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Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurse Career, Job and Employment Information

Licensed Practical (LPN) and Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Career and Job Highlights

  • The majority of new employment opportunities will come from nursing care facilities.
  • The number of jobs for LPNs in hospitals is expected to decline, increasing competition for jobs in hospitals.
  • More than 1,000 approved programs, typically offered by technical schools, offer 1-year certification courses.

Practical and Vocational Nurse Career Information and Job Description

Under the supervision of doctors and more highly trained nurses, LPNs and LVNs take care of those with health problems, whether they are sick, dying, or disabled.

LPNs gather patients’ vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. They also take care of patients by giving injection, enemas, and massages; watching catheters; dressing wounds and incisions; and taking care of bedsores. LPNs observe the patients’ reactions to drugs and treatments and report ill affects to the patients’ doctors. They assist with testing by collecting fluids or other samples and performing more routine tests themselves. They help patients stay comfortable by helping them change clothes and bathe. Some States allow LPNs to start IVs and give some medicines. Babies are fed and taken care of by LPNs in the hospital. Those with more experience may become supervisors of nursing assistants.

In nursing care facilities, the LPNs provide for the basic needs of the residents, supervise the services of nursing assistants, and help create care plans. Doctors’ office LPNs schedule appointments and perform secretarial duties in addition to their health care responsibilities. Educating families and feeding patients are two of the primary roles LPNs fill when working in private homes.

LPNs spend a lot of time on their feet walking, standing, and helping patients sit, stand, and walk. A typical work week is 40 hours, though due to the nature of the work, they may need to be on call in the evenings or weekends.

Stressful situations are possible, including exposure to contagious diseases, radiation, and chemicals. Physically demanding aspects of this type of work include lifting patients and dealing with heavy equipment. LPNs may sometimes work with patients who are nervous, agitated, and difficult.

Nurse Career Training and Job Qualifications

LPNs must graduate from a State-approved practical nursing program and pass a test in order to become licensed. Entry into one of these programs usually requires a high school diploma, but some programs either do not require the diploma or integrate the program into a high school’s curriculum.

More than 1,000 approved programs, typically offered by technical schools, offer 1-year certification courses in 2002. More than half were studying at a technical school, while 30 percent were enrolled at junior colleges. The remainder were studying in hospitals, universities, and integrated high school programs.

Practical nursing programs usually include coursework and hands on training in hospitals. Lasting about one year, these programs include classes on pediatrics, obstetrics, nutrition, first aid, drug administration, physiology, anatomy, and pre- and post-operative nursing.

Good interpersonal communication and decision making skills are important assets. Emotional stability helps when working with sick people. Attention to details and a team-player attitude are essential skills when working in the healthcare industry.

Licensed Nurse Job and Employment Opportunities

Because of the aging population and projected growth of the healthcare industry, job growth for LPNs is expected to average through 2012. Many jobs will become available as current LPNs leave the industry for good.

Technological advances are making some healthcare procedures once performed only in hospitals available to be done in outpatient clinics or doctors’ offices. As a consequence, opportunities for LPNs in such facilities are projected to grow faster than average. The decreasing number of job opportunities in hospitals will increase competition for those positions.

Home healthcare services are expected to provide an increasing number of LPN jobs. The aging population, technological advances, and a shift in client preference to in-home care are expected to spur this growth.

Historical Earnings Information

In 2002, licensed practical nurses earned a median $31,440. The highest 10 percent made more than $44,040 while the lowest 10 percent made less than $22,860. The middle two quartiles were paid between $26,430 and $37,050.