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Practical Nursing Certificate Program

Greenfield Community College

Frequently asked questions

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.  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 195/196)*
  • Microbiology (BIO 205)*

*Required for GCC’s ADN Program

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

In today’s healthcare system, the licensed practical nurse (LPN) enjoys a rewarding, meaningful career with good employment prospects. LPNs have full responsibility for the quality of the health care they provide to patients. Practical nurses participate in nursing care of clients with common health problems including health teaching and counseling, routine patient care, giving medications, administering treatments of all types, 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. The LPN is usually characterized as the “bedside nurse” who delivers “hands-on” patient care.

Generally, a LPN can expect to find employment in structured settings caring for patients in such areas as long-term care facilities and ambulatory settings such as doctor’s offices. However, there are a variety of options available to the practical nurse especially if you have previous experience in related fields.

Employment opportunities in general are very good at this time. Pay scales 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. There is also a wide variety of work schedules available giving the LPN great flexibility when attempting to juggle career and family responsibilities.

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 waiting list for it.  The length of the waitlist changes at different points in the year.  To get the most up-to-date information, please contact Gail Tease in Admissions (413- 775-1802).

Can I apply to the program before I’ve finished my math requirement?

No, you must either test out of MAT 105 or complete the course before you apply.

How does the Practical Nursing program choose students for its 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

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

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.

Where are classes located?

Almost all nursing classes are held at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds, MA. Occasionally, the nursing skills lab at  Greenfield Community College is used. Non-nursing courses, such as Anatomy and Physiology and Introduction to Psychology, are held on the main GCC campus in Greenfield or possibly at Smith College in Northampton.

Where are the clinical experiences located?

Clinical experiences are held at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Wingate of South Hadley, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Holyoke Medical Center, Sunbridge Health Center and Kindred Hospital Parkview. Various local physician offices and schools are also utilized. Students should be prepared to drive to clinical assignments in Springfield, Holyoke, Hadley, Northampton and Greenfield.

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. (See sample course schedule for more information.)

Sample Schedule (Subject to change. Use for example only.)

Fall Semester       

Lab on either:   Monday,  8 a.m.-10:50 a.m.; OR 12 -2:50 p.m.; OR Tuesday, 12 – 2:50 p.m.
Class:  Tuesday, 8 a.m. – 10:50 a.m.
Class:  Wednesday,  8 a.m.-2:30 p.m..
Clinical:  Thursday OR Friday,  8a.m.-2:00 p.m.

January Intersession          

Clinical:  Monday – Thursday, 8am-3pm; OR Monday–Thursday, 2p.m.-9p.m.


Spring Semester                  

Class/Lab:  Monday, 8am-3pm
Clinical:  Tuesday & Wednesday, 8am-3pm OR Wednesday only 6:45am-7:45pm
Class/Lab:  Thursday, 8am-3:00 p.m.
Available for other classes:  Friday


May/June Session                

Class:  Monday: 8am-2pm
Clinical:  Tuesday – Thursday, 7a.m.-3pm; OR 3p.m.-11p.m.
Class:  Friday, 7a.m.-3p.m.



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 four 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, there are quizzes, lab sheets and homework assignments that will be assigned. 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 day-care plans for children.

Is the program difficult?

In a word, yes. It is very intensive with few breaks in the schedule. We require a grade of 74 in each course and each course must be passed to stay in the program. Many find the anatomy and physiology course as difficult as the nursing courses. But, most students say that if you can put your life on hold for ten months the effort is well worth it because you will have a rewarding career when you are done.

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 supports that successful completion of the Nursing Program is enhanced if concurrent outside employment is less than 20 hours per week. While employment for the nursing student may be necessary, the student should not overextend themselves, compromising their performance and jeopardizing their progression in the program. Research indicates that working more than 12 hours in a 24 hour period increases risk of error. Classroom and clinical attendance is the same as paid work in terms of fatigue and risk for error.

Will I need a car?

Yes, one is required for the clinical assignments and it will not always be possible for students to carpool. On class days it may be possible to take the local Rt. 9 bus to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, but the service is not very convenient.

Is there financial aid available?

Yes, the program is part of Greenfield Community College and Practical Nursing Certificate students are eligible for all the financial aid community colleges have to offer. The amounts can be quite generous, especially if you qualify for “maximum need.” For more information, see our Financial Aid Office.

Is there childcare available?

Unfortunately, not at this time. Students will need to make their own arrangements for this. Since attendance at all classes, labs, and clinicals is mandatory, back-up plans for reliable childcare are essential.

How do I apply?

There is a separate application process for the Practical Nursing Certificate Program whereby you must also apply to the College. Be certain to obtain an application and information packet before beginning this process. Please call (413) 775-1802 to obtain this information, or download the required documents and forms from this website. You must have either a high school diploma or general education development (GED). In addition, we require successful completion of a placement examination in Algebra I OR completion of college level Algebra I and successful completion of English Composition I courses. Also, you must take a semester of biology. Accepted courses include: general biology (Bio 126), or anatomy and physiology (Bio 194, Bio 195 or Bio 196). Finally the Test for Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) is required. 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 TEAS measures basic essential skills in the academic content areas of reading, writing, math and science. The TEAS exam is used to assess the applicant’s academic readiness for our nursing program. 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 Study manuals are available, on reserve only, at the library at Greenfield Community College. For more information please refer to These are the major requirements. For more detailed information, please be certain to see the admission page.

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, more with differentials and some overtime.

Where do Licensed Practical Nurses work?

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

What are the employment prospects?

Prospects are good. Again, most positions in Massachusetts for LPNs are in long-term care facilities or physician’s offices. There is a 17% growth rate for LPNs predicted in Western Massachusetts alone. Job vacancies in our area are expected to be nearly 1000 over the next five years.

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 health care 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) is 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) has 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 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 such as hospitals, community agencies, etc. 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.

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 pre-requisites 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 Program’s webpage.

If I have any other questions, where can I get more information?

Call Gail Tease in the Office of Admission at (413) 775-1802 for more information.

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