Licensed Practical Nurse LPN

Licensed Practical Nurse LPN cares for those who are sick, injured, disabled, and convalescent. A Licensed Practical Nurse generally works under the direction of a Doctor or a Registered Nurse. Often times a Licensed Practical Nurse will supervise one or more nursing assistants.

  • LPN practical nursing programs generally last about 1 year.
  • LPN designation is obtained by passing a state approved exam.
  • LPN jobs exceed 719,900 and are growing at 1.6% per year.
  • LPN average salary is $42,490 per year or $20.43 per hour.

As a nursing career, Licensed Practical Nurse falls in the middle between the Nursing Assistant and the Registered Nurse. One way to think of practical nursing is to consider that a LPN generally performs routine bedside care in contrast to a Registered Nurse who may be involved in the review, teaching, and planning of patient care.

Duties Of A Licensed Practical Nurse

Licensed Practical Nurses most often work at nursing homes, hospitals, physician offices, and home healthcare services. Licensed practical nursing duties in a hospital vary by department, shift, nursing care philosophy, and hospital specific procedures. New practical nurses will undergo a nursing orientation period designed to help them learn and understand their daily routines. A few of the well known hospital departments where LPN and other nurses work are the Emergency Room (ER), Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Cardiac Care Unit (CCU), Obstetrics & Gynecology, Operating Room (OR), and Outpatient.

A Licensed Practical Nurse working at a hospital or nursing home may perform these basic duties: Measure and record patient information such as height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, and pulse. Dress wounds, insert catheters, monitor catheters, give enemas, injections, collect samples, and perform laboratory tests. Basic bedside patient care to help keep the patient comfortable such as assisting with bathing, moving inside and outside of the bed, and personal hygiene. LPN nurses may feed patients who need help, and record food and fluid intake for example. Observations and information gathered by the LPN is generally reviewed by a registered nurse, doctor, and facility staff.

Practical nurses often stand for long periods of time. A 40 hour work week is typical, however, shifts at facilities that require 24 hour care may be split into morning, day, and night, with the frequent need to fill weekends and holidays. Medical environment hazards include the presence of disease, the use of chemicals, injections, possible radiation exposure, and injury if providing direct patient care to patients who are confused or uncooperative. During times of patient overload at a hospital, for example, workload related stress can also be present for a Licensed Practical Nurse.

How To Become A Licensed Practical Nurse

To become a Licensed Practical Nurse, you must complete a state approved practical nursing program, then pass the state's licensing exam. Practical nursing programs generally last about 1 year and are offered by vocational nursing schools, technical schools, and community colleges. The applicable licensing exam for all U.S. states is the NCLEX-PN, which was developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The NCLEX-PN exam is computer based and covers 4 subject areas: (1) Safe Effective Care Environment, (2) Health Promotion and Maintenance, (3) Psychosocial Integrity, and (4) Physiological Integrity.

State government guidelines vary as to the minimum number of hours required for classroom and clinical training. Always remember to verify that your practical nursing program is approved by your state board of nursing, otherwise you may not be able to sit for the NCLEX-PN exam or obtain a practical nursing license.

Aside from the training requirements, LPN candidates should be caring and sympathetic by nature. In other words, if you are easily agitated by others, then becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse may not be your best career choice. Caring for the sick, injured, disabled and convalescent can drain novice nurses emotionally. If you currently suffer from depression or drug addiction, for example, then practical nursing may not be your best career choice.

LPN candidates should not be squeamish and afraid to interact with patients in a medical setting. Good decision making and communication skills are also required given the amount of interaction between the LPN nurse, patients, patients' family, nurses, doctors, and other medical facility staff.

Licensed Practical Nurse Job Prospects

Licensed Practical Nurse jobs are expected to grow faster than average through 2024 according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Licensed Practical Nurse employees together with Licensed Vocational Nurse employees hold approximately 719,900 jobs according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-2017 Edition. The reported average hourly pay is $20.43 per hour for a Practical Nurse. LPN average salary is $42,490 per year assuming a 40 hour work week.

The state in which you live, the industry for which you work, and your experience level will greatly impact your hourly wage rate or annual average salary as a Licensed Practical Nurse. The latest 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that the lowest 10% of Practical Nurse employees earned less than $15.21 per hour while the highest 10% earned more than $28.23 per hour. Assuming a 40 hour work week and 52 weeks per year, the annual average salary for a LPN is in the range of $31,640 to $58,710 per year.

The industries listed below currently employ the most practical nurses.

  • Nursing and residential care facilities: 38%
  • Hospitals: 17%
  • Physician offices: 13%
  • Home healthcare services: 11%
  • Government: 7%
  • Other: 14%

The difference between a nursing care facility and a residential care facility is the level of assistance offered to the patient. A nursing care facility can be thought of as a nursing home which provides constant medical supervision. A residential care facility can be thought of as an apartment style complex, which provides room, board, housekeeping, and assistance with basic activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, and walking.

Licensed Practical Nursing Programs

LPN state licensure restrictions alongside employer policies and procedures generally limit what duties a Licensed Practical Nurse can perform. While exploring a career as a Licensed Practical Nurse, we recommend that you visit and talk to LPN nurses or a hiring manager currently working at a nearby hospital, nursing, or residential care facility.

Before you enroll into a practical nursing program, search for current Licensed Practical Nurse jobs online for your intended state(s) of employment. Doing so provides real-time job descriptions, entry level job requirements, minimum education, degree requirements, and sometimes localized annual LPN salary information.

Finally, search our nursing schools database for Licensed Practical Nursing programs in your preferred state(s) of employment. Take note of each LPN nursing programs length of study, cost of attendance, accreditation (local vs national), and competitiveness.

Last updated: February 19, 2017

References: