Monday, March 16, 2009

Step-up Programs Encourage Advancement from LVN to RN

Climbing the nursing school ladder is made easier by programs that offer a step up for licensed vocational nurses aiming to become registered nurses.

Climbing the nursing school ladder is made easier by programs that offer a step up for licensed vocational nurses aiming to become registered nurses.

Licensed vocational nurses, or LVNs, also known as licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, complete a one-year program, available at roughly 1,200 state-approved programs across the countrymostly in vocational or technical schools or community colleges, according to the United States Department of Labors Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They are trained to provide basic bedside care, from taking vital signs to preparing and giving injections, applying dressings, preparing tests and assisting with patient hygiene. LVNs work under the direction of a registered nurse.
While the LVN is an important member of the health care team, the BLS reports that hospital employment of LVNs is on the decline, and many LVNs are being encouraged to pursue their RN education. Step-up programs provide LVNs a smooth transition into the RN curriculum.

At the College of the Siskiyous, in Weed, California, a new grant has allowed for the creation of a step-up program, which will begin in the fall of 2007. According to Kathy Gassaway, administrative secretary of the nursing program, the program fills a void that forced students to seek further education elsewhere.

A lot of the LVN students have gone to other schools to continue their education, Gassaway said. Because there is such a need for RNs, not only in this area, but all across the country, we received a grant from the chancellors to start the program here.

The College of the Siskiyous LVN-to-RN Step-up Program is two semesters, entering students into the last two semesters of the typical RN program. It requires pre-requisites, including human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, sociology, psychology and college composition and mathematics, among other courses, and requires a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5.

Although its only in its preliminary stages, Gassaway expects the step-up program to be a popular choice among the schools 26 or 27 LVN students.

We promote the program, but how many of them will do it, I dont know, she said. We started with a certified nurse aide (CNA) and promoted going on with the step ladder approach to the LVN. Of course, we want all of our students to go on and get their BSN and masters degrees!

Southwestern College, in Chula Vista, California, has had a step-up program since the beginning of timeat least 30 years, said Sandra Comstock, RN, director of nursing and health occupations at the community college south of San Diego, but interest has increased in recent years.

Its definitely more popular today, she said. There were a couple of years when nobody was enrolling, but the shortage has opened more opportunities to advance.
Although the program has a one- to two-year waiting list, which is similar to the RN program, Comstock explained that for many students, it provides a great opportunity for students to learn a different role. Students who have completed the LVN program take a summer transition course, which involves lecture and hospital learning, and then mix in with RN students who have already completed their first year of the RN program. After one year of hospital and classroom learning, they are eligible to take the NCLEX.

The step-up program is a good way to transition into the RN role for career advancement, Comstock concluded. The LVN plays an important role, but once theyve had that experience, most are very successful as RNs.

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