Licensed practical nurses, also known as licensed vocational nurses, are responsible for providing basic health care services in medical facilities of all kinds. For those who want to enter the nursing field quickly, an LVN or LPN school can have you ready for a new job in as little as a year. If you're wondering what does a licensed practical nurse do, the answer is all of the following:
- Measuring patient vital signs.
- Providing basic patient care such as changing bandages.
- Assisting with bathing and dressing.
- Gathering information on patient concerns.
- Maintaining records on patient care.
How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse
As medical professionals, LPNs need to go through several steps before they are ready to work. Here's how to become a licensed practical nurse.
- Graduate from high school.
- Enroll in a LPN nursing school. These schools offer licensed practical nurse programs that result in a diploma, certificate or associate degree.
- Pass the National Council Licensure Examination.
- Earn a professional certification. This step is voluntary, but employers may prefer job applicants who can demonstrate expertise in a specific area.
As part of their preparation to work in the field, LPN students can expect to learn about the following:
- Clinical Care
LPN degree programs
Licensed practical nurse programs can result in either a degree or a non-degree award. Here's the difference:
- Diploma/Certificate: Licensed practical nurse certificate programs can often be completed in one year or less. They are highly focused programs that teach just basic nursing skills. Some schools award a diploma, and these are comparable to a certificate.
- Associate Degree: An associate degree in nursing can be earned in 18-24 months at many LPN schools. These programs may include general education classes in topics such as psychology and communication along with nursing instruction. An associate degree may be best for those who think they'd like to eventually become a registered nurse or advanced practice nurse.
LPN nursing schools
You'll find licensed practical nurse programs at community colleges and technical schools as well as at some four-year institutions. However, you won't find online LPN schools. Since nursing is a hands-on profession, students need to be taught in person. Still, if you're earning an associate degree, you may be able to take your general education classes online while attending nursing courses on-campus.
Licensure and certification for licensed practical nurses
It's not enough to simply graduate from a LPN training school. You'll also need to be licensed by your state before you can begin working.
While each state oversees its own licensing policies, applicants generally must graduate from a state-approved LPN school and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical/Vocational Nurses (NCLEX-PN). Other state requirements may include passing a background check or paying a licensing fee.
Beyond state licensure, LPNs have the option to become certified. While certification isn't required to work as a licensed practical nurse, some employers prefer to hire those who demonstrate expertise in a specific area. Available LPN certifications include the following:
- IV Therapy Certification from the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service
- Long-Term Care Certification from the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service
- Pharmacology Certification from the National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service
- IV Certification from The National Association of Licensed Professional Nurses
- Gerontology Certification from The National Association of Licensed Professional Nurses
Career advancement for LPNs
Once LPNs have gained experience, they may be promoted to supervisory roles. Others advance their career by becoming registered nurses. Some schools offer online LPN-to-RN bridge programs that can be completed without ever setting foot on campus.
Skills and Qualities for Licensed Practical Nurses
The job of an LPN can be a good fit for anyone with the following skills and abilities.:
- Service orientation: Above all, LPNs must have a heart for helping others. Being service oriented means they are constantly looking for ways to assist patients, physicians and colleagues.
- Active listening: In order to be of service, LPNs must understand what is being requested of them. That means listening closely to patients and physicians and asking follow-up questions as needed.
- Time management: LPNs may have to juggle many responsibilities for multiple patients and must be efficient in how they use their time.
- Speech clarity: When giving instructions to patients, it's crucial for LPNs to speak in a way that is clearly understood.
- Problem sensitivity: Nurses must have the intuition to know when something might go wrong, and this ability is known as problem sensitivity.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Licensed Practical Nurses
A common question for anyone looking into this career is: how much does a licensed practical nurse make? National figures are listed below, but actual incomes can vary. Licensed practical nurse salary expectations can depend on where workers live, how much experience they have and whether they are certified.
Job opportunities for LPNs can also depend on factors such as geographic area and experience. However, the overall expected career growth for the field is shown below.
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses||701,690||$47,050||12.2%|
Professional Resources for Licensed Practical Nurses
In addition to general nursing organizations, there are several associations specifically for LPNs and LVNS. Check out the following resources, all of which can be important for students to know.
- National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service - NAPNES is the oldest organization in the country that advocates for practical nurses. They have helped develop licensing standards and offer certification programs for LPNs.
- The National Association of Licensed Professional Nurses - Almost as old as NAPNES, this group - known as NALPN - also advocates for high standards for practical nurses and offers voluntary certification options.
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing - This non-profit represents the boards of nursing from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. It is responsible for creating and overseeing nursing licensure examinations.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses, Accessed January 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm
- Licensed Practical Nurse: Degree vs. Diploma, Katy Katz, August 13, 2013, Rasmussen College, Accessed January 2019, https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/nursing/blog/licensed-practical-nurse-degree-diploma/
- Certification, National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service, Accessed January 2019, https://napnes.org/drupal-7.4/Certifications
- Certification Programs, The National Association of Licensed Professional Nurses, Accessed January 2019, https://nalpn.org/certification-programs/
- Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, O*Net Online, Accessed January 2019, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2061.00