What is an LPN?

The LPN, a licensed practical nurse, is a trained medical professional who assists registered nurses (RNs) and doctors in providing healthcare to patients. LPNs typically work in hospitals, clinics, outpatient clinics, insurance companies or any place that employs nurses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that LPNs, licensed practical nurses. could see a job growth of 12 percent between 2016 and 2026.

What Does the Licensed Practical Nurse Do?

While working under the supervision of doctors and RNs, the LPN provides basic nursing care to patients. Some of their duties include the following:

  • Taking and monitoring vital signs
  • Providing care, including inserting catheters and applying bandages
  • Documenting patient health records and medical histories
  • Basic care, including feeding and bathing
  • Providing companionship to patient
  • Discussing and communicating with patient regarding conditions
  • Talking to family members about aftercare for patient

Although LPNs work in various medical settings, the majority of them work in nursing homes, according to LicensedPracticalNurses.net.

How to Become an LPN

To become an LPN the individual must complete a state-approved training program. These programs, which can be found at community colleges and technical schools, generally take a year to complete. Depending on the school and program, the student can earn a diploma or certificate of completion.

The LPN programs include a blended curriculum of classroom studies, lab classes and clinical education. The clinical education has the student completing supervised clinical work in a hospital or clinic. The hours of clinical education that’s required depends on the state’s requirements. Students may be required to complete CPR training.

Certification for the Licensed Practical Nurse

After completing the LPN program, the candidate must apply to take the licensing exam through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. LPNs are required to be licensed in all states, which requires passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). The multiple-choice licensing exam consists of 205 questions, and the student must correctly answer at least 85 questions. The student also answers 25 experimental questions, but these questions do not count against the student. The student has a total of five hours to complete the NCLEX-PN.

In addition to licensure, the LPN may obtain certification in other areas such as IV therapy or gerontology to name a couple. Although certification is not required, it looks good on a resume and can enhance career opportunities for the LPN.

There is often confusion regarding the titles LPN and LVN. While they are both similar, the LPN stands for licensed practical nurse, and the LVN stands for licensed vocational nurse. The term LVN is used in California or Texas while LPN is used in the rest of the states.

Career Outlook for Licensed Practical Nurses

Licensed practical nurses earned a median annual wage of $44,090 as of a May 2016 BLS report. Wages range from $32,150 at the low end to more than $60,420 at the high end. Various factors can affect wage potential, including location, experience and employer. The bureau also reports that there were approximately 702,400 licensed practical nurses in the U.S. in 2016 and the number should increase to 837,200 by 2020.

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As the need for high quality health care continues to increase, so will the demand for LPNs. The demand for new licensed practical nurses continues to grow because the LPN – licensed practical nurse is such a valued asset to the healthcare industry.