Welcome to our guide! This guide has been hand-crafted to help you discover a CNA to LPN program that works for you.
Starting a nursing career as a certified nurse assistant (CNA) gives you a good grounding in hands-on care and allows you to build some basic skills. The time often comes, however, when you’re looking for more responsibility, a greater challenge or a higher income. At that point, it’s worth your while to consider a CNA to LPN bridge program. Designed to build on the skills you’ve already acquired, these programs can help you step up to the next level as a licensed practical nurse and beyond.
LPN Programs by State
District of Columbia
Accreditation – and Why It Matters
Each state has its own requirements for CNA educational programs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many CNA programs are found in community colleges, which is advantageous if you plan to go on in your nursing career. A CNA to LPN bridge program offers the ability to obtain credit for education you’ve already completed. Vocational and technical schools may also be affiliated with a college or university. In the long run, it’s best to choose an accredited program.
Some schools are state-approved but not nationally accredited. Many state-approved programs are excellent and you can receive a quality education. As long as you will practice only in that state and have no plans to further your nursing education, a state-approved program will meet your needs. An accredited program, however, offers you the most options, so look for a school that is both accredited and state-approved.
Nursing schools are accredited by one or more national organizations. The first national accreditation body was the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC), established in 1917. In 2013, this organization was renamed and reorganized as the Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN). ACEN covers all types of nursing programs, including CNA to LPN bridge programs. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits only master’s and baccalaureate programs, which is important if you plan to go on for advanced education. Accreditation standards are typically the same, but the length of the accreditation period may differ from one school to the next. Make sure your school’s accreditation period is long enough to cover the program until you graduate, just in case unforeseen events result in the school losing its accreditation for some reason.
FAQs for CNA to LPN Programs
Before you finalize your choice of schools, you should consider a number of issues, summarized here in FAQ format:
Is the school accredited, and how long is the accreditation period?
As noted above, you want an accredited school. LPN programs must meet six standards related to quality and standardization. These include mission and administrative capacity; faculty and staff numbers and qualifications; student policies and standards; curriculum; fiscal, physical and learning resources; and outcomes such as exam pass rates. The initial accreditation is good for five years and the school must be re-accredited every five years thereafter. Be cautious of a program that is accredited but with conditions, as this is an indication that there may be a problem with one of the required standards. However, a new program may have a minor problem that results in conditional accreditation.
Are there prerequisites?
Each program has its own admission requirements. At a minimum, you’ll need to have a current CNA certificate or diploma, depending on the state. You may also need to have a current CPR card. The program may require that you be currently employed or have a certain amount of experience as a CNA. Most programs require that you be at least 18 years old and some programs have minimum GPA requirements. You must submit a copy of your college/technical school transcript in most cases. You will probably need to pass a background check and drug test. Some programs require or strongly recommend that you complete certain classes before you begin the LPN program. Typical requirements include chemistry, advanced psychology, human anatomy and physiology, and computer skills or keyboarding classes.
How large are the classes?
Nursing is a highly technical and skills-based occupation. Clinical expertise is the result of good education and careful supervision until the student is able to practice safely and competently. If classes are too large, the instructors cannot provide the necessary supervision to all students. Most schools limit total class sizes to 30 to 50 students, depending on the number of faculty they have available. A student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1 usually provides adequate clinical supervision. In some cases, demand for classes is high, and the school may have a waiting list or lottery system for prospective students.
What are the NCLEX pass rates?
The NCLEX-PN is the national licensing examination for practical nurses. Schools should publish their annual graduation and first-time NCLEX pass rates. A first time pass rate indicates the number of graduates who passed the NCLEX on their first attempt. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing provides annual statistics on pass rates so that you can compare a school with the national average. In 2015, 82 percent of the 50,958 practical nursing graduates passed on their first attempt. Look for a school that has a pass rate at least equal to or slightly above the national average.
What about the money aspects?
