What Is the Curriculum of a Licensed Practical Nursing Program?

Licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses provide bedside care, check vital signs, give injections and dress wounds under the supervision of physicians, physician's assistants or registered nurses. LPNs also can assist convalescent or disabled patients with bathing, hygiene, feeding and other basic services. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Overview

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects for this profession are expected to grow by 12% between 2016 and 2026, with faster than average employment growth. Several reasons for this growth were mentioned by the BLS, including the aging American population and the expectation that a large number of LPNs and LVNs will retire in the coming years (www.bls.gov).

Important Facts About Licensed Practical Nurse Education

Online AvailabilitySome coursework online; clinical onsite
Continuing EducationRequired by many states to renew license
Degree levelsCertificate, associate degree
SpecializationsLabor and delivery, pediatric, emergency care, oncology
Median Salary (2018) $46,240 (for all licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Training programs usually run one year to two years in length and are provided by a number of community colleges and technical schools. Many community colleges work in concert with 4-year colleges or universities, so many of the courses taken are easily transferable for students wishing to enter a registered nursing program.

The core curriculum is similar at every school. Introductory courses might be called 'studies in the nursing process', 'nursing fundamentals' or 'studies in practical nursing', but they all follow the same process of introducing and teaching students about the intricacies of the profession. Areas of study include:

  • Patient assessment
  • Mental health
  • Health and nutrition
  • Legal and ethical principles
  • Communications
  • Growth and development

After completing these courses, students ought to have a basic overview of the nursing process. Other courses in nursing fundamentals might focus on pharmacology, surgical nursing, and medical terminology.

Other overview courses include studies in basic anatomy and physiology, microbiology and basic psychology. Advanced courses focusing on the care of children, adults and the elderly are also available.

Practical Training

After classroom instruction, students are then given the opportunity to take their learned information and put it into action. Most courses are followed by labs or clinicals, which put students in real-life situations with supervision. Students are put into hospitals, doctor's offices and other healthcare centers.

Graduation from these programs can either be used to enter a lifelong career in licensed practical nursing or to move on to bachelor's degree programs. All graduates qualify to take the National Council of State Boards of Nursing's National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). The BLS notes that all states require you to pass this exam before you can work as an LPN or LVN.

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