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LPN Job description, Education and Salary Overview

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses take care of those who are injured, convalescent, sick or disabled under the direction of physicians and registered nurses.



By U.S. News University Directory
Posted 2011



Licensed practical nurses (LPN's) often provide basic bedside care. They measure and record patients’ vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse, respiration, height and weight. They prepare and give injections and enemas, dress wounds, monitor catheters and give alcohol rubs and massages. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses also feed patients who require help eating. Experienced nurses may supervise nursing assistants and aides. These nurses also collect samples for testing, keep records of food and fluid intake and output and help physicians and registered nurses perform tests and procedures.


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Most licensed practical nurses and LPN's are generalists who work in any area of healthcare. Some work in specialized settings, such as home healthcare, doctors’ offices or nursing homes where they perform a variety of duties. In some states, they are permitted to start intravenous fluids, administer prescribed medicines and provide care to patients on ventilators.

Licensed Practical Nurse Job Summary
  • Technical or vocational schools and community or junior colleges offer licensed practical nursing programs that take about one year to complete.
  • Overall job prospects are expected to be very good for LPN's and licensed vocational nurses.
  • As many workers leave the occupation to retire, there will be numerous job openings.
Work Environment for Licensed Practical Nurses

Licensed practical nurses typically work 40 hours each week. If they are employed in a setting where patients required 24-hour care, they may have to work weekends, nights and holidays. Standing for long periods of time is often required, as is the physical stress of helping patients move in bed, stand or walk which can result in back injuries.

Nurses may face hazards from caustic chemicals, infectious diseases and radiation. They may have heavy workloads that can cause stress in addition to working with patients who can be agitated, confused or uncooperative.

Licensed Practical Nurses Education and Training

LPN's must complete training before they are eligible to be licensed. A high school diploma is usually needed to enter a LPN training program, but some programs accept candidates without a diploma, and some programs are part of a high school curriculum. Both classroom study and supervised clinical practice is normally included in LPN nursing programs. Courses include basic nursing concepts and patient care, including medical-surgical nursing, obstetrics, pediatrics, anatomy, physiology, obstetrics nursing, first aid, nutrition and pharmacology. Clinical practice is normally completed in hospitals, but may include another setting as well.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing administers the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to obtain a license as a licensed practical nurse. This computer-based exam covers four major Client Needs categories: safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity and physiological integrity.

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Licensed practical nurses should be caring and have a sympathetic nature. Emotional stability is needed since working with the injured and sick can be stressful. In addition, they need to have good decision-making and communication skills and to be observant. LPN's should be able to follow orders and work under close supervision.

Continuing education is mandated by some states and employers at regular intervals, so career-long learning is required of the licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse.

LPN Salary and Job Outlook: Information for Prospective Licensed Practical Nurses 

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses held about 728,670 jobs in May 2009, according to research published by the U.S. Labor Statistics (BLS). Most worked for nursing care facilities and general medical and surgical hospitals, while others worked in offices of physicians, home health care services and community care facilities for the elderly.

The BLS expects employment in this field to grow by 21% between 2008 and 2018 which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The increasing elderly population will require long-term care which will increase the need for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses. Jobs in physicians’ offices are expected to increase faster than those in hospitals because many procedures are now performed in doctors’ offices, requiring licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses.

BLS reports indicate that the median annual salary for licensed practical nurses was $39,820 as of May 2009. The middle 50% of LPN's earned between $33,920 and $47,220, while the bottom 10% earned $28,890 or less annually. The top 10% earned $55,090 or more per year.


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