How to Become a Psychiatric LPN


A psychiatric licensed practical nurse (LPN) works with mentally ill, disabled and distressed individuals in a health care setting. Commonly, mental hospitals, outpatient clinics, group and nursing homes employ this type of nurse. Psychiatric LPNs assess, monitor and treat the needs of mental health patients. They administer medications, collect specimens, take vital signs and provide therapeutic care. Psychiatric LPNs usually work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or a physician. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, LPNs held nearly 753,600 and earned a median yearly wage of $39,030 in 2008.

  • Enroll in an accredited nursing program. Most licensed practical nurses acquire an associate degree in nursing. This is generally, the least amount of acceptable education to become a psychiatric LPN. In most cases, community college and vocational schools offer this type of nursing program. Students typically complete an associate degree in nursing with a two year time frame. You may find a list of accredited nursing programs by visiting the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission website.

  • Complete nursing coursework. Most nursing programs combine a variety of class room and clinical coursework. In the classroom, you may study anatomy, pharmacology, biology, psychology, physiology and nutrition. You may also take a variety of mathematics courses. During clinical study, you will learn about providing direct patient care. Students commonly complete clinical study in a hospital setting.

  • Obtain a license application. A license is required to work as a psychiatric LPN. Licenses for practical nurses are mandated by the states they work in. Contact the board of nursing in the state you wish to work as a psychiatric LPN and ask for a licensure application.

  • Register for the nursing licensure examination. After receiving eligibility notification from your local board of nursing, you can register for the examination. All psychiatric LPNs must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to work as a licensed practical nurse. For LPNs, the test is called the NCLEX-PN. You can register for the test through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website. Pearson VUE administers the examination. You may choose a testing center nearest you during registration. The cost of the NCLEX-PN is $200, as of June 2010. There are no refunds for registration fees.

  • Understand renewal requirements, as you must renew your practical nurse license periodically. Contact your local state board of nursing for this information. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing website has a complete listing of state boards of nursing for each state.

Tips & Warnings

  • Obtain a bachelor's degree in nursing. This may enhance your job and earning opportunities. After obtaining a bachelor's degree, you may wish to take the licensure examination for registered nurses.
  • Certify in psychiatric and mental health nursing. You may do this after becoming a registered nurse. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers this certification to registered nurses only.

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