Practical Nursing – LPN

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  • What is an LPN?
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In as little as ten months, our program prepares you for a respected career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), providing direct and competent nursing care to adults and children in nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and out in the community. There are many exciting career opportunities for LPNs in the health care field!

Students in this program take 43 credits of rigorous liberal arts and clinical nursing courses over a period of 40 weeks between the beginning of September and the end of June. The program prepares students for, but does not guarantee successful passing of, the NCLEX licensure examination. However, our graduates usually pass the examination, with some classes enjoying a 100% success rate.

In addition, a direct articulation agreement exists on a space-available basis with GCC’s Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) Program for students who wish to continue their education and seek licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN). This means that if students are able to maintain a “B” average in their practical nursing courses, they may be eligible for advanced standing in the ADN program. (It is generally not realistic for students to graduate from the Practical Nursing program in June and immediately begin the ADN program the following September, as both programs are extremely rigorous.)

Admissions & program overview

Interested in our program? Applicants are strongly encouraged to watch our informational video and review the Practical Nursing Information Packet prior to applying. Most questions related to the admissions process can be answered with these two resources!

Practical Nursing – LPN is a health occupations program with a special admissions process and health requirements. You must submit a separate application to this program in addition to a general application for admission to GCC. Please review all criteria prior to applying!

You will take at least 25-35 hours per week of laboratory science classes and clinical practice, with many more hours per week of study and preparation required in order to be successful. Attendance at all scheduled classes, clinical laboratories and clinical practices is expected, with a grade of at least “C” in every course in order to continue in the program. Students must have at least a 2.0 GPA to graduate.

Sample schedule

Fall Monday 8-11am or 12-3pm (or Wednesday 12-3pm)
Tuesday 8am-2:20pm
Wednesday 8-10:50am
Thursday or Friday 8am-2:15pm
January Intersession Tuesday-Friday 8am-3pm or Monday-Thursday 2-9pm
Spring Monday 8am-3pm
Tuesday & Wednesday 8am-3:15pm
Thursday 8am-3pm
May/June Monday 8am-2pm
Tuesday-Thursday 7am-3:30pm or 6:30am-3:00pm
Friday 8am-2pm
Curriculum documents

The following courses must be completed in a sequential order which is outlined in our Practical Nursing Program Information Packet. (In addition, applicants are also strongly encouraged to view our Practical Nursing Program Informational Video for an overview of the classroom experience.)

NUR 103 Fundamentals of Practical Nursing – 12 credits

Provides the basic principles of safe, caring and competent nursing care in classroom, laboratory, and structured health care settings. The course introduces the nursing process as a holistic, problem solving approach to studying physiological and psychosocial adaptations common to many health problems experienced across the lifespan. The course emphasizes nursing concepts such as cultural aspects of nursing care, health promotion, legal and ethical issues, documentation and role of the practical nurse. The course includes nursing skills and interventions including those related to nutrition, pharmacology, safety, infection control, wound care, surgery, mobility, aging, grief and therapeutic communication.

(Offered: Every Fall)Prereq: PNC majors only. BIO 194 or BIO 216 (BIO 196) or concurrent enrollment; and PSY 101 or concurrent enrollment

BIO 194 Comprehensive Anatomy and Physiology – 4 credits

A one semester survey of human anatomy and physiology. Students learn basic concepts of chemistry and cytology in order to understand human systems as well as the structure and function of organs, organ systems and their interactions. This course may involve dissection. NOTE: Students may receive credit for only one of the following: BIO 105 or BIO 107 or BIO 117 or BIO 194 or BIO 215 (BIO 195). Students may receive credit for BIO 106 or BIO 216 (BIO 196), but not for both.

(Offered: Every Fall, Every Spring)Prereq: ENG 090 and ENG 094 (COL 090), or satisfactory placement test scores

PSY 101 Principles of Psychology – 3 credits

Introduction to the field of psychology and human behavior. The student considers such topics as the history of psychology, research methods, psychophysiology, sensation, perception, learning, cognition, memory, development, motivation, personality, and mental illness.

(Offered: Every Term)Prereq: ENG 090 and ENG 094 (COL 090), or satisfactory placement test scores

NUR 105 Practical Nursing Practicum – 2 credits

Provides direct application of all the basic principles learned in NUR 103, BIO 194 and PSY 101. The course emphasizes the application of nursing concepts, skills, interventions and therapeutic communication principles to the delivery of holistic nursing care in structured health care settings.

(Offered: Every January)Prereq: NUR 103; BIO 117 or BIO 194; PSY 101

NUR 107 Nursing Care of Clients and Families – 14 credits

Focuses on the role of the practical nurse in the delivery of basic therapeutic, restorative and preventive nursing care in structured health care settings. The course emphasizes clients and their families as holistic beings adapting to common, well-defined health problems. The student uses the nursing process as a framework to study physiological and psychosocial health problems as they affect clients of all ages. The course provides instruction on anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology; physiologic changes related to all ages; nursing assessment, diagnosis and intervention, diagnostic tests and procedures; common therapeutic measures and patient education. The course includes vocational trends and entry into practice issues.

(Offered: Every Spring)Prereq: NUR 105; PSY 217 or concurrent enrollment

PSY 217 Human Growth and Development – 3 credits

A survey of human physical, psychological, and social development from birth through death. Framework for the study of the individual’s cumulative, integrative growth experience. Theories of development and their applications.

(Offered: Every Fall, Spring & Summer)Prereq: PSY 101 or permission of instructor

NUR 109 Advanced Concepts in Practical Nursing – 5 credits

Continues to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for utilizing the nursing process through classroom and clinical experience to deliver holistic nursing care to individuals and their families as they adapt to common, well-defined health problems. Course topics include maternal, child and family nursing as well as leadership skills. The course emphasizes integration and application of all previous content in this final course of the curriculum with opportunities to practice supervision and delegation skills in the clinical area.

(Offered: Every Spring)Prereq: NUR 107; PSY 217

Course descriptions are available in the academic catalog. Find courses

Student learning outcomes

Students completing a course of study in this program will be able to:

What’s next

Take the LPN licensure examination and enter the LPN work force and/or continue your education in an RN program, like GCC’s Associate Degree Nursing program. Graduates of the Practical Nursing Certificate Program (or the Thompson School in Brattleboro) with a “B” average or better who apply to GCC’s Associate Degree Nursing Program within five years of graduation can be accepted into the second year of GCC’s ADN Program. They must successfully earn the additional science, math, humanities and behavioral science credits required in the first year of the Associate Degree curriculum before starting ADN nursing courses. Openings are based on space availability.

In today’s healthcare system, the licensed practical nurse (LPN) enjoys a rewarding, meaningful career with consistently good employment prospects. LPNs have full responsibility for the quality of care they provide to patients. The LPN is a graduate of an approved certificate program and is licensed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Practical nurses participate in the nursing care of clients with common health problems by providing routine patient care, administering medication as well as various treatments, participating in health teaching and counseling, assisting with diagnostic procedures, and observing and reporting patient symptoms. They are also responsible for participating in assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating the care of their patients.

Generally, an LPN can expect to find employment caring for patients in structured settings such as long-term care facilities as well as in ambulatory settings such as doctor’s offices. However, there are a variety of options available to the practical nurse, especially if he or she has previous experience in related fields. In summary, the LPN is usually characterized as the “bedside nurse” who delivers hands-on patient care.

Employment opportunities, in general, are good at this time, with pay scales that are steadily increasing in this area of Massachusetts. Benefits are quite good and usually include health insurance, paid vacation, sick leave, hiring bonuses, etc. Extra pay is earned for working evenings, nights and/or weekends. Work schedules also vary widely, giving the LPN great flexibility when attempting to juggle career and family responsibilities.

LPN

Why would I want to consider a career as an LPN?

If you enjoy helping people directly with your hands, head, and heart, and are seeking a well-paying position with good job security and benefits, the LPN might be a good choice for you.

LPNs are generally considered to be “bedside nurses” who deliver hands-on care, but their work also involves careful observation, planning, and evaluation of the health care they deliver to their patients. The U.S. Department of Labor projects a steady increase in the number of LPN positions over the next decade, and there are more such positions opening up throughout Franklin County and the Pioneer Valley.

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How much can a Licensed Practical Nurse expect to make?

The current starting average salary in this area is about $20-$22/hour plus differentials for weekends and off-shifts. Salaries increase rapidly thereafter. Per diem salaries (i.e., without benefits) are even better. After about a year, it is reasonable to expect to make $30,000-$35,000 per year, or more with differentials and some overtime.

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Where do Licensed Practical Nurses work?

LPNs work primarily in long-term care facilities, such as rehabilitation units and nursing homes. Other common areas are physician’s offices and health centers. Occasionally, graduates find jobs in prisons, schools and hospitals.

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What is the difference between a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and a Registered Nurse (RN)?

This is a question that is often discussed in nursing circles, and not everyone agrees on the answer. Many people believe the difference is in the types of skills an RN can do that the LPN cannot. But this has changed greatly with changes in the healthcare system and is no longer accurate today. Basically, the difference is one of depth and breadth. The Practical Nursing Certificate Program (PNC) is 10 months long, while the shortest Associate Degree in Nursing Program (ADN) runs two years. Obviously, there is more opportunity in an ADN program to study topics in more depth and detail.

