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Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse

Overview

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) as they are called in Texas and California, care for the sick, injured, convalescent and disabled in a variety of health care settings. 

LPNs/LVNs provide hands-on care to patients under the supervision of RNs or physicians. LPN preparation programs involve one year of training at a hospital, vocational-tech school or community college. After training, students are eligible for licensure as an LPN or LVN. Once licensed, they are qualified to work at a hospital.

LPNs' responsibilities are limited, however, and they must work under the guidance and direction of a registered nurse or physician.

Most LPNs provide basic bedside care. They take vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiration. They also treat bedsores, prepare and give injections and enemas, apply dressings, give alcohol rubs and massages, apply ice packs and hot water bottles and monitor catheters.

LPNs observe patients and report adverse reactions to medications or treatments. They collect samples for testing, perform routine laboratory tests, feed patients and record food and fluid intake and output. They help patients with bathing, dressing and personal hygiene, keep them comfortable and care for their emotional needs. In states where the law allows, they may administer prescribed medicines or start intravenous fluids.

Some LPNs help deliver, care for and feed infants. Experienced LPNs may supervise nursing assistants and aides. 

Working Conditions

Most licensed practical nurses in hospitals and nursing homes work a 40-hour week, but because patients need around-the-clock care, some work nights, weekends and holidays. They often stand for long periods and help patients move in bed, stand or walk.

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About a Career as a Vocational/Licensed Practical Nurse

About Health Care Careers

Note: The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has reviewed this profile.

Academic Requirements

All states and the District of Columbia require licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to complete a state-approved practical nursing program and then pass a licensing examination. A high school diploma, or the equivalent, usually is required for entry into a program, although some programs accept candidates without a diploma. Some programs are designed as part of a high school curriculum. 

For an overview of the various academic programs available for students hoping to pursue a career in nursing, read this report and visit the Health Professions Education Center on the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) website. These websites are also good resources for information: