LPN program offers entrance into nursing

Nursing has become a sought-after career because of its job security, flexibility and advancement opportunities.

Job demand for nurses is expected to grow by 26 percent through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With the population aging and many nurses nearing retirement age, the need for new nurses is expected to continue rising.

“One of the fastest gateways into the profession is through a practical nursing diploma program,” said Theresa Snagg, program director for the practical nursing department at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. “Many of our students are in their late 20s to 50s, and working on a second career.”

Practical nursing students receive the academic and clinical training required to care for patients and to pass the national NCLEX-PN licensing exam.

“Working under the direction of physicians or registered nurses, LPNs are needed in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics and nursing homes,” Snagg said. “Many of our graduates will find jobs at sites where they did their clinical training, and some will go on to complete their associate degree to become registered nurses. The advantage to becoming a practical nurse first is that you can get into the job market faster, and you can work while earning your RN degree.”

Georgia Piedmont Technical College has an articulation agreement with Georgia Perimeter College that allows LPNs to bridge directly to an associate degree to become a registered nurse, if they meet the criteria.

“Nurses have so many opportunities to work in different specialties and settings. There’s no way you could get bored,” Snagg said.

Not everyone is cut out to be a nurse, said Beverly Thomas, division chair for the Health, Public Safety and Security division at Georgia Piedmont Tech. “It takes compassion, but it also takes someone with a good head for science, who can handle the academic subjects and learn the clinical skills,” she said.

Getting accepted into the practical nursing program is highly competitive. Students must complete five prerequisite courses (English, math, psychology, introduction to computers, and anatomy and physiology) with at least a C average and score well on the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) national exam. The department takes the top 25 applicants twice a year.

Students in the program go to school full time and complete their course work in three semesters. Tuition is $85 a credit hour, with a minimum of 60 hours required. In class, they learn nursing fundamentals and the theory of medical/surgical nursing, maternity nursing and nursing leadership. Students are trained in basic practical skills in labs and through onsite clinical experiences at health care sites.

Students in the program complete a total of 525 clinical hours, which equates to approximately 24 hours per week throughout the entire program.

“They get a lot more hands-on practice, at least 300 hours in medical/surgical nursing alone, so they feel very comfortable in their skills when they start work,” Snagg said.

Annual starting salaries range from about $26,000 to the low $30,000s, depending on the setting. Registered nurses with an associate degree start at about $40,000, Snagg said.

For information, call 404-297-9522 (ext. 5045) or go to www.gptc.edu.