A prospect Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) must select an approved program. The Iowa Board of Nursing maintains a list of programs that have been approved within the state (http://www.state.ia.us/nursing/nursing_ed/nursing_ed.html).
Accreditation is less important than approval. However, program-level accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is a testimonial to program quality. Currently, just one Iowa LPN program has ACEN accreditation (http://www.acenursing.us/accreditedprograms/programSearch.htm).
Prospective students will want to ask about admission requirements and timelines. There are waiting lists at some Iowa schools of practical nursing. The Board has provided state-level information about waitlists. They can be reviewed by clicking here. The most recent data reveals that the waitlist issue is greater at the practical nursing level than at higher levels of nursing education.
Some schools rely on a selective process. Top tier candidates may be admitted automatically, based on such criteria as TEAS test scores (http://www.kirkwood.edu/site/index.php?p=30239).
Candidates may also want to ask about articulation options. In other words, if they train first as LPNs, how easy will it be to enter an RN program later with advanced standing?
Generally, Iowa schools that have LPN programs also have ADN programs: associate level programs that qualify graduates to take the NCLEX exam at the RN level. However, this does not mean that a student who has been accepted for LPN training will automatically be accepted into the higher program.
It is common in Iowa to complete LPN training en route to RN training. Board data shows that in 2012, the majority of LPN completers did continue on to registered nursing programs (http://www.state.ia.us/nursing/images/pdf/program_statistics/graduationdata.pdf).
The Iowa Board makes information available to help prospective students identify high quality programs (http://www.state.ia.us/nursing/nursing_ed/program_stats.html). One important consideration is NCLEX pass rates. The percentages indicate the number of candidates from each program who passed on their first attempt at the examination. Four years of test results are provided.
There is special coursework required for LPNs who work with IVs. However, it is not necessary that this be included in the initial program. It can be done through continuing education.
There are multiple financial aid opportunities. Some a person will qualify for based on financial need. The Pell Grant is a readily available federal grant. It does not require repayment under normal circumstances. Students with exceptional need may qualify for Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants at participating schools (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fseog/index.html). It is possible to receive both grants. Students qualify for most need-based federal financial aid by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Displaced workers, veterans, and others who are approved for training funding may want to search to see if there are practical nursing programs available in their area (http://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/search/site/nursing).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Iowa's Licensed Practical Nurses averaged $37,410 in 2012. LPNs, like workers in other fields, often start out below the average wage. However, even those at the 10th percentile earn $29,240. Location within the state can have an influence on salary.
The first challenge is often getting hired. Some schools post better rates than others. Prospective students may want to examine a school's gainful employment information. In addition to job placement rate, this may include on-time graduation rate and average debt from student loans. Programs with very small numbers of graduates/ completers may be exempted from revealing this information. In this instance, it is especially important to make sure the program is in good standing with the Board and enjoys a good reputation. Forums can be a source of information about program reputation.
Prospective students should also attend information sessions at schools they are considering.
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