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How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

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If you’re considering a career as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and you’re curious about the benefits and requirements that go along with it, this article is a great resource. Below you’ll find a wealth of information about how to start your LPN career.

The Practical Nursing profession offers numerous benefits, including job stability, varying specialties, and personal fulfillment. If you’re interested in helping others, then you might find your calling as an LPN. Without a doubt, Practical Nurses are pillars of strength in the medical community.

Licensed Practical Nurse Definition

What is a Licensed Practical Nurse?

A Licensed Practical Nurse provides patients with quality care and works under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN). They perform numerous clinical tasks while assisting patients in hospitals, medical offices, long-term care facilities, convalescent homes, surgical centers, and other settings.


So, what is the difference between an LPN and an LVN? A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is another title for Licensed Vocational Nursing. Depending on your location in the United States, one of these job titles will be used. LVN is commonly used in California and Texas, whereas LPN is the technical title in other states.

Both LVNs and LPNs are typically required to complete formal training to obtain their license.

Licensed Practical Nurse: Job Description

What Does a Licensed Practical Nurse Do?

Licensed Practical Nurses assist in the medical care of patients under the direction of doctors and Registered Nurses (RNs). They care for people who are sick, injured, convalescent, or disabled. Some of their primary duties may include providing basic care while administering medications and monitoring vital signs.

In fact, LPNs often have more contact with patients than any other member of the healthcare team. This means that it’s vital for LPNs to possess strong communication and observation skills. Not only are they the first line of defense for patients, but they must also gather information and report any changes to the healthcare team.

Licensed Practical Nurse Duties

While duties vary depending on the location and employer, Licensed Practical Nurses typically perform the following tasks:

  • Assess and monitor patients
  • Report adverse reactions to medication or treatment
  • Gather information from patients, including their health history and how they are currently feeling
  • Administer prescribed medicines
  • Provide care to ventilator-dependent patients
  • Complete insurance forms, pre-authorizations, and referrals
  • Work with the interdisciplinary team to help determine the best course of care for a patient
  • Teach family members how to care for a relative or teach patients about good health habits
  • Supervise nursing assistants and aides

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Licensed Practical Nurse Skills

To become an LPN, you should be:

  • Compassionate: Showing empathy and care toward the people you serve.
  • Personal and Friendly: Interacting with patients and other healthcare providers is an integral part of the job.
  • Patience: Lots and lots of it. Why? Dealing with sick and injured people can be stressful.
  • Physically Strong: LPNs need to be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over patients for long periods of time.
  • Well-spoken: It’s vital that LPNs communicate effectively. For instance, they might need to relay information about a patient’s condition to an RN.
  • Accurate and Detail-oriented: LPNs help ensure that patients receive the correct care at the right time.

Where Do Licensed Practical Nurses Work?

Many different places employ LPNs, such as hospitals, residential care facilities, clinics, physicians’ offices, and temporary health agencies. Most of these jobs are full-time, though some offer part-time schedules. In addition, LPNS might pursue a specialization in areas like geriatrics, pediatrics, and rehabilitation.

Though they can find employment in various settings, LPNs typically work in one of the following facilities:

  • Hospitals
  • Hospital clinics
  • Independent clinics
  • Physician offices
  • Nursing facilities
  • Private healthcare facilities
  • Home healthcare services
  • Military Nursing
  • Travel Nursing

Licensed Practical Nurse Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Licensed Practical Nurse?

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In the U.S., there are two basic requirements to become an LPN:

  1. An approved Practical Nursing program– There are numerous colleges, universities, and technical schools that offer these programs. The curriculums might include a combination of on-campus instruction as well as online or hybrid classes. Additionally, some schools will offer classes in the day, afternoon, or evening hours.
  1. State licensure– Post-graduation, LPNs must pass the licensing examination.

To obtain your license, your state will require you to:

+ Prove that you have graduated from a nursing-board-approved PN program.

+ Possibly pass a background check and provide fingerprints.

+ Pass the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCLEX-PN) exam.

You will need to renew your license every few years, and your employer will likely ask you to provide documented proof of your license.

