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Licensed Practical Nurse Career

Career Description

A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) cares for people who are sick, injured, convalescent, or disabled under the direction of physicians and registered nurses.

Common Work Tasks

  • Measure and record patients’ vital signs such as height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration
  • Prepare and give injections and enemas, monitor catheters, dress wounds, and give alcohol rubs and massages
  • Assist with bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene, moving in bed, standing, and walking
  • Collect samples for testing, perform routine laboratory tests, and record food and fluid intake and output
  • Help physicians and registered nurses perform tests and procedures
  • Monitor their patients and report adverse reactions to medications or treatments
  • Gather information from patients, including their health history and how they are currently feeling
  • Use information to complete insurance forms,  pre-authorizations, and referrals, and share information with registered nurses and doctors to help determine the best course of care for a patient
  • Teach family members how to care for a relative or teach patients about good health habits
  • Work in a specialized settings, such as a nursing homes, a doctor’s offices, or in home health care

Other Job Titles

Licensed Practical Nurses are also known by other titles,  including:

  • LPN’s
  • Licensed Vocational Nurses
  • LVN’s
  • Nursing Assistants

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Most training programs, lasting about 1 year, are offered by vocational or technical schools or community or junior colleges. A high school diploma or its equivalent usually is required for entry, although some programs accept candidates without a diploma, and some programs are part of a high school curriculum.

Certification and Licensure
The NCLEX-PN licensing exam is required in order to obtain licensure as an LPN. The exam is developed and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.  The NCLEX-PN is a computer-based exam and varies in length. The exam covers four major categories: safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity.

  LPNs should have a caring, sympathetic nature. They should be emotionally stable because working with the sick and injured can be stressful. They also need to be observant, and to have good decision-making and communication skills. As part of a health-care team, they must be able to follow orders and work under close supervision.


The median annual salary for a Licensed Practical Nurse is $38,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $52,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $27,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of licensed practical nurses are:

  • Nursing Care Facilities - $40,550
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - $37,790
  • Offices of Physicians - $34,820
  • Home Health Care Services - $40,440
  • Employment Services - $43,700

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  14%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 105,000
  • Employment 2006 : 749,000
  • Employment 2016:  854,000
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