What Does a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Do?

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work with doctors and registered nurses to perform health care tasks, such as measuring vital signs and observing patients. To become an LPN, you need to complete a practical nursing training program and pass a licensing exam. Keep reading to find out more about what an LPN does. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

As a licensed practical nurse, also called a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), your job duties will be to provide basic care and assistance for sick, injured, disabled, and other patients in a variety of settings. Every state has its own regulations regarding the duties of an LPN, and thus your exact job description will depend on the state in which you are employed. Doctors and registered nurses will supervise your work, which may include:

  • Measuring vital signs
  • Collecting fluid samples
  • Administering intravenous medications
  • Dressing wounds
  • Maintaining patient records
  • Observing patients' reactions to medications
  • Assisting patients with personal hygiene
  • Teaching families to care for sick or injured relatives

Important Facts About This Occupation

Required Education Certificate or diploma
Key Skills Speaking and interpersonal skills; empathy, patience, and physical stamina; attention to detail
Similar Occupations Registered nurse, surgical technologist, physical therapist assistant
Professional Certification Voluntary certification is available through professional associations

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work Environment

In your job as LPN, you could work in places like hospitals and long-term care facilities, where you might supervise nursing assistants and orderlies. You may work as an in-home care LPN and travel to several homes a day. Other places you could work include outpatient care facilities, clinics, nursing homes, and government agencies. While you may have a regular schedule, some positions require night or weekend shifts.

Training and Certification

LPN training programs usually take one year to complete and are offered at many vocational schools and community colleges. In an LPN program, you'll take courses in anatomy and physiology, microbiology, psychology, pharmacology, and lifespan development, among others. An LPN training program will prepare you to take the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN). This exam tests four major knowledge areas, including promoting and maintaining health, health care environments, psychology, and physiology.

Career Outlook and Salary Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for LPNs was expected to increase 16% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS noted that the projected demand for LPNs was based on an increase in the elderly population, which would increase the need for more long-term health care options. Additionally, as an LPN, you may find opportunities for advancement by gaining credentials in specific areas, such as pharmacology or gerontology, or pursuing an LPN-to-RN degree.

The BLS reported the median salary earned by licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses in May 2014 as $42,490 a year. Nurses employed by junior colleges made the most money in the field, averaging $51,050 a year in 2014.

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