LPN Diploma Program

If you don’t want to spend years in school, then a Practical Nursing diploma might be your preferred choice. The PN program at Unitek can be completed in as little as 12 months. The goal is to equip you with the right skill sets to help advance your career. Unlike a degree program, your coursework typically won’t include general education courses. Rather, the curriculum tends to focus more on nursing tasks. Therefore, these programs take less time to complete.

If you choose a diploma program, expect to study subjects like nursing fundamentals (theory and clinical), pharmacology, maternal and newborn, pediatrics, and professional development. Practical Nursing programs vary in coursework and curriculum, but if you’re thinking of enrolling in one of these programs, look for schools that are best equipped to prepare you for real-world experience.

LPN Licensing & Certification

The NCLEX-PN exam is issued by a governmental entity, which provides the public with an assurance of safety and competenceNurses perform a critical service, and they make up a large group of licensed professionals in the U.S. They must receive the proper credentials.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has developed two exams to test the competence of aspiring RNs and LPNs. A graduate (or soon-to-be graduate) of an approved nursing program would need to complete an application form—which might include a criminal background check—submit the application and licensure fee, and apply for the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN exam.

Passing the NCLEX is an essential step toward licensure, but it’s not the only requirement. For instance, some states require proof of English language proficiency, no felony conviction or criminal behavior, sound physical/mental health, and good moral character.

LPN Licensing Renewal

Requirements vary from state to state. In California, LPNs must renew their license every two years. This process includes completing several continuing education courses, possessing a social security number, and certifying whether you have been convicted of a crime since you last renewed your license.

You can submit your renewal online at DCA BreEZe Online Services.

LPN Continuing Education

  • Active Licensure. To maintain an active license, you must complete 30 hours of continuing education. Make sure you pass the course(s) in the two-year period before your license is due to be renewed.
  • First Renewal. If this is your first license renewal, then you are not required to complete 30 hours of continuing education.

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Licensed Practical Nurse Salary

How Much Do Licensed Practical Nurses Make?

It’s important to keep in mind that the salary of an LPN can vary depending on your experience, employer, and region. In the United States, the cost of living tends to differ from state to state, not to mention from city to city. However, salary is always important to consider when you pursue a career.

According to the BLS, the average annual wage for LPNs is about $56,000 or about $27 per hour. Here are the top industries where the highest-earning LPNs currently work in the United States:

  • Personal Care Services: $90,950
  • Grantmaking and Giving Services: $72,670
  • Insurance Carriers: $65,170
  • Employment Services: $64,660
  • Junior Colleges: $64,260

Licensed Practical Nurse Job Outlook

What Is the Job Outlook for Licensed Practical Nurses?

According to the BLS, employment of Licensed Practical Nurses is projected to grow 6 percent by 2031, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has linked this demand to the aging baby-boomer population. As they head toward retirement, their need for healthcare services is expected to increase at a steady rate.

To keep up with the demand, LPNs will be needed in residential care facilities and home health environments. Several chronic conditions have also become more prevalent in recent years. More nurses will assist patients with these conditions in skilled nursing and other extended-care facilities. Plus, some procedures that had to be done in hospitals are now being performed elsewhere.

Why Should You Pursue LPN Training?

Aspiring LPNs spend less time in school than RNs. Registered Nurses and doctors spend years in school before practicing in the real world. On the other hand, many Practical Nursing programs can be completed in just one year, allowing them to start their dream career as quickly as possible.

In addition, this profession has a sunny job outlook for the foreseeable future. As we know, nurses are essential healthcare team members, and their job opportunities are only expected to increase in the coming years. Employment of LPNs is projected to grow 6 percent by 2031. This growth will likely afford them a certain degree of stability and job security.

One of the most rewarding aspects of a nursing career is the amount of time that nurses enjoy working directly with patients. Some physicians might feel that, because of their workload, they are unable to spend as much time as they’d like interacting with their patients.

Overall, LPNs receive valuable exposure and experience. They work alongside doctors and RNs and make a difference in the lives of their patients. At the end of the day, healthcare careers are all about helping others.

Click here to learn more about the Practical Nursing program at Unitek College and some of the best entry-level medical jobs. Get started on the road to your new career as a Licensed Practical Nurse today!

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