Choosing an LPN Program in Illinois
If you are interested in pursuing practical nursing education in Illinois, you have options. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has approved more than 50 programs (http://nursing.illinois.gov/PreLeducation.asp). They are located at community colleges, career institutes, and healthcare centers around the state.
Geography will play a role in your decision, but you may consider a number of other factors.
LPN Program Levels
When considering a career as a nurse, one must decide which level of nursing to begin with. Recent data from the Illinois Center for Nursing indicates that there may be more LPN candidates than there are jobs (http://nursing.illinois.gov/ResearchData.asp). This is a different situation than the one registered nurses face. In fact, recent projections have predicted greater demand than supply, though the situation varies by region of the state. Regardless, there are still a lot of LPN positions a year to compete for.
Practical Nursing Program Admission Policies in Illinois
The good news is that many Illinois practical nursing programs do not have waitlists. The flip side is that programs may be selective in admissions, considering grades and test scores. Some programs have special requirements, like having Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training.
Despite selective admission policies, a surprising number of students who begin LPN programs don’t complete them. Some students will want to consider what services are available should they need them. For example, does the school offer one-on-one tutoring?
NCLEX-PN Pass Rates
A prospective LPN may also want to consider pass rates on the NCLEX-PN. After all, passing this national board exam is a qualification for licensure. Data is available on the site of the Illinois Center for Nursing (http://nursing.illinois.gov/PreLeducation.asp).
Although Illinois does not require LPN programs to hold national accreditation through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), accreditation is an indication that the program has met a rigorous set of standards. A prospective student can search for accredited programs on the ACEN site (http://www.acenursing.us/accreditedprograms/programSearch.htm). Currently, five Illinois programs hold this status.
Illinois has an articulation plan which makes it easier to transfer practical nursing credits from state-approved LPN programs to higher level programs; program level accreditation is not necessary. However, an LPN who leaves Illinois may find that accreditation is an asset.
Of course there are also those practical concerns. A nursing student may select morning, full-day, or night classes. Some schools even offer courses on the weekends.
A nursing student will put in time in actual healthcare facilities. It can be a good idea to consider both transportation and scheduling issues.
Paying for Practical Nursing School in Illinois
The state is a potential source of funding. A portion of Illinois Nursing Education Scholarship funds are set aside for students in practical nursing programs (http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/life-stages-populations/rural-underserved-populations/nursing-education-scholarship-program). The amount of the award is based on average program costs; the award includes 75% of the average tuition plus a living stipend. Selection is based on financial need and grade point average, among other factors.
Many practical nursing students qualify for need-based financial aid from the U.S. government. The key, in most cases, is to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (www.fafsa.ed.gov). Some individuals, for example veterans, have different procedures for receiving educational moneys.
The bottom line is that nursing school doesn’t cost each individual the same amount — even when they attend the same school. Some school websites have a price calculator that lets prospective students estimate costs before applying.
Ultimately, Illinois LPNs average $20.52 an hour or $42,680 a year (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm). Experience is a factor in determining earnings. Individual schools can be a good source of information with regard to what successful graduates typically start at. Black Hawk College, for example, reports that local practical nursing grads make $30,000-$36,000.
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