seeking to obtain A Degree in Nursing (ADN) usually become RNs. LPN certificate programs are the quickest way to enter the nursing field, as programs usually only last for about a year. Obtaining an ADN could take two to four years, depending on whether it is an associate or bachelor's degree.

Online LPN certificates are for students that want to enter a nursing career without committing to a college degree, but still have the option of becoming an RN later. The cost of LPN certificate program is also much smaller than for a full degree.

Accreditation for Online LPN Programs

Accreditation is given to universities and colleges that exceeds minimum quality standards. Employers and schools look for graduates with degrees or certificates from accredited programs, as it creates standards that employers and institutions can trust to show that a graduate has been sufficiently educated.

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) evaluates nursing programs to determine their quality. ACEN covers any level of degree, from certificate programs to doctorates. ACEN also accredits transition-to-practice programs.

There are also specialized accrediting agencies in nursing, for example, The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) accredits anesthesia programs for nurses in the United States.

Should I Get an Online Certificate in Practical Nursing?

Students who are looking to obtain a certificate that fits in with their work and home life should consider an online program. Online programs offer more flexible scheduling than on-site programs, as students can set their own schedule and work in the comfort of their own home.

Online certificates are also cost- and time-effective, as the cost is less than traditional two- or four-year degree programs and can also be completed rather quickly. Certificate programs in nursing usually takes around one year, but some institutions may offer accelerated programs that take six to eight weeks. Students wishing to become an LPN as quickly as possible would benefit significantly from an accelerated program.

Some colleges and universities also offer fast-track programs for currently employed LPNs who wish to advance their career. These fast-track programs allow LPNs to earn a bachelor's degree and eventually become a Registered Nurse.

Licenses Required After Completion

After receiving a certification upon completion, students still need to obtain a license to practice before becoming an LPN. Students need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN), offered by The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

Students need to get permission from the board of nurses in their state to take the NCLEX-PN. Some states allow students to take these steps before graduation. Their program would just have to certify that the student is on track to graduate. Students must turn in a licensing application and documentation that they have met academic requirements. This could be transcripts or providing a certification of completion. Some states also require character references or notary seals on the application. Most states will also perform a criminal background check.

The NCLEX has a one-time registration fee of $200 for candidates seeking US Licensure. Students may also have to pay additional fees for changing your exam type, changing the state or for international students seeking US Licensure. NCSBN allots five hours to complete the RN and PN exams, including a short tutorial and two optional breaks. Scores are taken as students' progress but will go through a second verification at Pearson VUE. The exam is taken on a computer.

Career Options After Completing an Online Certificate Program in Practical Nursing

LPNs have a variety of options to choose from after obtaining a certificate. Work environments include nursing homes, long-term care facilities, offices, private homes, medical testing labs and more. Most LPNs work full time. Before entering any field, LPNs must have completed and passed the NCLEX-PN.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics LPNs make a median salary of $48,820 per year, and employment is expected to increase by 9% from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the national average of 4%. This is partially due to the increase in elderly individuals.

Nursing Care Facility LPNs

LPNs are expected to perform various duties, regardless of where they work. In nursing homes, LPNs monitor patients closely and ensure that basic hygiene is maintained. They monitor patients' health status during their tenure at the home, but LPNs also provide companionship to elderly patients.

LPNs working in nursing homes will have hands-on experience with dementia, heart problems, lung problems, arthritis, and other ailments.

LPNs in Private Hospitals

LPNs working for a private hospital work directly with the patient. They discuss health concerns with patients, as well as monitor and record their status before and after surgeries. LPNs work under the supervision of doctors, RNs, or surgeons. The best places to look for work are in emergency rooms, maternity wards, and surgery facilities.

Mental Health Facilities

LPNs working in mental health facilities are expected to develop treatment plans, maintain safety and basic hygiene, and supervise nursing aides. Students could find work in residential treatment agencies or rehabilitation facilities.

Students who are considering a future in mental healthcare may also consider becoming a licensed professional counselor. Their role would be to help people resolve psychological, emotional, and substance abuse problems through therapy evaluations. Students who wish to continue down this path need a graduate degree and state licensure. Students explore counselor course topics in APA ethical guidelines, psychopathology, cognitive development, group therapy and more. With this knowledge and experience, licensed professional counselors help individuals in schools, private practices, clinics, and mental care facilities.

