Licensed Practical Nurses
Schools and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||718,800|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||4.4%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||36,920|
What's needed: Licensed practical nurses must complete a one-year educational program approved by the state's board of nursing. Training is typically offered by community colleges, vocational schools, and hospitals and includes supervised clinical practice.
What you study:
Study topics include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Common disease processes
- First aid
- Nursing concepts
- Obstetrics nursing
- Acute care nursing
- Medical-surgical nursing
A brief introduction to the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) career. Produced for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a licensed practical or vocational nurse, you are on the front lines of patient health care. You see to the basic needs of patients and are often their most frequent point of contact.
- Taking vital signs
- Administering injections
- Maintaining records and paperwork
- Assisting patients with bathing and dressing
- Educating patients and families
Your shift begins on a hospital ward with a round of administering medications. You also check each patient's bag fluid levels, note vital sign monitor readings, and alert the appropriate RN or physician of anything unusual. You chat for a few moments with each patient as this gives you valuable information about their condition and also comforts them.
Certifications and Licensing
All candidates must pass a national exam, the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN), in order to obtain licensure as a licensed practical or vocational nurse. Most states employ the title of licensed practical nurse (LPN) while a few states use licensed vocational nurse (LVN). However, the job responsibilities and licensure requirements are the same. Several states accept a multistate version of the license, called a compact license, which allows practical nurses to practice in any participating state.
Full-time versus part-time:
Most practical nurses are employed full time. As nursing is needed around the clock in most facilities, nurses often work evenings and weekends. They may also have extended shifts. Some nurses work per diem or on call, which can provide more flexibility.
Most practical nurses work in hospitals. Others practice in nursing homes, medical offices, and schools. Those employed by home healthcare agencies spend considerable time in patients' homes.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook – The site provides an overview of the licensed practical and vocational nurse profession. It is a good starting point for gaining a basic understanding of what is involved in this particular nursing role. For a more in-depth look, consult additional websites specific to the nursing field.
- National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service – NAPNES is one of two national professional membership organizations that offer certifications for practical nurses. The site's education section includes a list of member schools by state that offer practical nurse education. The site also maintains a job board that gives you insight into the current job market.
- National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses – The NFLPN is the second professional membership organization for practical nurses. Although the site is geared toward membership topics, its certification programs page offers valuable information on the specialization options available to LPNs and LVNs.
- ExploreHealthCareers.org – This online coalition of stakeholders in the healthcare field offers career and education information for students exploring a health career. The site's career explorer section includes a detailed snapshot of the practical nurse profession. A wealth of topics throughout the site can help you research and plan next steps.