For instance, the Practical Nursing Certificate Program (PNC) includes one course studying the course of diseases; an ADN program will have at least two. Also, the PNC program does not have as much time to study the specialty areas such as Pediatrics, Psychiatry, etc. An ADN program generally has an entire course devoted to each of these areas. Finally, there are differences in opportunities. With the additional preparation of an ADN program, that person will have a greater variety of positions and specialties to choose from. However, Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses are both nurses and are responsible for the care they deliver. LPNs participate in all areas of nursing care.

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Is it possible to become a Registered Nurse later if I decide that I want to become a Licensed Practical Nurse now?

Yes, it is. This concept is called an articulation agreement that the PNC Program has with the ADN Program at Greenfield Community College. If you maintain a “B” average in the PNC Program, complete the prerequisites for the ADN Program as well as the first-year ADN non-nursing courses, and do this all within five years, you can be accepted into the second year of the ADN Program if space is available. This basically means that you don’t need to repeat the first-year nursing courses since your PNC Program nursing courses take their place. Of course, many people become LPNs and find that there is enough satisfaction and opportunity in practical nursing to make it their chosen career path. For more information about this, please visit the ADN site.

Please note that it is generally not realistic for students to graduate from the Practical Nursing program in June and immediately begin the ADN program the following September, as both programs are extremely rigorous. 

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How long is the program?

It is ten-months long starting in September and running through late June. It is full-time with approximately two weeks off at Christmas and one week off in March. You are required to attend all scheduled classes to stay in the program. The state board of nursing sets the required number of hours of clinical and classroom instruction. These must be met to meet the requirements of the practical nursing certificate program. Students are expected to attend all classes, laboratories, clinical experiences, related activities, and to arrive on time.

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How many hours of class are there every day?

Classes begin at 8am as do most clinical days. Some evening clinical experiences will be necessary and some day clinicals start at 6:45am. Most clinical days are about 7 hours; some are eight. Class days run until approximately 3pm in the fall and 3:30pm in the spring semester. Download our Practical Nursing Program Information Packet for a sample course schedule.

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How many hours of study are there every day?

In order to succeed in the program, students must be prepared for the amount of study and class preparation that is required. Generally, there are 4 major exams in a semester, which works out to approximately one per month. Also, there are at least 2 major papers due every semester. In addition, students must complete quizzes, lab sheets and homework assignments. There will be about 50-100 pages of reading every 1-2 weeks during the program. Skills lab, especially in the fall semester, will require time for the student to prepare and may include reviewing software, practicing skills in preparation for demonstration to an instructor, etc. Throughout the program, clinical will require review of the patient assignment on the night before the clinical day and, often, a written report due on the following day. It is very easy to get behind very quickly, so students are advised to plan to study for a few hours on most days while the course is in session. The faculty do want every student to be successful, so please review your personal schedule now and plan accordingly. We strongly advise that students do not plan to work more than 20-24 hours/week and to make adequate daycare plans for children.

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Is the program difficult?

In a word, yes. It is very intensive with few breaks in the schedule. Every course must be passed to stay in the program, and students must earn a grade of 74 or higher to pass each course. Many find the Anatomy and Physiology course as difficult as the nursing courses. However, most students say that if you can put your life on hold for ten months and focus intensively on your schoolwork, the effort is well worth it because you will have a rewarding career when you are done.

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Can I work while in the program?

We recommend no more than 20-24 hours per week of work. Most students find anything more than this very difficult to manage. If you’ve taken some of the non-nursing courses ahead of time, it’s possible to do a bit more than this. But very few people have ever made it through the program working full-time. Research shows that successful completion of the PNC Program is enhanced if concurrent outside employment is less than 20 hours per week. While employment for nursing students may be necessary, they should not overextend themselves, compromising their performance and jeopardizing their progression in the program. For example, research indicates that working more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period increases the risk of error, and classroom and clinical attendance is the same as paid work in terms of fatigue and risk for error.

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How does the Practical Nursing Program choose students?

The PNC program accepts all students who meet the requirements for the college and the program when a seat in the class is available. The general program requirements are:

  • Testing out of or completing MAT 095 with a C+ or better within 5 years
  • Completing English Composition I (ENG 101, 103 or 105) with a C or better
  • Completing one Biology course (BIO 126, 194, 215 or 216) with a C or better within 5 years
  • Completing the Test for Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) with a 50% composite score and a 50% score in reading and math
    The TEAS measures basic essential skills in the academic content areas of reading, writing, math and science, and is used to assess the applicant’s academic readiness for our nursing program. A composite score (reading, math, science and English) of 50% with a reading score of 50% and math score of 50% is required for admission. The test is 170 four-option multiple-choice questions with a time limit of 209 minutes. Test questions address paragraph and passage comprehension (58 minutes/ 48 questions), Mathematics (51 minutes/34 questions), Science including the human body, life science, earth and physical science and scientific reasoning (66 minutes/54 questions), and English and language usage, grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure (34 minutes/34 questions). Study materials are available for purchase at www.atitesting.com. Study manuals are available, on reserve only, at the Nahman-Watson Library at Greenfield Community College. For more information on the TEAS, please refer to www.atitesting.com.
  • Completing immunization requirements as listed on the PNC Immunization Requirements form. Be aware that an up-to-date immunization record is required for admission, and a period of several months may need to elapse between booster shots.

