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Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Career Highlights

  • Providing disabled patients with assistance and care
  • Working alongside doctors and other nurses
  • Working with families to establish proper home care

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Career Summary

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) are categorically a step between a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and a registered nurse (RN). They perform many of the same functions as an RN, though their professional role, required training, and occupational setting is slightly different.

LPN (and LVN) job duties

One primary function of an LPN is bedside care. Licensed practical nurses monitor vital signs, prepare and administer medications and injections, dress wounds, and keep patients clean, stable and comfortable. This can include assisting patients with personal routines such as eating, dressing, bathing, standing or walking.

In addition to this, LPNs may carry out clinical tasks such as performing laboratory tests, cleaning and monitoring medical equipment, and assisting doctors and nurses with tests and procedures. Some LPNs may help deliver and care for infants.

Helping to develop care plans is also part of an LPN's work regimen, especially in nursing care facilities. They may gather information about a patient's condition and use it to help doctors or other nurses create a customized health care plan to suit the patient's needs. They may also instruct a patient's family members on proper care of the patient.

As opposed to RNs, who may choose to pursue a variety of specialties within their field, the main focus of an LPN is the patient. Also contrary to RNs, LPNs function in a "dependant" role, or under the supervision of a registered nurse or physician. They may, however, oversee or supervise nursing aides, and experienced LPNs may supervise other LPNs.

LPN Training

Most training programs for licensed practical nurses last one year, and can be found at junior or career colleges. The training follows a career-oriented approach, providing work-related education rather than theory and academics.

In addition to formal training, LPNs must also be nationally licensed, which involves passing the NCLEX-PN exam. The four areas covered by the exam include safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity.

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Training takes around 1 year, resulting in a certificate or diploma. After training, LPNs become nationally registered.

Career Skills

  • Communication skills
  • Ability to work with many different types of patient
  • Ability to stay calm under stress
  • Ability to both supervise and work under a supervisor

Additional Information

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HealthMad - LPN vs. RN: Different Paths to Nursing

Labor Bureau Handbook - Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses


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*Salary ranges based on location, experience, and demand. This number represents a rough nation-wide average.