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Licensed Practical Nursing: Training and Job Information

Home > Licensed Practical Nursing: Training and Job Information

Practical nursing programs train individuals to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), depending on the state in which they live. Most full-time programs can be completed in a year. Part-time programs last longer, but typically allow you to remain at your current job.

What is practical nursing and how does it differ from nurse assisting and registered nursing? Primarily, practical nursing is focused on patient care, while assistants generally complete more administrative duties, and registered nurses (RNs) take on more of a leadership role. Practical nurses often work under the supervision of RNs, but they sometimes supervise nursing assistants.

LPN and LVN Education Programs

To become a licensed practical or vocational nurse, you must complete a state-accredited LPN/LVN program, which usually takes one year of full-time study to complete. Programs are available at community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools and some hospitals and state colleges. Depending on your program, you are awarded an associate degree, diploma or certificate.

Programs include full-time, part-time, weekend, evening and online options. While program content may vary, most practical nursing programs include coursework that teach you the following skills:

  • Patient care -- wound care, basic respiratory care, oxygen administration and lab sample collection, as well as how to take blood pressure, temperature, and other patient vitals.
  • Nutrition and health -- good health practices and nutrition at the individual and community level. Theh role of nutrition in preventative care (i.e. the prevention of health conditions in the future).
  • Nursing fundamentals -- an overview of the fundamental duties of a LPN/LVN, including the nurse's role in addressing patients' psychological, physiological, cultural and spiritual needs. Your program might include a separate nursing fundamentals lab that provides simulated patient care situations.
  • Human anatomy and physiology -- human body systems (including the study of human organs and muscles, as well as the skeletal, circulatory and respiratory systems), human genetics, cellular biology, and chemistry.
  • Pharmacology -- the medical use and effects of drugs; basic pharmacological principles, applied pharmacology, therapeutics and advanced pharmacological principles, such as cancer therapeutics.
  • Human development -- human physical, mental and psychological development through all the stages of life.
  • Sexual health -- sexual development, hormones, STDs, men's and women's sexual health issues, and family development.
  • Mental health -- the management of stress, grief, depression and self image.
In addition to completing a licensed practical nurse program, students need to receive training in Basic Life Support (BLS). BLS teaches you how to recognize and handle choking, strokes, heart attacks and other life-threatening situations. Training should prepare you in the following areas: CPR for adult, child and infant; differences between adult and child rescue techniques; rescue breathing; relief choking and automated external defibrillator (AED) usage.

Certification and Licensure

After completing practical nursing programs, students must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nursing (NCLEX-PN) in order to work as an LPN/LVN in any state. Before sitting for the exam, students must apply for licensure eligibility, register, pay the $200 fee, and wait for acknowledgement of registration. Upon fulfilling all these requirements, you will receive the authorization to test (ATT).

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the NCLEX-PN includes the following categories:

  • Safe and effective care environment
  • Health promotion and maintenance
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Physiological integrity

Work Environment and Typical Responsibilities

LPNs and LVNs work in hospitals, nursing homes, doctors' offices and private homes. LPNs/LVNs typically spend a lot of time on their feet while assisting, treating, and transporting patients. Because this job involves caring for the sick and injured, it can be stressful at times. Specific job duties include:

  • Basic nursing care, such as inserting catheters and changing bandages
  • Monitoring patients' health and taking patient vitals, such as blood pressure
  • Seeing to patient hygiene and comfort, such as helping with bathing
  • Talking with patients about their health care and medical concerns
  • Discussing patient status with doctors and other nurses
  • Maintaining patient records

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that three-fourths of LPNs and LVNs worked full-time in 2010 (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). Schedules vary, and sometimes shift work can include nights and weekends. Working holidays is often required, especially for new nurses.

Licensed Practical Nurse Salary and Employment Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national mean annual salary for LPNs and LVNs was $42,400 as of May 2012 (bls.gov/oes, 2013). Between 2010 and 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates healthy growth in the field, at 22 percent, equaling approximately 168,500 additional employees (bls.gov.ooh, 2012).

Sources:

American Heart Association: BLS for Healthcare Providers
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook 
Columbus State Community College: Nursing Certificates (NURC)
Ivy Tech Community College: Nursing (NRSG) Courses
National Council of State Boards of Nursing: Frequently Asked Questions About 2011 NCLEX-PN Test Plan
National Council of State Boards of Nursing: NCLEX Examinations
O*Net Online: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
University of the District of Columbia: Practical Nursing Program Certificate


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