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Should LPNs Do Clinicals if Studying to Be RNs?

August 2nd, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

There’s a running debate in some nursing circles about practical experience for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) who follow LPN to registered nurse (RN) programs, particularly if they are experienced LPNs.

One school of thought is LPNs who have experience working shouldn’t have to do RN clinicals. They feel they have gained enough experience through the work environment and doing RN clinicals is like stepping back in time. Many experienced LPNs even orient new RNs to their floors and can be great teaching resources for the newer graduates, and this includes doing tasks such as starting IVs.

Some schools are offering their LPN-to-RN students credit for experience, allowing them to pass exams to prove their competency. This only seems to make sense, considering the old saying that nurses learn more in their first year of work than they ever do through nursing school.

But the other camp disagrees. They say the LPN experience is not equivalent to the RN experience. That the experience an LPN has on one area of working cannot be transferred to another, such as working in med-surg but wanting to skip the OB/gyn clinicals. Others say that nurses can get sloppy while they work and if you go back to school to upgrade, this is a good time to ensure you are still using best practices in your work. But does this argument hold water?

Of course, an LPN who works mostly in neuro or medicine isn’t going to be familiar with OB or orthopedics other than what he learned in LPN school, but RNs work on certain floors and develop specific knowledge for their units. They, too, likely can’t remember what it’s like to read a telemetry strip if they’ve not had to do it for five years. They may not be able to set up for a Cesarean section if they’ve not seen it since nursing school. Yet, they can move from one unit to another if they can find one that is willing to give them the orientation they need.

So, what side of the argument do you fall on? Is it an either/or argument or is there room for compromise?

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