Welcome to our guide, all you need to know about Licensed Practical Nurses, also known as Licensed Vocational Nurses – depending on which state you are in. We’ll cover information about becoming a LPN/LVN, job descriptions, pre-entry requirements, training salaries and job prospects.
Don’t forget to take a look at our other nursing guides – becoming a Nurse Practitioner , CRNA guide and becoming a Registered Nurse – all relevant career progressions for a LPN.
You’ll also find detailed salary information for all these nursing careers – lots to see so have a good look around the site!
Making a difference in the world does not have to be about volunteering. Choosing a meaningful yet lucrative career is one of the best ways to make your mark on society and what better way to do so than with a career in nursing. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) / Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN) make up an integral part of healthcare teams today.
One of the main differences between a registered nurse (RN) and a LPN/LVN is the type of education and training that they require. A LPN is the basic entry level to professional healthcare requiring a minimal entry level education for a 1-2 year practical based training program. Registered nurses have higher entry requirements and must earn a degree level qualification.
LPN ‘s have the ability to advance their training and so become fully qualified registered nurses – this can be a great way for people unable to qualify directly, to train as RN’s. To transition from a LPN to a RN, individuals can complete a BSc in Nursing or enroll in a nursing bridge program offered by numerous online and campus-based institutions.
Becoming a LPN certainly has it benefits, for starters, it’s a shortcut for individuals to enter the medical field after high school and it can be achieved in only one year. It offers the opportunity to advance in the medical care field, whilst working and earning.
Licensing requirements may vary with each state but the training program generally covers different areas of healthcare, such as: pediatric, surgical, and medical. Participants are required to sit and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) before they can begin working, so preplanning is always a plus. Studying to be a LPN is not necessarily hard but it does require adequate preparation.
Below is a guide to assist the aspiring LPN with joining the career and avoiding common pitfalls.
Licensed Practical Nurse Job Description
The vast majority of the licensed LPNs in America work in medical facilities such as nursing homes, hospitals, and offices of private doctors. A LPN is very much “hands on” with direct patient care usually supporting more senior medical staff.
A self-starter capable of arranging examination rooms as well as measuring and recording patients’ vitals to acquire essential information for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
LPNs do not participate in surgical procedures, however; in areas such as Texas and Oklahoma they are also tasked with preparing intravenous medications for patients and setting up IVs.
Regions such as California and New York have strict working protocols for LPNs and as such, they must work under the supervision of a registered nurse or another medical professional on staff.
LPNs who work in clinics and hospitals generally take on these responsibilities:
- Taking and recording patients’ vitals and setting them up in the examination room
- Governing CNAs
- Recording important information about a patient’s medical history
- Checking IVs and monitoring food intake
- Helping patients maintain their personal hygiene and attending to wounds
- Administering oral medication and sometimes injections to patients
- Monitoring patients’ conditions and their responses to treatment etc.
Although the duties of LPNs working in hospitals may be similar to those working in rehabilitation centers and nursing homes, they might be different in some aspects. A LPN working at one of these institutions may take up additional roles such as:
- Giving emotional support to patients
- Evaluating their the mental health of their patients
- Monitoring their patients’ response to treatment
- Admitting new patients and residents
- Assigning tasks to non-licensed members of staff
Some LPNs may also work outside healthcare facilities, providing private in-home care to different families. Their duties may include:
- Assisting patients with going to the bathroom, eating and getting dressed.
- Checking to ensure that the patient is remaining healthy
- Dressing wounds and applying new bandages
- Ensuring that patients are taking the correct medications
- Providing emergency medical care to patients.
- Helping patients commit to exercising programs
In most cases, a LPN is the first person a patient interacts with at any healthcare facility. Despite their work environment, all LPNs should be able to handle any situation that is a part of their job description. Certain qualities that may contribute to the overall performance of a licensed practical nurse are:
- Empathy for patients
- Great communicative skills
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- The ability to multitask and be a problem solver
- Flexibility and determination
Earning a specialty certificate is away by which LPNs can strengthen their career; it signifies development and professional achievement, which is an asset in any competitive career. For LPNs who want to specialize, gaining sufficient experience is just as important as continuing education.
