Medical Assistant to LPN: Programs & Courses

Learn how to become a licensed practical nurse if you have been working as a medical assistant. Find out about the available programs, what courses are required, and the licensure needed. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Programs Are There to Transition from Medical Assistant to LPN?

While programs designed specifically to transition from medical assistant to licensed practical nurse (LPN) are rare, they do exist. In these programs, referred to as bridge programs, proof of education or certification as a medical assistant may be used to shorten the time needed to complete an LPN program. Credits may transfer directly in some cases, but not always. For example, even at the same school, an LPN's pharmacology course is likely to be far more intensive than that taken by a medical assistant, so the LPN version will need to be taken anyway. In other cases, prior medical certifications and work in the field may be used to meet other requirements. Medical assistant and CNA certifications are sometimes accepted as evidence of basic knowledge which may allow applicants to bypass basic requirements. Even in cases where the LPN program does not offer any special benefits to medical assistants, holding that prior certification can act as a bonus when competing for limited slots in the program, making it more likely that you will be accepted over someone with no prior medical experience.

Program Length 11 months full-time study, 18 months part-time
Courses Pharmacology, fundamentals of nursing, alterations in health
Requirements High school diploma or equivalent, background check, medical exams, basic competencies in reading/writing/math
Licensure Exam NCLEX-PN, nationally recognized certification for LPNs

What is Involved in a Medical Assistant to LPN Bridge Program?

Medical assistant to LPN bridge programs may only take 11 months of full-time study because of a student's medical assistant experience. Some students could continue working and complete the program in 18 months at a part-time rate. Required courses include topics such as developmental psychology, pharmacology for LPNs, alterations in adult health, and fundamentals of nursing. Other areas of study may include specialties such as maternity, pediatrics, or mental health. Clinical training is also commonly part of an LPN program, although the exact amount of clinical training may be impacted by prior experience. After successfully completing the accredited program, students are eligible to take the NCLEX-PN exam and become licensed to practice as an LPN.

What is Required to Enroll in an LPN Training Program?

Most LPN programs require that students have a high school diploma or equivalent, and may have entrance exams that prove basic competencies in reading, writing, and math. CPR certification may also be a prerequisite, as well as physical and medical exams to ensure students are healthy and up-to-date on any required vaccinations. Criminal background checks and occasional drug tests are also commonly required of LPN students. Uniforms and/or scrubs may be a required purchase once accepted into an LPN program.

What Do I Need to Know About the NCLEX-PN Certification Exam?

The National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses, abbreviated as NCLEX-PN, is the national certification required to work as an LPN. Accredited LPN programs are designed with the NCLEX-PN test in mind, and should cover all the material that will show up on the test. Students who have completed a program should apply for licensure and then sign up to take the test. Practice exams are available to help prepare, if so desired. The exam uses computerized adaptive testing, which will readjust the exam as you take it based on previously given answers, attempting to ensure that each question has a roughly 1 in 2 chance of being answered correctly. Ideally, this keeps the exam's difficulty fairly stable for everyone. The exam must be completed in under 5 hours, although it is unlikely it will take the entire time to finish.

What is the Difference Between Medical Assistants and LPNs?

Medical assistants can have a lot of variation in their everyday tasks at work, but are generally expected to do roughly equal amounts of patient contact and clerical work, handling patient information and dealing with medical records. LPNs generally do very little of this clerical work, with a much greater focus on patient interaction. While medical assistants may help patients to exam rooms or even collect basic information on their condition, LPNs are administering medications and responding to patients' needs directly. As a result of this increased patient contact, LPNs are more tightly regulated as a position.

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