Please be sure to review complete admission requirements in the Practical Nursing Program Information Packet.

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How do I apply?

You should first view our Practical Nursing Program Informational Video, since this will give you an overview of the program and the application process. Be certain to review the Practical Nursing Program Information Packet before you apply. While there is a separate application process for our program, you must also apply for general admission to GCC. You must have either a high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) to apply.

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I’ve heard the waiting list is really long. How long is it?

GCC accepts all qualified applicants for its Practical Nursing Certificate program and does maintain a waitlist for it. The length of the waitlist changes at different points in the year. To get the most up-to-date information, please contact the Admissions Office.

After a program application is received, it will be reviewed for completion. Incomplete applications will be returned to the applicant with an explanatory letter. Returned applications may be resubmitted as soon as the indicated items are completed and documented.  Applicants with complete applications will be notified by mail and added to a list of qualified applicants in the order that their application was received. The number of applicants able to enroll in the program each September is limited by space availability.  If space is not available for all of the applicants on the list, they will maintain their place on a waiting list for the next available class. The PNC Program only accepts 32 new students in September of each year. Applicants on the waiting list must maintain the currency of their application requirements in order to be eligible for a subsequent year.

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Can I apply to the program before I’ve finished my course requirements?

No, you must complete all of the pre-requisite courses as well as the TEAS exam before you can send in your application.  There are no exceptions!  But, as soon as you finish your classes, be sure to complete your application right away!

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What other courses do you recommend that might help me to be successful in the nursing program?

While students are waiting to enter the program, they often decide to take additional courses to improve their knowledge base and academic skills.  Recommended courses include:

  • Spanish for Health Professionals (SPA 124)
  • Mathematics for Medical Dose Calculations (IDS 108)
  • College Success (HUD 114)
  • Survey of Health Careers (HSC 127)
  • Introduction to Medical Terminology (MOM 110)
  • Abnormal Psychology (PSY 209)
  • Psychology of Death and Dying (PSY 277)
  • Principles of Sociology (SOC 101)*
  • English Composition II (ENG 112, 114, 116)*
  • Anatomy and Physiology I & II (BIO 215/216)*
  • Microbiology (BIO 205)*

*Required for GCC’s ADN Program

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What do I need in order to apply to the program?

The PNC program accepts all students who meet the requirements for the program.  The general requirements are:

  • testing out of or completing MAT 105 with a C+ or better within 5 years
  • completing English Composition I (ENG 101, 103 or 105) with a C or better
  • completing one Biology course (BIO 126, 194, 195 or 196) with a C or better within 5 years
  • completing the Test for Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) with a 50% composite score and a 50% score in reading and math

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Almost all of our nursing classes are held at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds, Massachusetts so students can take advantage of clinical experiences in a hospital setting. We are in Building #25. Download driving directions

GCC Practical Nursing Program
Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Building #25
421 North Main Street
Leeds, MA 01053

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The PNC Program faculty and staff work hard to help our students succeed. If you have specific questions or concerns about the PNC Program, please contact us!

Sandy Elia, BA

Clerical support, Practical Nursing Program

VA Medical Center (413) 582-3055 elias@gcc.mass.edu

Ann Forcier, RN, BSN, M.Ed.

Professor

A.S., Greenfield Community College
B.S.N., University of Massachusetts
M.Ed., University of New Hampshire

VA Medical Center (413) 582-3055 forcier@gcc.mass.edu

Crista Klein, BSN

Faculty

A.S.N., Greenfield Community College
B.S.N., California State University

VA Medical Center (413) 582-3055 kleinc@gcc.mass.edu

Virginia Wahl, RN, MSN

Practical Nursing Program Coordinator
Professor

B.S.N., University of Bridgeport
M.S., Hunter College

VA Medical Center (413) 582-3055 wahl@gcc.mass.edu

Gainful employment disclosure

The US Department of Education requires colleges and universities to disclose certain information for any financial aid eligible program that “prepares students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” At GCC this includes our career-ready certificate programs. This information includes program costs; occupations that the program prepares students to enter; on time completion rate; and for programs with a minimum number of graduates in the most recent academic year: the number of students who completed the program, the number of students who complete the program on time, and the median federal and private loan debt incurred by graduates.

View gainful employment data for the Practical Nursing – LPN program