You’ve always wanted to work in the medical field: of that much you’re certain. This stems from your passion for caring for people and your knack for details and multitasking. You’re considering becoming a nurse, but there are so many different nursing careers and credentials.
If jumping right into a career as a registered nurse (RN) sounds a bit daunting, don’t worry! Becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) may be the perfect stepping-stone for you. LPNs practice many of the same duties as RNs, but are generally under the supervision of RNs as well as physicians.
An LPN career will not only grant you the job security and financial stability you’re seeking, but it will help equip you with the valuable skills and experience needed to advance your career down the road. Many nursing hopefuls avoid the LPN route because of some common misconceptions about the position.
So if you’re one of those skeptics, this article is for you! We’re here to set the record straight about five false assumptions that may be deterring you from pursuing an LPN career.
5 myths about an LPN career
Before eliminating the option of becoming an LPN, let us help you clear up any confusion that may be keeping you from considering this career path.
1. They really just want to be RNs
While an LPN career is a great way to get started on your dream to become an RN, not all licensed practical nurses view it as a transitional job. For individuals who just want an opportunity to help others while supporting their family, it’s a great fit.
FACT: The 2015 median annual salary for LPNs was $43,170.
Most LPN programs can be completed in less than one year.1 What's even more exciting is the average annual salary in 2015 was $43,170, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).2 For many who choose this route, this provides an ideal work/life balance, saving time and money that can be reallocated to family.
2. RNs & doctors look down on LPNs
There’s a common misconception that it’s okay for nurses to “eat their young” and give entry-level medical staff a hard time. While this behavior does exist once in a while, it isn’t considered the norm.
The truth is that generally speaking, mature RNs and doctors don’t look down on LPNs. In fact, they appreciate and depend on their help. The BLS states that a large portion of LPNs are predicted to retire in the coming decade, leaving many empty positions in their wake. In fact, the BLS predicts LPN jobs will increase at the much-faster-than-average rate of 16 percent through 2024. This means there will continue to be a great need for more hands on deck with the multitude of nursing duties required at hospitals and clinics.
3. An LPN can’t do most things a nurse can
Administer medication? Check. Answer patient questions via phone? Check. Take and record patient vitals? Check.
The duties may seem endless, but it's clear that LPNs handle many of the same types of responsibilities as RNs. When push comes to shove, an RN or doctor will have the last word on a particular medical decision, but LPNs often end up in similar situations when managing a patient alongside a nursing aide.
It's also important to remember the bedside manner responsibilities that are essential to both RN and LPN social toolkits. Getting to know your patient, lending a listening ear and comforting him or her emotionally are important proficiencies from which all types of nurses can benefit.
4. An LPN is not a real nurse
While they have different titles, it’s important to recognize that both RNs and LPNs fall under the umbrella of nursing. You learned above that LPNs complete many of the same job duties that RNs do, and they employ much of the same knowledge as well.
FACT: LPN jobs are expected to increase 16% through 2024.
An LPNs job description generally includes monitoring patients’ health, reporting status updates and concerns and administering medications, according to the BLS. The types of duties vary, however, depending on the work environment in which you’re employed.
Believe it or not, LPNs are needed in more than just hospitals. Group homes, nursing homes, private homes and correctional facilities all count on these nurses to care for patients. The bottom line is that LPNs are most definitely real nurses. (After all, that’s what the “N” stands for!)
5. It’s easy!
Not so! It’s true you can complete an LPN program in less than a year, you still need to sit for the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) test, attend nursing school and sit for the NCLEX exam to qualify for practicing nursing. We haven’t even gotten to the part about finding a job.
Needless to say, becoming an LPN is no easy feat. In fact, it’s quite an accomplishment! The fact that it takes less time than becoming an RN or an MD does not take away from the dedication and achievement of launching an LPN career
Longing to be an LPN?
Becoming an LPN is a great option to get your foot in the door of the booming healthcare industry. What’s more is that you’ll be doing what you love—caring for others.
Some may consider an LPN career to be "less than" other medical careers, but it's a fantastic option for those looking to enter the nursing industry while still having ample time for family and friends. Besides, the outlook and earning potential are just what you’re seeking!
Are you convinced this is the nursing career path for you? Learn how you can get started in our article: How to Become an LPN: 5 Steps to Earning Your Scrubs.
1Time to complete is dependent on accepted transfer credits and courses completed each quarter.
2Salary ranges represent national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and include workers at all levels of education and experience. Ranges do not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in July 2014. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2016.