Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) / Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

The beginnings of the practical / vocational nurse can be traced back to the practice of self-taught individuals who worked in home care in the past, assisting with primary care and light housekeeping responsibilities (such as cooking). Licensing requirements for practical nurses came later than those for professional nurses; by 1945, 19 states and one territory had licensure regulations. By 1955, however, every state had licensing laws for practical nurses. Now LPN and LVN can be found in most every healthcare setting in the United States.

Job Description:

The label of LPN or LVN depends on the state where you are expected to work. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN) are responsible for looking after patients while under the guidance of Registered nurses (RN) and doctors. LPN's / LVN's deliver bedside care by monitoring the patient's vital signs and charting the information, giving injections, and feeding the patients if they need help with eating. Working a standard 40 hour week in primarily hospitals and Nursing Home facilities, LPN nurses may also have to provide treatment for patients around the clock, increasing their usual working hours.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) / Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) work in many surroundings, including nursing homes and extended care facilities like rehabilitation centers, hospitals, physicians' offices, and private residences. Back to top

Education Requirements:

LPN nursing colleges typically require one year of study and training at a hospital, community college or technical vocational school. Trainees should know that the program they choose must be accepted by their state's Board of Nursing in order for them to meet the criteria for a nursing license.

After earning a nursing degree through a state-approved system, graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination. Each state administers this exam to qualifying applicants.

Based upon the school, tuition expenses for LPN degrees start in the $2,000 range, and many educational institutions offer financial aid, grants and other ways to help nursing students finance their education.

If later in your career you choose to become a registered nurse (RN) through a program for LPN to RN or LPN to BSN program, you can acquire credit for the course work you accomplished during your licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse education. Back to top


Licensed Practical Nurses or Licensed Vocational Nurses are both one stage above a certified nursing assistant. They have a one year college education program. And typically make about $47,000 per year, but that consists of a low salary range of $24,000 to a high of $92,000. Licensed Practical or Vocational nurses may also acquire an Associate of Science or Associate of Arts degree in a two year college or vocational school to increase their possibilities of being employed at a better salary. Back to top


Becoming an LPN can be a very good way to get into nursing as rapidly as possible. Therefore, quite a few people that wish to ultimately become a registered nurse will begin as an LPN first. Since most all of the responsibilities of an LPN / LVN require particular attention to detail: taking patients' medical history, checking vital signs, acquiring samples for laboratory exams, conducting lab work, applying dressings or treatments, giving medications, delivering injections, assisting in surgeries, feeding patients, assisting patients with hygiene tasks such as brushing teeth and bathing, caring for infants, instructing patients on proper health care, supervising certified nursing assistants, and assisting registered nurses, it is crucial that they follow a few very important tips.

With any new job site there are practical questions. Most of these were covered under Certified Nursing Assistants: "Details of Your New Job" section. Those particulars will apply to all nursing jobs.

LPN / LVN's can become very successful in their jobs by remembering the following:

• Carefully attend to the details. While it is true that people make mistakes, medical mistakes can be dangerous and costly. Many nurses can tell you about at least one error they have made during their career. Understanding and preventing these mistakes should be one of the main goals for nurses. To do this you could take a pharmacology class to become more familiar with the medical terms you see and write. You must learn the 'ins and outs' of medications and how to carefully document everything you do. Many doctors change their medical dosing directions and it is essential to check the MAR (Medical Administration Record) for every medication you give a patient. Sometimes in a very fast pace atmosphere like a hospital, it is difficult to find the time to carefully check all records, but this is critical in nursing. It is also very important to ask for help understanding any directions you are not familiar with. Most often, patients see the nurse more than any other health professional in a medical surrounding, it is important to remember that you represent that hospital or doctor's office and that your professionalism and your attitude affect the patients you treat.

• Know your duties. The scope of practice for LPN's / LVN's differs somewhat from state to state. It can also vary from facility to facility. All nurses have a professional obligation to be aware of their legal scope of practice where they do the job. If you are unsure, get in touch with the Board of Nursing in that state by reaching their website or other means to get the information and facts that you need. Just because you know how to do a specific thing doesn't make it legal or acceptable with facility policy.

• Become associated with professional organizations for nursing. There are a wide variety of professional communities for LPN's / LVN's. Find out what these are on both a local and national level, and become a member of them if at all possible. Nurses can have an extraordinary amount of power and influence, if they work together towards common pursuits.

• Grow to be a Leader. Anyone can be a leader in his / her place of work as well as his / her profession. Serve on facility committees, present yourself appropriately, and be visible (in a positive way, of course) in your work environment.

• Set Goals. If you do not plan on carrying on with your training in nursing, set professional improvement goals such as joining the professional organization, reading nursing journals, or anything else which would interest you. If you plan to continue in education, make a plan for that as well. Back to top

Job Outlook:

Employment of LPN's is expected to improve 21 percent between 2008 and 2018, considerably quicker than the average for other occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While choices will remain solid in hospitals, LPN's and LVN's can expect to find the greatest number of new nursing jobs with home health care providers and nursing care establishments.

In addition, innovative medical technology has made it entirely possible for patients to go to their doctor's office or an outpatient treatment facility for procedures that were typically performed only in hospitals in the past. Licensed practical nurses perform an important role in caring for patients who go through such treatments and may offer assistance at the health care office in addition to the patient's residence. Most community college and vocational schools have specific financial aid packages in place for LPN degrees and offer financial aid to transition to a registered nursing degree also. Back to top