Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) provide patients with fundamental nursing care under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and physicians. LPNs typically perform basic nursing duties such checking a patient’s blood pressure or changing bandages.1 As they consider this type of nursing career, potential LPNs should be aware of the required education and licenses, as well as the skills and personal qualities relevant to this profession.
Skills and Characteristics
A licensed practical nurse must have strong clinical skills in order to assist physicians and nurses. These include the ability to monitor patient vital signs and perform nursing functions such as inserting catheters, and bathing or dressing a patient. LPNs may also reinforce teaching done by RNs regarding how family members should care for a relative, so it is important to understand clinical terminology and techniques.2
Additionally, LPNs may want to exhibit a range of personal characteristics that may enable them to carry out their clinical duties effectively. Good focus and attention to details can help LPNs give patients the correct care at the right time. First-rate listening and speaking skills will likely be necessary to communicate effectively with patients, families, nurses and physicians. LPNs should also demonstrate patience and compassion for the patients they treat. Dealing with the sick or injured can be stressful, so patience can help LPNs cope with stress that stems from providing care.2
Licensed practical nurses must complete a state-approved educational program, typically requiring one year of study at a community or technical college. Coursework includes nursing and related topics such as biology and pharmacology. An LPN’s educational training also includes supervised clinical experience.2
Completion of a state-approved educational program makes a licensed practical nursing student eligible to receive his or her certificate or diploma. After receiving this certification, a nursing candidate must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination - Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN) in order to become a practicing LPN.2
Certifications and Licenses
LPNs may choose to become certified through professional organizations in areas including gerontology and intravenous (IV) therapy. Certifications can show that a licensed practical nurse has an advanced knowledge of a specific specialty area.2 Continuing education may be a requirement for LPNs, including participating in credit-approved courses by appropriate organizations such as the National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses (NALPN).3
The job outlook for licensed practical nurses is positive, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections. Through 2024, the BLS forecasts a job outlook growth for LPNs of 16%, with 117,300 additional jobs emerging over that period. This is compared to 16% for health technologists and technicians and 7% for all other professions.4 States with the highest employment level for LPNs include Texas, California, New York, Florida and Ohio.5
There are a number of factors that may play into the increased demand for LPNs including health insurance reform, an aging baby-boomer population, and the prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Additionally, use of nontraditional health care settings and federal health insurance reform may aid in the increase.4
In the increasing job market, it may be important to recognize that employers advertise for LPNs under a range of titles that can include Clinic Licensed Practical Nurse, Charge Nurse, Office Nurse, Private Duty Nurse and Licensed Vocational Nurse.6
What to Expect on a Day-to-Day Basis
Licensed practical nurses can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, physicians’ practices, nursing homes, clinics, home health care and government.5, 7 LPNs usually work full-time and sometimes at night, on weekends and over holidays. Also, LPN shifts may run over eight hours, and they might be on their feet for most of the shift, handling duties that may require moving or lifting patients.7
LPNs work under the supervision of registered nurses or physicians. Their duties can include clerical work such as charting in records and reporting patient statuses to RNs and physicians. Their clinical responsibilities can include assessing patients, administering basic patient care, checking patient vital signs, changing wound dressings, and discussing the care they are providing with patients and listening to their concerns.1
Licensed practical nurses may be limited to doing certain tasks depending on where they reside. For instance, in some states, an LPN with proper training can administer medication or initiate intravenous (IV) access, whereas in others LPNs may not be authorized to perform these tasks. Additionally, in some states, experienced licensed practical nurses may oversee and direct other LPNs and unlicensed medical staff.1
All in all, a career as a licensed practical nurse can be satisfying, and LPNs may enjoy their career possibilities or use the accrued nursing experience to help expand their job focus and become a registered nurse down the road.
Earn Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at CTU
Colorado Technical University (CTU) offers an RN-to-BSN program designed to make the most out of a student’s prior nursing education, certification and experience. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program at Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.ccneaccreditation.org). Learn more about CTU’s BSN degree program.