What Does a Licensed Practical Nurse Do?

If you’re a caretaker by nature and are interested in the medical field, this job could be a natural fit.

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide hands-on medical care to patients. They respond to requests, keep patients comfortable and provide basic bedside patient care.

They work under the direct supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or a doctor. They are an essential link between patients, their families, RNs and the rest of the medical team. Good communication skills are crucial.

LPNs, also sometimes called practical nurses, have a wide variety of responsibilities. They prepare and give injections, apply dressings, monitor catheters and take vital signs.

An interesting, lesser-known detail: An LPN’s job responsibilities vary depending on the state and the setting where they work.

LPNs need patience, compassion, organization skills and a calm demeanor. Hospital rooms and doctors’ offices can be busy places, and these skills make a difference in that kind of environment.

Being an LPN is satisfying because you can make a difference every day through direct patient contact. LPNs are valuable members of the healthcare team, and yet you can train for this job in a relatively short period of time. The job is also a good stepping stone to other jobs in the medical community.

Keep reading to learn more about becoming an LPN. 

$ 42,000 - $ 69,500
$ 54,300
A licensed practical nurse tests a patient’s blood oxygen level with a pulse oximeter
A job as a licensed practical nurse offers a relatively fast track to making a difference in patients’ lives. (Credit: FamVeld/Shutterstock)

Job Responsibilities

  • Measure and monitor vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiration
  • Administer and monitor some medications
  • Assist doctors and nurses with tests and procedures
  • Maintain patient records
  • Help patients eat, dress and bathe
  • Update doctors and nurses on patient status

How To Become an LPN or LVN: FAQs

What steps should I take?

First, you’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent. 

Next, complete your LPN education through a state-approved program offered at a community college or technical school. Look for programs accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). 

Don’t brush off the accreditation step. It can be important for financial aid and getting licensed.

LPN programs include courses in nursing, biology and pharmacology with hands-on training in a clinical setting.

Once you’ve earned your diploma, study for and take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). 

By passing the exam, you’ll earn your license to practice as an LPN. The license will be mailed to you by the state Board of Nursing. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing lists all state boards. 

Licensure is required in all states.

Another pathway to this job is through military training, but check the rules in your state. 

Continuing education is a great way to learn new skills and expand your knowledge. Common certifications include hospice care/long-term care and pharmacology.

Being an LPN is a satisfying career. And if you decide you want to learn more, there will be plenty of opportunity. With additional education and hard work, LPNs can become registered nurses or a number of other medical professions, including physical therapy assistant or physical therapist.

Are there any other qualifications?

Many employers require a background check and certification in Basic Life Support (BLS).

How long does it take to become an LPN?

Most programs last one year and some last two. 

LPN vs LVN: What’s the difference?

The difference between an LPN and an LVN is location: Only California and Texas use the LVN acronym to refer to entry-level nurses. The responsibilities are the same.

Is there a demand for LPNs?

The need for nurses won't slow down any time soon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment rate for LPNs will grow 6% from 2021 to 2031. 

What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

Successful LPNs tend to be: 

  • Patient
  • Empathetic
  • Detail-oriented
  • Excellent at communicating
  • Work well under pressure
  • Organized and able to handle multiple tasks
The bottom line:

Licensed practical nurses are needed now and they’ll be needed in the future. As with many other medical jobs, the increase in LPN jobs will be driven by an aging population as well as chronic conditions. It’s a smart, entry-level opportunity for someone who has a caring nature and wants to work with patients directly. If this sounds like you, check out SkillPointe’s training options near you and get started on your new career!

Why Becoming an LPN Is Worthwhile

Why Becoming an LPN Is Worthwhile

Tammy Ronstadt was in the 11th grade when she realized she wanted to be a nurse. She started nursing school at 17, and she hasn't looked back.

"I just feel that’s what I was called to do," she says. She encourages more people to seriously consider getting into nursing, especially those just coming out of high school.

"You will always have a job. There's never going to be a shortage [of jobs]. We are greatly in need."

Hear what else she has to say about why you should consider becoming a nurse.

Nurse - LPN / LVN Training in Your Area

Cuyahoga Community College

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School logo for Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana

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