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.
Licensed practical nurses provide hands-on care to patients under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) or physicians. 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.
Licensed practical nurses 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 licensed practical nurses help deliver, care for and feed infants. Experienced LPNs may supervise nursing assistants and aides.
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.
Salary Range and Outlook
Licensed practical nurses earn a median (meaning half of the salaries are above that number and half below) salary of $43,170 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries will vary according to level of education, experience, geographic location and the type of facility.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for licensed practical and vocational nurses is very good, expected to grow 16% between 2014 and 2024.
To become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN), you must enroll in a one-year, state-approved practical nursing program at a hospital, vocational-tech school or community college. 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.
After training, students are eligible for licensure as an LPN or LVN. Once licensed, they are qualified to work at a hospital.
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 website. These websites are also good resources for information:
- American Assembly for Men in Nursing
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing
- American Nurses Association
- National League for Nursing
- National Student Nurses’ Association
Learn More About a Career as a Vocational/Licensed Practical Nurse
- Watch a video profile about licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (in the Health Sciences category).
- Read “What Does a Licensed Practical Nurse Do?”
- National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service, Inc.
- National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses
- American Nurses Association