The National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service offers certification courses for LPNs who want to specialize. Generally, exams are comprised of no more than 160 multiple-choice questions and candidates are required to score at least 75-80%, depending on the area of specialty. These certificates include:
- Managed care
- Infection control
- Hospice and palliative
- Nursing administration
- Foot care
- Developmental disabilities
LPN programs generally require that applicants be at least 18 years of age and should have completed a high school diploma or its equivalent (although this may vary by state). Prerequisite courses usually include subjects such as English, Chemistry, Biology, and other science subjects. In some instances, the applicant may be required to have a recent certificate as a nursing assistant.
Students are usually required to pass a physical and a background test before they are admitted to a training program. Some institutions may also request that applicants sit an entrance exam and take in a letter of recommendation.
Training to Become a LPN/LVN
Before obtaining a license, the first step is to find a LPN program that is accredited. This means that it should have been reviewed and approved by the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission in the state. An accredited program will not only increase the chances of passing the licensing exam but it also increases the chances of being hired.
In addition, nursing boards tend to respect the approval process of other states so it’s likely that candidates will be able to sit and pass the licensing test of another state. The nursing board will have a list of programs that are approved in the state and they usually urge applicants to avoid unauthorized programs.
Many community colleges, universities and other private institutions offer LPN programs that are accredited. Currently many institutions have also been offering programs partially online and in classrooms to accommodate working applicants who would like to study from home.
Ironically, the tuition fees for these colleges are in general more affordable ranging from $1000 to $2000. While the tuition for a campus based program is usually $15000 or less, depending on the institution.
Common parts of the courses include:
- Fundamental nursing practices
- Ethical and legal nursing problems
- Geriatric nursing
- Medical-surgical nursing
In some states, individuals who began but did not complete a higher-level nursing program such as a BSc in Nursing may qualify for licensure. Individuals that completed a higher-level program but did not pass the exam, also have a chance at nursing by sitting the LPN license exam in some states.
Some may even accept equivalent military training in the field. However, just because it is allowed in one state does not mean it will be accepted in another – you will need to check licensing details in your state.
You can check out our more detailed guide about LPN / LVN Training to find out all you need.
After completing a LPN, program candidates will need to pass the NCEX-PN examination before they can begin working. Students can begin the application process prior to graduating from the program but must be authorized by the state board in the state that they wish to work.
Without proper guidance and guidelines, the application process can be tedious and may include several steps. For instance, the candidate may need to have their fingerprints taken and get a notary signature before they can sit the exam.
It can attract a fee of about $200 for those who want to register for the exam. After passing the test, candidates must apply for their license from the state board, which may be delivered by mail. Most accredited courses will provide extensive training and information to guide you through the licensing process.
Individuals who fail on their first attempt can always retake it for an additional fee but must wait 45-90 days. In some states, graduates from a LPN program can work using a temporary work permit until they complete the test. The NCLEX test is usually comprised of 85-205 multiple-choice questions to answer in five hours. It designed to assess the candidates’ knowledge on psychological integrity, physiological integrity, safe and effective medical care, and health maintenance.
This website covers in detail all the data you need covering various nursing salaries in all states of the U.S. Check out our main LPN / LVN Salary page for all you need. The figures are displayed showing average salaries for LPN / LVN’s for all states and across all industries – you’ll be surprised at the variation and find out the highest paid regions. We hope it gives you a useful tool to consider this career and where you might have the best opportunities.
Like most careers in the healthcare industry, there is a fast growing need for trained staff. All nursing careers are experiencing higher than average growth and demand.
The BLS believes that LPN jobs will increase by 25 percent by 2022, which is much faster than many other careers today. Now is the perfect time for anyone who wants to join the field to start the journey.
One of the main reasons for the projected growth is the aging of individuals who were born in the baby boom. As people get older, their need for routine medical care is imperative, which increases the need for LPNs in medical facilities.
The growing number of people suffering from lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes has also heightened the need for LPNs in various healthcare facilities nationwide. More families are also appointing LPNs to consult with and attend to elderly in their home. As older LPNs retire, more job opportunities will also open up for recent graduates.
Many people have used the position of a Licensed Practical Nurse as a stepping stone to career advancement. It can provide a great way for those with less formal education to progress in the medical care field. Many LPN’s continue their training to become registered nurses and that in turn can lead to further specialization and becoming a Nurse Practitioner or a CRNA. It really can be the Practical Nurse career!