Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses, OES, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292061.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses, OOH, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm
NAPNES, Certifications, http://napnes.org/drupal-7.4/Certifications
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, NCLEX-PN Pass Rates, https://www.ncsbn.org/Table_of_Pass_Rates_2014.pdf
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, NCLEX-PN, https://www.ncsbn.org/2014_PN_TestPlan.pdf
NFLPN, Certifications, http://www.nflpn.org/certification.html
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), also commonly called licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), are typically entry-level medical professionals within the nursing industry. Although LPNs do not have the same training as registered nurses, they remain important, critical members of the health care system. In fact, more than 700,000 individuals worked at licensed practical nurses across the country in 2007, according to employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov).
LPNs typically perform a range of duties, from observing and reporting about a patient's condition to administering medications, providing therapy assistance to handling wound care. Health care settings may also impact LPN responsibilities, as a licensed practical nurse working in an ambulatory care center may have different tasks than an LPN working in a hospital.
Whether it is managing oxygen supplies or helping a patient bathe, LPNs develop the skills and fundamental knowledge necessary to assist patients through licensed practical nurse training programs.
Licensed practical nursing education and training
Students thinking about a career as an LPN have several educational tracks to consider, including diploma and associate degree programs. According to information from the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses, these programs may be completed by some students in as little as seven months to two years of full-time study.
For nurses desiring upward mobility, completing an associate degree can serve as the first step towards earning a registered nurse designation. On the other hand, diploma programs are traditionally designed to prepare nurses to earn their LPN/LVN license.
Diploma programs. These programs are usually created to help nurses finish their study in approximately one year and focus on core technical skills to apply for LPN licensure in their state of residence. Prospective students should contact their school, university or college about specific program requirements prior to enrolling in classes.
Associate degrees. Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees can be considered part of a larger nursing education ecosystem, preparing licensed practical nurses to work in the field and eventually move into registered nurse educational programs (LPN-to-RN).
As noted above, associate degrees for LPN and LVN are usually part of a larger LPN/LVN-to-RN programs, preparing students to work as an LPN/LVN and then moving into the registered nurse profession.
Licensed practical nursing licensing
Completing an associate degree or diploma program does not qualify graduates to work as LPNs. They must also complete licensure requirements, which are managed individually by state boards of nursing. Prospective students should be aware of their state's licensing requirements and can contact the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to get their state's contact information.
Generally speaking, LPN licensing requirements are founded on education and examination. For education, applicants must attend and successfully graduate from a state-approved LPN program of nursing.
Examination includes successfully passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical/Vocational Nurses (NCLEX-PN), which is operated by the National Council State Boards of Nursing. In addition to education and examination requirements, prospective LPNs/LVNs may also have to complete other items, including paying fees or passing a criminal background check.
Licensed practical nursing certifications
Two major organizations offer certifications to LPNs: National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service, Inc. (NAPNES) and the National Federation for Licensed Practical Nurses (NFLPN).
NAPNES offers three certification paths: IV therapy (IVT), long-term care (CLTC) and pharmacology (NCP), while NFLPN offers two: gerontology (GC) and IV therapy (IVC).
Licensed practical nursing salaries
According to earnings data from the BLS, LPNs/LNVs earned a national average salary of $42,910, with the top 10 percent taking home at least $58,000. The top paying industries included medical and diagnostic laboratories, home health care services and outpatient care centers.
Below is a list of the top five paying industries for LPNs in 2013:
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories: $46,070
- Home health care services: $44,970
- Outpatient care centers: $44,870
- Privately owned specialty hospitals: $44,870
- Continuing care retirement communities: $44,230
Location, just as industry, impacts earning potential. The best paying states for LPNs in 2013, according to the BLS were Connecticut, Alaska and Nevada. Here is a list of the top five paying states in 2013:
- Connecticut: $54,690
- Alaska: $54,010
- Nevada: $53,490
- Massachusetts: $53,020
- New Jersey: $52,080
Job growth projections for LVNs/LPNs
The entire health care industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, and additional employment data from the BLS projects national career growth for LPNs could reach 25 percent between 2012 and 2022.
The five states with the largest number of LPNs in 2013 included: Texas (71,890), California (60,700), New York (50,010), Florida (43,950) and Ohio (40,970). The five states expected to see the largest employment gains between 2012 and 2022 include the following:
- Utah: 34.5%
- Arizona: 30.1%
- Texas: 27.6%
- Virginia: 26.7%
- California: 25.7%
With its faster-than-average employment projections, average salaries topping $42,000, multiple educational avenues and potential upward mobility, licensed practical nursing training programs may be attractive for students seeking new career opportunities.