Additional education doesn’t come cheap. Still, you may find there are more options out there than you might have realized at first glance. Public schools are almost always less expensive than private schools, so if money is tight, look at public schools first. Many schools offer scholarships, grants or student loans. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay tuition, and there may be additional administrative fees. You’ll also have to pay for your books and (probably) for appropriate clinical attire and equipment like uniforms, shoes and a stethoscope. You may also need to purchase health insurance, and some programs also have lab fees separate from the tuition. Don’t overlook transportation costs — if a school offers some courses online, it may be less costly overall to complete part of your education in that fashion. Each school sets its own rates, and the only way to determine the costs is to talk to the school or check out its website.
Any other issues?
Each school is likely to have some specific benefits for your particular situation. For example, if you have to use public transportation, the school’s location may be a critical issue. Some schools may offer child care for the older student returning after starting a family. It’s also a good idea to look into the clinical affiliates. Getting clinical training at several different sites gives you a broad perspective compared to a school that has only one clinical site. Training in a university medical center will probably be different than training at a small community hospital. If you plan to go on for more education, determine whether the school you’re considering is linked with a university that allows you to easily transfer your credits for an RN program or more advanced degree.
The NCLEX-PN Examination and Licensure
LPNs must be licensed to practice in all states. Once you’ve jumped all the hurdles and graduated, your last step is to take the NCLEX-PN national licensing exam. While you’re waiting to take the exam, you can review material with one of several NCLEX exam study guides available in hard copy or online. The first step in this process is to apply to your state board of nursing and pay the licensing fee, which varies by state. Then submit your application and pay the fee for the NCLEX exam. In 2016, the fee was $200.
The board of nursing will notify Pearson Vue — the NCLEX provider — of your eligibility for the exam. Pearson Vue will send you notification of your authorization to test (ATT) and the dates during which you must schedule and complete the exam. At that point you can actually schedule your exam. The exam is entirely computer-based, and test centers are located throughout the US. You have up to five hours to complete the exam. Results are usually available from Pearson Vue within a few days, but it typically takes several weeks for the board of nursing to issue your license.
Advancing Your Education
One of the great things about nursing is the ability to advance. After you’ve become an LPN, you might want to go on for additional education. Many schools allow you to transfer credits so you don’t have to repeat courses you’ve already taken. In some cases (particularly with science, where knowledge changes rapidly) you may need to repeat a course if you took it a long time ago. You can probably smooth this process if you choose an LPN program from a school that also offers an RN program. If you’ve chosen a vocational/technical school for your LPN training, it may be more difficult to get credit for what you’ve already done. Some vocational/technical schools, however, are affiliated with community colleges and universities for just this reason.
You have three choices to become an RN. The first is a diploma program from a hospital-based school of nursing. Many of these two- or three-year programs are affiliated with community colleges and you may actually qualify for an associate degree (ADN), which is the second way to become an RN. The two-year associate degree program is the most common entry point for RNs in the US as of this writing. Your final choice is a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). If you can afford it, this is the best choice. Increasingly, professional organizations and employers have taken the position that a BSN should be the preferred entry level educational attainment for an RN. If you have a diploma or ADN, you can still go on for a BSN, but it will take longer. Employers who hire diploma and ADN graduates may expect them to complete a BSN within a certain period of time, and some offer tuition assistance.
Go Directly From CNA to RN
If your ultimate goal is to become an RN, the quickest way is through a CNA to RN bridge program. With this path, you can skip the step of becoming an LPN. It saves time and may be less expensive in the long run, depending on the program. As with the CNA to LPN bridge, you should choose carefully. You’ll want an accredited program, preferably with multiple clinical sites. This is even more important for an RN program, as RNs typically work in many different work settings compared to LPNs. RNs are also more likely to work in acute care hospitals where patients are typically sicker, and in intensive care and emergency units. If you choose to go this route, follow the same steps in terms of exploring tuition options and other considerations. Once you’ve completed the program, you’ll take the NCLEX-RN examination. Preparation and the scheduling process are similar to the NCLEX-PN, but the content and topics are different, as RNs practice at a more advanced level and have greater responsibility.
Making a choice to advance your education can lead to lifelong professional benefits as well as an increased salary. Plentiful options mean you have a variety of opportunities. However, the ready availability of options means you should research carefully to make sure you find a program that is best for your situation.