Evaluating Practical Nursing Programs

Evaluating Practical Nursing Programs

Mar 12, 2015 | 12:00 pm

If you’re interested in becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), the first logical step is to find a practical nursing program that meets high professional standards as well as state regulations. These year-long programs can be found in most community colleges, technical schools and some hospitals. Look for these five signs of credibility when you start evaluating practical nursing programs in your area.

Is the Program Accredited?

Once you’ve round up the schools that interest you most, rule out any that aren’t state-approved practical nursing programs. How do you know if they’re approved? Aside from checking with the school, you can also contact your state board of nursing for a list of approved schools. A school’s accreditation status not only affects the quality of your training, but you must also graduate from a state-approved practical nursing program before you can sit for the licensure exam and begin working.

What’s the Quality of Training?

Focus on practical nursing programs that offer clinical experience early and often. While all approved programs will involve a mix of class hours, lab hours and supervised clinical experience, some get students out in clinics, learning hands-on, real-world skills right away. Don’t shy away from programs that seem like more work—you will leave them feeling much more prepared than if you spent little time working with patients before your job!

Does It Prepare you for the NCLEX-PN?

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing develops exams to promote uniformity in regulating nursing practices from state to state, which promotes patient safety and public protection. For practical nurses, the exam is called the NCLEX-PN (National Council Licensure Exam for Practical Nurses), and passing this exam proves the nurse is qualified to practice under the title LVN or LPN. Compare practical nursing programs by how well they prepare students for the NCLEX exam. You can do this by checking out the NCLEX-PN test plan and a nursing program’s curriculum.

How Do You Get Into the Program?

This is a job that serves the public when they’re in vulnerable situations, so there should be standards for those entering the program—that’s a good thing! Some of the most common requests of practical nursing programs include perspective students holding a high school diploma (or GED), passing a criminal background check and taking an entrance exam. If the program doesn’t have these basic three requirements, it might be a good idea to find out why.

Job Placement Success

It may not be possible to discover the percentage of LVNs or LPNs who find work after graduating from each practical nursing program, but it’s worth asking the question. How do you do this? Review the school’s website, call the counseling office or speak with the program director. A program that takes pride in training up quality nurses who find work is a program worth considering.

While you evaluate nursing programs, keep in mind your key questions or flags of credibility. Look for students who have rated the programs online, or reach out to the school and ask to speak to administrators who oversee the programs. It’s worth your time and money—and it will set the stage for your successful career as a practical nurse.