Medical Assistant to LPN Bridge Programs
Medical Assistant vs LPN
While the duties of Medical Assistants and Licensed Practical Nurses are very similar, they have some important distinctions. Generally, MAs have duties that tend to be clerical in nature, such as interviewing patients and recording their information. In contrast, an LPN’s daily tasks provide basic patient care. They do this through taking blood pressure and temperature, administering medication, and performing certain procedures. In short, Medical Assistants are typically the professionals who assist patients to their rooms, maintain their medical records, and check vitals. Licensed Practical Nurses perform more thorough check-ups and help administer medical care.
One of the biggest differences is the work settings of each of these professions. Usually, MAs work in clinics and ambulatory care. LPNs generally work in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Both of these professions are able to find work in hospitals.
As with all medical professions, job outlook for both Medical Assistants and Licensed Practical Nurses is good: the Department of Labor (DOL) projects that positions in both of these fields will grow by 22 percent or more through the year 2022.
Though both positions offer job opportunities, another marked difference between MAs and LPNs is earning potential. Because LPNs are responsible for more in-depth patient care than MAs and require more extensive education and training, LPNs usually make more than $10,000 more than MAs per year. The median annual salary for an MA in 2014 was $29,960 according to the DOL, whereas LPNs made about $42,490 that year.
As stated above, salaries for these two positions differ largely because of the different responsibilities and requirements of MAs and LPNs. Though most Medical Assistants hold a post-secondary certificate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are no standard formal education requirements for MAs in most states. Licensed Practical Nurses, on the other hand, must meet rigid qualifications in order to practice. LPNs need to graduate from a state-approved program, then pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) before they will be approved to work.
MA to LPN Programs
There are programs available to Medical Assistants who are interested in becoming Licensed Practical Nurses. While programs differ, general requirements for admission to these programs include:
- Completion of Medical Assistant program
- Proof of work experience as Medical Assistant (often includes an hour requirement)
- Background check
- Proof of immunizations and physical examination
- CPR certified
The benefit of Medical Assistant to Licensed Practical Nursing programs is that MAs are likely to be able to transfer several credits’ worth of courses in to their LPN program, thus shortening the length of LPN coursework. This, of course, varies upon MA and LPN programs – be sure to check with your state and local schools to see what might work best for you. Once the program begins, it runs as other LPN programs do, with classwork in subjects like anatomy and physiology, ethics, and nursing fundamentals. These programs also include clinical experiences. After finishing the program, students are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN); after passing this exam, these nurses are legally eligible for employment.
MA to LPN Programs Online
Just as there are online and hybrid LPN programs, there are also a variety of online and hybrid MA to LPN programs.
Most online offerings for these programs will include classroom work on general subjects, with the largest difference between online vs. in-person class work being how classes are run. Online courses will have students engage with their instructors and classmates through a variety of ways, including discussion boards, video or slideshow lectures, collaborative projects, and more. Most online courses allow students to complete coursework at their own rate, though certain subjects and/or assignments may be subject to more restrictions.
Though LPN students can undertake a large amount of their class work online, practicum experiences and labs are still required to be completed in laboratory and healthcare settings. Some MA to LPN programs that are online help students in connecting with a local setting to complete these requirements, but it is imperative that students take extra responsibility, as they are required to act more independently as an online learner.
Students considering an online MA to LPN program should check with their state and school requirements to see what accredited offerings are available near them.
Become a Licensed Practical Nurse if you are already a Medical Assistant:
If you are a medical assistant (MA) and are interested in becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN), here are the specific steps you can take:
- Research LPN programs: Research different LPN programs in your area and determine which ones meet the requirements for licensure in your state. LPN programs may be available at vocational schools, community colleges, or online.
- Meet the education requirements: Most LPN programs require that applicants have a high school diploma or equivalent. Some programs may also have additional requirements, such as completion of certain coursework or a certain GPA.
- Enroll in an LPN program: Once you have found a program that meets your needs and requirements, you can apply and enroll in the program. LPN programs typically last about one year and include both classroom instruction and clinical experience.
- Complete the program and clinical experience: Work hard to complete the program and gain the necessary clinical experience. This may involve completing coursework, participating in clinical rotations, and meeting other requirements set by the program.
- Pass the NCLEX-PN: After completing the LPN program, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) in order to become licensed. This exam can be taken at a testing center in your state.
- Apply for licensure: After passing the NCLEX-PN, you will need to apply for licensure with the state board of nursing. This typically involves submitting an application and paying a fee.
Overall, becoming a LPN after working as a medical assistant can be a rewarding career choice for those who are interested in healthcare and want to expand their knowledge and skills. With hard work and dedication, you can succeed in your journey to become a LPN.