Courses for an Online Certificate Program in Practical Nursing

LPN programs prepare students to work with all age groups and environments. LPN courses are designed to give students the skills required to monitor patient's vital signs, patient observation, and to help patients with daily life. Students in an LPN program can take classes in anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, mental health, and more.

Anatomy and Physiology

Anatomy and physiology courses discuss the body's major body systems and their function. LPN nurses should be knowledgeable about the human body and its functions to be able to deliver quality nursing care. Courses usually cover:

  • medical terminology
  • cell function and structure
  • structures, functions, and types of tissue, membranes, and organs
  • the function and location of body systems

Pediatric Nursing

Pediatric nursing courses cover the illnesses and diseases that affect children. Courses cover child development and the assessment, prevention, and treatment of abnormal health conditions. Courses usually cover:

  • age-specific pain assessment and management
  • nutritional needs
  • safety needs and accident prevention
  • physical assessments of pediatric patients from neonatal to adolescent ages

How Long Does an Online Certificate Program in Practical Nursing Take to Complete?

Obtaining an online certificate program in practical nursing takes around one year to complete. These programs offer the quickest way to enter the nursing field, as it is not as complex as the education required of registered nurses. Courses are focused on practical applications rather than irrelevant elective courses. Some online programs offer accelerated programs where students can take eight or sixteen-week courses to complete their certification program sooner. It's not advisable to have any form of employment during these intense schedules however.

As most programs can take as few as twelve months to complete, students can take the licensure exam and begin working in a matter of months.

How to Choose an Online Certificate in Practical Nursing

When considering a college, university, or other program, students have many things to consider, including tuition and fees, location, format, program length and more. The advantage of online education is the flexibility. Students do not have to live near a college or university to attend. They can still attend classes in an online format. Note that some institutions have on-campus requirements, so check to see if this is the case before enrolling in a distant program. Many schools also offer hybrid formats to do both on-campus and online learning.

Tuition ranges across schools, but typically certificate programs are cheaper than obtaining an associate degree or higher. Tuition can be as little as $100 per credit hour or as high as $300 per credit hour. The prices of tuition can also vary depending on the school's rate for in state and out-of-state students (out-of-state usually is more expensive), so students on more of a budget may want to consider an in-state program even if attending online.

Make sure the program is accredited and also offers the length (accelerated or standard) desired. Some institutions require that students are enrolled at least 11 months. For students who are already certified nursing assistants (CNAs) may have CNA-to-LPN bridge program in their location.

How to Get into an Online LPN Certificate Program

Admission requirements vary from school to school. Most universities require students to provide a high school diploma or GED. Some universities also require students have a certified nursing aide certificate. Students should also have a minimum 2.5 GPA, and a "C" grade or higher in any prerequisites. (Although some universities may require an above average academic record with a minimum 3.0 GPA.)

Many institutions also require that students complete and pass the Assessment Technologies Institute's Test of Essential Academic Skills (ATI-TEAS) designed to test how prepared a student is to enter the health science field. It's comprised of 170 multiple choice questions split into reading, math, science, and English and language usage. Each section has a time limit with a total time limit of 209 minutes, roughly 3 and a half hours.

Some programs may offer open enrollment, but due to the practical nature of nursing, students will have to complete some requirements on-campus or in a hospital-like setting. Semesters may begin in the fall or spring depending on the university requirements.

Cost of an Online LPN Certificate Program

Prices vary across schools and are dependent on many factors. Price per credit hours can range from as low as $100 to $400. The total tuition cost can range from $4,000 all the way to $30,000 depending on the school. Many colleges and universities charge out-of-state students a higher tuition, but there are institutions that charge a flat rate for online students. Other fees can include technology or textbook fees. Additionally, students may be required to purchase a uniform and nursing supplies, such as stethoscopes or bandage scissors. As students will also have to pass the NCLEX-PN, an additional $200 is added to the cost of becoming an LPN.

Financial Aid & Scholarship Resources for Online LPN Certificate Programs

To help offset the cost of an online LPN certificate program, students can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Many states and institutions set deadlines for completing the FAFSA to be considered for aid. There is also a federal deadline that students must meet each academic year. Students can also apply for scholarships, grants, and, if eligible, military and veterans benefit or employer benefits.

There are several scholarships available that are tailored to prospective nurses. Many nurse scholarships are also set up to aide various demographics. These include gender, GPAs, race, religion, ethnicity, ACT and SAT scores, military affiliation, physical disabilities and more.

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