Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care.
What they do
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses typically do the following:
- Monitor patients’ health—for example, by checking their blood pressure
- Administer basic patient care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters
- Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as helping them bathe or dress
- Discuss the care they are providing with patients and listen to their concerns
- Report patients’ status and concerns to registered nurses and doctors
- Keep records on patients’ health
Duties of LPNs and LVNs vary, depending on their work setting and the state in which they work. For example, they may reinforce teaching done by registered nurses regarding how family members should care for a relative; help to deliver, care for, and feed infants; collect samples for testing and do routine laboratory tests; or feed patients who need help eating.
LPNs and LVNs may be limited to doing certain tasks, depending on the state where they work. For example, in some states, LPNs with proper training can give medication or start intravenous (IV) drips, but in other states LPNs cannot perform these tasks. State regulations also govern the extent to which LPNs and LVNs must be directly supervised. For example, an LPN may provide certain forms of care only with instructions from a registered nurse.
In some states, experienced licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses supervise and direct other LPNs or LVNs and unlicensed medical staff.
Nurses must often be on their feet for much of the day. They are vulnerable to back injuries, because they may have to lift patients who have trouble moving in bed, standing, or walking. These duties can be stressful, as can dealing with ill and injured people.
Most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) work full time. Many work nights, weekends, and holidays, because medical care takes place at all hours. They may be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours.
How to become a Licensed Practical and/or Licensed Vocational Nurse
Becoming a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse (LPN or LVN) requires completing an approved educational program. LPNs and LVNs must have a license.
LPNs and LVNs must complete an approved educational program. These programs award a certificate or diploma and typically take about 1 year to complete but may take longer. They are commonly found in technical schools and community colleges, although some programs may be available in high schools or hospitals.
Practical nursing programs combine classroom learning in subjects such as nursing, biology, and pharmacology. All programs also include supervised clinical experience.
Contact state boards of nursing for lists of approved programs.
After completing a state-approved educational program, prospective LPNs and LVNs can take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). In all states, they must pass the exam to get a license and work as an LPN or LVN. For more information on the NCLEX-PN examination and a list of state boards of nursing, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
LPNs and LVNs may choose to become certified through professional associations in areas such as gerontology and intravenous (IV) therapy. Certifications show that an LPN or LVN has an advanced level of knowledge about a specific subject.
In addition, employers may prefer to hire candidates who are trained to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
The median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses was $47,480 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,560, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,360.
Employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) is projected to grow 9 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
As the baby-boom population ages, the overall need for healthcare services is expected to increase. LPNs and LVNs will be needed in residential care facilities and in-home health environments to care for older patients.
Similar Job Titles
Charge Nurse; Clinic Licensed Practical Nurse (CLINIC LPN); Clinic Nurse; Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN); Licensed Practical Nurse, Clinic Nurse (LPN, Clinic Nurse); Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN); Office Nurse; Pediatric Licensed Practical Nurse (PEDIATRIC LPN); Private Duty Nurse; Triage Licensed Practical Nurse (TRIAGE LPN)
Acute Care Nurse, Psychiatric Technician, Respiratory Therapy Technician, Physical Therapist Assistant, Medical Assistant
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Health Information Management Association
- American Nurses Association
- National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service
- National Association for Practice Nurse Education and Service
- National League for Nursing
Magazines and Publications
- Magazine for Certified Nursing Assistants
- Nurse Journal
- American Nurse Today
- Online Journal of Issues in Nursing
- Geriatric Nursing Journal
- Journal for Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Midwifery Today
With equal parts compassion and competence, licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses, or LPNs and LVNs, play a crucial role in providing patient care. LPNs and LVNs help patients in nursing homes and other healthcare facilities, working under the direction of doctors and registered nurses, or RNs. LPNs and LVNs check patients’ vital signs, change dressings, and provide other types of basic patient care. They also help patients bathe and dress when needed. Record keeping is an important aspect of the job, as is communicating patients’ concerns and questions to doctors and RNs. The exact duties of LPNs and LVNs vary by state, but their role on the front line of patient care doesn’t. Practical nursing takes patience and stamina. Attention to detail is essential in this career, as is being observant and communicating clearly. Licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses work in nursing homes, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and in-home healthcare. Becoming an LPN or LVN starts with completing a state-approved program, which usually lasts about 1 year. Licensure is required in all states.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org