Licensed practical nurses work closely with registered nurses, physicians and other health care professionals to provide the best care possible to patients. Those considering a career as a licensed practical nurse may end up working in a variety of settings and may find excellent employment prospects thanks to strong projected job growth through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov).
Licensed practical nurse career information
Licensed practical nurses work under the supervision of registered nurses and doctors. They handle a wide variety of nursing responsibilities, including basic patient care, comfort care, monitoring vital signs, educating the patient on the care they are receiving, and keeping clear records of a patient's health, which they then share with other members of the health care team. In some states, there might be other duties allowed, such as administering medications or starting intravenous lines.
Duties might vary depending upon the work setting. For instance, an LPN working in a nursing home might have very different responsibilities than a nurse working in the office of an obstetrician. Most licensed practical nurses work full-time, and the job can be stressful. LPNs are often on their feet all day, sometimes help turn and move patients, and might face emotionally challenging situations.
Becoming a licensed practical nurse begins with formal training. Most programs take one year or slightly longer to complete, and can be found in technical schools, community colleges, and some hospitals and high schools. Once the program is completed, aspiring nurses must sit for the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN. Licensing is required for all LPNs, and some might choose to earn specific certifications, depending upon their career path.
Job outlook for licensed practical nurses
About 29 percent of LPNs worked in nursing homes in 2012, according to the BLS. Other places where LPNs found the highest levels of employment included hospitals, offices of physicians, home health care services, and residential facilities. Employment of licensed practical nurses is expected to grow by 25 percent from 2012 to 2022, driven in part by the growing number of patients with chronic conditions, an aging population and an increase in procedures done in outpatient care centers. Those who are willing to work in rural and medically under served areas will likely see the best job prospects.
Salary expectations for LPNs
Those who choose a licensed practical nurse career may expect to work full time, possibly work rotating shifts during the early years, and work shifts longer than the typical eight hours -- in fact, long shifts for nurses are common. According to the BLS, licensed practical nurses made a national mean annual wage of $42,910 in 2013. Mean annual wages in 2013 were highest in the following states:
New Jersey. $52,080
|Career||Projected Employment Change||Projected 2012-2022 Growth|
|Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses||117300||16.3|
Some LPNs may wish to eventually return to nursing studies to receive their registered nursing degree, while others may enjoy a satisfying career working solely as a licensed practical nurse.
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm