An LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) works as part of a medical team and is crucial to the efficient operation of any healthcare facility. They provide help to doctors and nurses and are responsible for many tasks. LPNs must have a license to work in this position, which can be attained through LPN training.
LPN’s At a Glance
Other Job Titles: Licensed Vocational Nurse
Salary Range*: $30,000-$56,000; Median $40,000
Education/Training Required: 1-year accredited program through vocational/technical colleges
Desired Skills/Aptitude: Compassion; interpersonal communication skills; patience; attention to details
Certification/Licensing: Must be licensed
Locations with Best Opportunities: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland
Employment Outlook: Increase by 22% through 2020 (faster than average)
Opportunities for Advancement: Move to supervisory roles; move to other medical careers with continued education and degrees
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What a Licensed Practical Nurse Does
The duties of an LPN are many but mainly focused on providing assistance to doctors, patients, and keeping a medical facility or home healthcare operation running smoothly. The duties include:
- Monitoring patient progress
- Patient record keeping
- Patient support
- Checking vital signs
- Assisting in baby deliveries / post-natal care
- Preparation for surgery
- Caring for the hygiene of patients
The LPN has a high level of interaction with patients beginning with providing emotional support. For some patients, a hospital stay can be quite lonely and this is where the LPN is a welcome face. Other patient support duties include recording the patient’s progress and what the patient eats and drinks each day.
In the area of baby deliveries and post-natal care, an LPN may conduct classes for family members on what to expect during the birthing as well as how to care for the infant afterward. They may also teach those in the family of a bedridden or disabled patient how to give that person daily care.
Another important duty of the LPN is to create a sterile area in the operating room prior to surgery. This includes setting up surgical tools that will be needed for the operation. An LPN will also hand these tools to surgeons during the operation when requested.
Many patients are bedridden or disabled and cannot care for themselves when it comes to hygiene. This is also where an LPN comes in. They may change bandages, bathe and dress the patient, and apply new dressings.
LPNs work mostly in nursing care facilities. Other places they work are doctor’s offices, as home health care service employees, hospitals, and community care facilities. They spend much of their day on their feet attending to patient bedsides and at times helping to lift them. Most do shift work.
The median salary is around $40,000 and can get as high as $56,000. LPNs advance their careers by continuing their education, getting an advanced degree, and entering another medical field such as a registered nurse.
Education and Certification
Before deciding to pursue a career as an LPN, take a self-inventory to see if you have certain characteristics. The job is can be highly stressful and an LPN needs to have a high level of patience in order to interface empathetically with patients who are sick and injured. An LPN candidate should also be in good physical condition because the job entails lifting patients, bending over, and being on the feet most of the day. Written and verbal communication skills are a must as well.
A candidate for a position as an LPN must complete a post-secondary education program. Programs typically take about one year and can be taken at most vocational/technical colleges. In these programs, students learn through supervised clinical sessions and take courses in nursing, pharmacology, and biology. Each state has its own requirements as to the curriculum that must be taken.
Since the job is licensed by definition, a candidate must take an exam known as the National Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).
*Salary Source: BLS May 2012