Nursing is one of the health care industry's hottest career paths throughout Canada and the United States. In British Columbia, as with other jurisdictions across the continent, both licensed practical nurses and registered nurses are widely used. The training for LPNs is relatively short and inexpensive, so aspiring nurses often use that as their point of entry into the field. If you start as an LPN and decide later to become a registered nurse, you can upgrade your qualifications at several schools.
The LPN's Role
Licensed practical nurses represent nursing's ground floor. As an LPN, you'll work under the supervision of doctors and registered nurses, providing the basic day-to-day care your patients need. That includes keeping track of their vital signs, giving them their pills, and helping them with daily necessities such as eating, dressing and personal hygiene. Training programs are relatively brief. For example, Vancouver Community College's LPN program lasts 16 months, broken into four levels of four months each. That time is divided among classrooms, labs and clinical experience. You can take the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration exam with two months to go, and be eligible for your provincial license when you graduate.
Practical nursing can be a satisfactory career in its own right, and you can earn a large number of additional certifications and qualifications as an LPN. However, registered nurses earn higher pay and have a broader range of responsibilities, and upgrading can be a positive career move for ambitious nurses. Many schools offer bachelor of science degrees in nursing, which is the prerequisite for RNs to practice. These ordinarily require four years to complete, but some schools offer a special program for LPNs upgrading to the RN standard.
The LPN Access Program is designed to stream qualified LPNs directly into the second year of the bachelor's degree program. To be eligible, you must have a current LPN license. You also need to provide the transcripts from your LPN training, so the school can verify which courses you took and what your marks were. If you're accepted, you can earn your B.S.N. in three years rather than the usual four, and take the Canadian Registered Nurses Exam. The LPN Access program is available at schools across Canada and the United States. ege.
LPN vs. RN
Although there are good reasons to become a registered nurse, it's not a decision to make without thought. Practical nurses are often employed in long-term care or nursing care facilities, where the pace is slower, work is less stressful and schedules are often more flexible. You can also take advanced certifications in areas such as IV management, palliative care or mental health, which can increase your pay and areas of responsibility. On the other hand, registered nurses earn more, and can earn certifications in advanced areas of practice or become nurse practitioners.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.