If you're looking to get your foot in the door of a medical career you should consider starting as a licensed practical nurse. LPNs require minimal education, only needing to complete a short certificate program and to pass a licensing exam. Though LPN duties are limited compared with other medical professionals, it can get your career started and provide a foundation if you want to gain further education to become a registered nurse.
LPNs need to complete a one-year certificate program in practical nursing where they will study subjects related to nursing, such as biology and pharmacology. Students will also gain supervised clinical experience. You are likely to find practical nursing certificate programs in community colleges and technical colleges, but they may also be taught in hospitals or high schools.
Earning a certificate in practical nursing does not automatically qualify you to practice as an LPN. You also need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination. This exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and is required in all states. There are two versions of the exam; LPNs must take the version known as NCLEX-PN.
Being an LPN can be a good starting point in your medical career because it involves relatively little education. But if you want to advance you'll need additional education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some LPNs become registered nurses after taking an LPN-to-RN program. After completing one of these programs you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination's NCLEX-RN exam.
Because LPNs have less education and training than other medical professionals, their responsibilities are limited. These limitations vary by state. For instance, some states will allow properly trained LPNs to administer intravenous drips; others won't. LPNs may only be able to provide certain types of care when they are supervised by someone with more training, such as a registered nurse.
M. Scilly is a writer and editor who writes for various online publications, specializing in business and management. He has a fondness for travel and photography. In his free time he enjoys marathon training.