Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) work directly under doctors and registered nurses (RNs) to provide basic nursing care to patients. The difference in the title is determined by the state you live in; in California and Texas the occupation is called licensed vocational nurse, while the rest of the states use licensed practical nurse.
The range of duties can vary widely depending on the work environment; for example an LPN employed in a nursing home might primarily help patients bathe and dress while an LPN in a hospital might take blood pressure, change bandages, and insert catheters. The duties also vary depending on the state in which an LPN or LVN is licensed, as certain states may allow an LPN to perform specific procedures such as starting intravenous (IV) drips while other states do not.
An LPN may have a wide variety of duties depending on their type of employment. All LPNs must update charts on patient care and report directly to an RN. Daily duties may include the following:
- Monitoring their patients’ health by taking temperature, pulse and blood pressure
- Provide basic daily care such as bathing and dressing a patient
- Give basic aid such as inserting catheters, changing dressings and changing bedding
- Relay patient concerns to RNs and doctors
- Listen to patients and discuss their issues and care
- Work with nursing staff and patients to implement care plan
Other attributes for an LPN are as follows:
- Empathy for people who are in pain
- Attention to details
- Interacts well with others
- Able to converse clearly both in person and over the phone
- Handle stress well
- Work cleanly and efficiently
- Intuitive to others’ needs
Job growth projections for LPNs through the year 2026 are robust; new jobs are expected to grow by 12 percent compared to the national average of seven percent for all occupations. This is mainly because of the aging baby boomer generation which will profoundly affect the entire healthcare industry.
Becoming an LPN will give you a unique edge to your career, as it is one of the few occupations that require minimal education yet meshes well with continuing education in the same field. Many LPNs begin their career while continuing their studies to become an RN or higher.
In 2016 the median wage nationwide for LPNs was $44,090. The highest 10 percent earned over $60,420. Keep in mind the lower amount usually designate those beginning their career and the highest amounts are typically those LPNs with the most education and experience.
Lowest 10 percent
Highest 10 percent
Top employment areas for LPNs:
Nursing and residential care facilities
Top states for the employment of LPNs:
|State||Number employed||Annual mean wage|
An LPN must be licensed by the state in which they practice. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to become an LPN:
- Complete an approved Licensed Practical Nurse program. Usually this takes a year and is available at technical schools or community colleges, and sometimes in hospitals and high schools.
During your training you’ll take classes in biology, nursing, pharmacology, and similar subjects.
Wherever you choose to earn your diploma or certification it’s a good idea to make sure your credits will be transferable in case you decide to become an RN later on.
- Take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).
This is a national test given to all who aspire to become an LPN and should be the first thing you study for once you have finished your classes.
- Become certified in the state you plan to practice in.
Each state has its own certification requirements; if you plan to work in the same state where you earned your certificate or diploma you’ll be given access to the state board. If you plan to work in another state you can ask your school counselor for the pertinent contact information for that state.
- Apply for an entry level position.
New LPNs may be required to work an orientation or training period when they begin a job; this is to ensure a smooth transition into the position without compromising patient care or schedules.
- Consider continuing your education online or by taking night classes part time.
Many LPNs find they love being a nurse, and can help others more once they earn a degree.
Now is the Time
Why not get ready for a nursing degree program that can help you take the first steps toward a long and fulfilling nursing career? LPN/LVN programs are a great way to enter the field. If you’re ready to make a commitment to a rewarding future, tell us a little about yourself and we’ll connect you with schools that offer LPN / LVN degree programs.