Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
- Training lasting about 1 year is available in about 1,200
State-approved programs, mostly in vocational or technical schools.
- Applicants for jobs in hospitals may face competition as the
number of hospital jobs for licensed practical nurses declines;
however, rapid employment growth is projected in other health
care industries, with the best job opportunities occurring in
nursing care facilities and in home health care services.
- Replacement needs will be a major source of job openings,
as many workers leave the occupation permanently.
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), or licensed vocational nurses
(LVNs), care for the sick, injured, convalescent, and disabled
under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. (The
work of physicians and surgeons and of
registered nurses is described elsewhere
in the Handbook.)
Most LPNs provide basic bedside care, taking vital signs such
as temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration. They also
prepare and give injections and enemas, monitor catheters, apply
dressings, treat bedsores, and give alcohol rubs and massages.
LPNs monitor their 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. To help keep patients comfortable, LPNs assist with
bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene. In States where the law
allows, they may administer prescribed medicines or start intravenous
fluids. Some LPNs help to deliver, care for, and feed infants.
Experienced LPNs may supervise nursing assistants and aides.
In addition to providing routine bedside care, LPNs in nursing
care facilities help to evaluate residents’ needs, develop care
plans, and supervise the care provided by nursing aides. In doctors’
offices and clinics, they also may make appointments, keep records,
and perform other clerical duties. LPNs who work in private homes
may prepare meals and teach family members simple nursing tasks.
Most licensed practical nurses in hospitals and nursing care
facilities work a 40-hour week, but because patients need round-the-clock
care, some work nights, weekends, and holidays. They often stand
for long periods and help patients move in bed, stand, or walk.
LPNs may face hazards from caustic chemicals, radiation, and
infectious diseases such as hepatitis. They are subject to back
injuries when moving patients and shock from electrical equipment.
They often must deal with the stress of heavy workloads. In addition,
the patients they care for may be confused, irrational, agitated,
|Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
All States and the District of Columbia require LPNs to pass
a licensing examination, known as the NCLEX-PN, after completing
a State-approved practical nursing program. A high school diploma
or its equivalent usually is required for entry, although some
programs accept candidates without a diploma, and some are designed
as part of a high school curriculum.
In 2004, approximately 1,200 State-approved programs provided
training in practical nursing. Most training programs are available
from technical and vocational schools, or from community and junior
colleges. Other programs are available through high schools, hospitals,
and colleges and universities.
Most practical nursing programs last about 1 year and include
both classroom study and supervised clinical practice (patient
care). Classroom study covers basic nursing concepts and patient
care-related subjects, including anatomy, physiology, medical-surgical
nursing, pediatrics, obstetrics, psychiatric nursing, the administration
of drugs, nutrition, and first aid. Clinical practice usually
is in a hospital, but sometimes includes other settings.
In some employment settings, such as nursing homes, LPNs can
advance to become charge nurses who oversee the work of other
LPNs and of nursing aides. Some LPNs also choose to become registered
nurses through numerous LPN-to-RN training programs.
LPNs should have a caring, sympathetic nature. They should be
emotionally stable because working with the sick and injured can
be stressful. They also should have keen observational, decision-making,
and communication skills. As part of a health care team, they
must be able to follow orders and work under close supervision.
Licensed practical nurses held about 726,000 jobs in 2004. About
27 percent of LPNs worked in hospitals, 25 percent in nursing
care facilities, and another 12 percent in offices of physicians.
Others worked for home health care services; employment services;
community care facilities for the elderly; public and private
educational services; outpatient care centers; and Federal, State,
and local government agencies. About 1 in 5 worked part time.
Employment of LPNs is expected to grow about as fast as average
for all occupations through 2014 in response to the long-term
care needs of an increasing elderly population and the general
growth of health care services. Replacement needs will be a major
source of job openings, as many workers leave the occupation permanently.
Applicants for jobs in hospitals may face competition as the number
of hospital jobs for LPNs declines; however, rapid employment
growth is projected in other health care industries, with the
best job opportunities occurring in nursing care facilities and
in home health care services.
Employment of LPNs in hospitals is expected to continue to decline.
Sophisticated procedures once performed only in hospitals are
being performed in physicians’ offices and in outpatient care
centers such as ambulatory surgical and emergency medical centers,
largely because of advances in technology. Consequently, employment
of LPNs in most health care industries outside the traditional
hospital setting is projected to grow faster than average.
Employment of LPNs is expected to grow much faster than average
in home health care services. Home health care agencies also will
offer the most new jobs for LPNs because of an increasing number
of older persons with functional disabilities, consumer preference
for care in the home, and technological advances that make it
possible to bring increasingly complex treatments into the home.
Employment of LPNs in nursing care facilities is expected to
grow about as fast as average because of the growing number of
aged and disabled persons in need of long-term care. In addition,
LPNs in nursing care facilities will be needed to care for the
increasing number of patients who have been discharged from the
hospital but who have not recovered enough to return home. However,
changes in consumer preferences towards less restrictive and more
cost-effective care from assisted living facilities and home health
care agencies will limit employment growth.
Median annual earnings of licensed practical nurses were $33,970
in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $28,830 and
$40,670. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,480, and the
highest 10 percent earned more than $46,270. Median annual earnings
in the industries employing the largest numbers of licensed practical
nurses in May 2004 were:
|Nursing care facilities
|Home health care services
|General medical and surgical hospitals
|Offices of physicians
LPNs work closely with people while helping them. So do emergency
medical technicians and paramedics; medical assistants; nursing,
psychiatric, and home health aides; registered nurses; social
and human service assistants; and surgical technologists.
|Sources of Additional Information
For information about practical nursing, contact any of the following
- National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service,
Inc., P.O. Box 25647, Alexandria, VA 22313. Internet: http://www.napnes.org/
- National League for Nursing, 61 Broadway, New York, NY 10006.
- National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses, Inc., 605
Poole Dr., Garner, NC 27529. Internet: http://www.nflpn.org/
Information on the NCLEX-PN licensing exam is available from:
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 111 East Wacker
Dr., Suite 2900, Chicago, IL 60611. Internet: http://www.ncsbn.org/
A list of State-approved LPN programs is available from individual
State boards of nursing.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition