Choosing an LVN Program in California

In order to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse in California, you must complete an approved program. There are more than 100 that have been approved by the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians (http://www.bvnpt.ca.gov/applicants/schools/index.shtml#schools). In a densely populated metropolitan area, there can be quite a few choices! What, besides location, should your application decision be based on?

You may consider the school’s reputation and ‘hard data’ like test scores. Beyond that, you will need to decide what is most important: That your program is cheap? That you get in quickly? That you will be guaranteed a spot?

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The Admission Process

Admission policies are a big consideration. Programs typically have more applicants than they can accommodate. In some cases, qualified applicants are waitlisted. One California LVN program (near the bottom in terms of cost) has 30 slots per year – and a wait list of 132!

Some schools use a point system for admitting students. TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) scores are a common consideration. There usually aren’t many, if any, prerequisites, but science scores may be considered. Previous healthcare credentialing (for example, as a CNA) may be valued. Schools may also give priority based on geographic location. In some cases, students who have applied previously but not made the cut are awarded points on subsequent application.

Quality Indicators

All graduates of vocational nursing programs must pass the NCLEX-PN before they can be licensed. Schools are required by law to disclose NCLEX pass rates. Candidates should be aware that pass rates vary widely by California program. The Board lists pass rates by school – in most cases, you can view a full five years of testing data (http://www.bvnpt.ca.gov/applicants/schools/index.shtml#schools).

In addition to test scores, you may consider program facilities and instructor qualifications. You may also consider gainful employment disclosure: What job placement services are available? What percentage of recent graduates have found employment? And is there a significant percentage of students who begin programs but don’t complete them?

Cost Considerations

California LVN programs vary widely in cost. Costs could be $4,000 and could be $30,000. Proprietary schools typically cost more than community colleges. The plus is that they may be more likely to have a spot for you.

Nursing students are eligible for many forms of financial aid, ranging from the Pell Grant to subsidized loans. Work study is sometimes an option.

A successful nurse may eventually be well compensated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a mean wage of $51,170 for California LVNs in 2012. An inexperienced LVN will generally start somewhat lower.

On a positive note, an LVN license can make it easier to be admitted to a registered nursing program – and to achieve a career where the salary averages in the mid-nineties in California. Schools that use the Chancellor’s Multi-criteria award points for an LVN license. The state also offers financial incentives for LVNs to complete associate’s degrees in nursing – if they are willing to work in medically underserved areas (https://www.oshpd.ca.gov/HPEF/).

Cautions

There are a few cautions before enrolling: The Board has issued a warning about programs that are unapproved or nonequivalent. Practical or vocational nursing programs approved by other states will be license-qualifying if they are deemed equivalent. However, the California Board of Vocational Nursing does not consider online or blended programs to be equivalent (http://www.bvnpt.ca.gov/applicants/schools/unaccredited_nursing_programs.shtml).

Candidates should also be aware that any program with provisional approval has failed to meet one or more standards – it has been given time to implement corrective measures, though, before losing approval.

Resources

LVN License Requirements in California

LVN Career Path: Becoming an LVN in California

Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians http://www.bvnpt.ca.gov

Licensed Vocational Nurses League of California http://www.lvnlofca.com/main.html

Related:

Medical Assistant Programs in California

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