What Does a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Do?

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are tasked with a variety of basic nursing duties.

They are supervised by doctors and registered nurses (RN) while working in hospitals, medical offices, and health care facilities.

They can also provide in-home care.

Because of the aging baby-boomer generation, the occupation is growing and has high employment rates.

LPNs don’t need the same level of education as RNs.

But they play a key role in healthcare providing assistance to doctors and RNs in treatment and care for the patients.

Licensed Practical Nurse Duties & Responsibilities

LPNs are usually responsible for:

  • Keeping and maintaining records.
  • Monitoring patients.
  • Providing basic care.
  • Listening to patients.
  • Reporting to RNs or doctors.
  • Making patients comfortable.

The tasks of LPNs are more complex than the duties of CNAs but not as complex as RNs’ tasks.

They monitor the patients’ health and look for signs of improvement or deterioration.

LPNs take vital signs and track the changes in monitor readings.

LPNs perform basic nursing tasks such as wound dressing and changing bandages.

They ensure that patients’ basic needs such as food and fluid intake are in order and keep patients comfortable.

LPNs can also administer medications depending on the standards of the institution and state.

The levels of care that LPNs can provide vary from state to state.

So as you are entering the field, you need to check the regulations of the state in which you are planning to work.

Licensed Practical Nurse Salary

LPNs make more than CNAs but less than RNs.

  • Median Annual Salary: $45,030 ($21.65/hour).
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $32,970 ($15.85/hour).
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $61,030 ($29.34/hour).

Education, Training, & Certification

While specific requirements for LPNs are different in each state, they should have a license in all of them.

Generally, LPNs should complete a diploma or certificate program, which usually takes one or two years.

Education:

LPNs can take diploma or certificate programs at technical schools, colleges, and some hospitals.

Such programs are even offered in some high schools

Certification:

LPNs should take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).

They can also acquire certifications in particular specialties, such as nephrology, IV therapy, or hospice care.

Licensed Practical Nurse Skills & Competencies

LPNs need a range of soft and hard skills.

Based on the specific job, the required skill can vary, but some common requirements include:

  • Compassion:
    The job is all about caring for patients, and often, they can be very sick, badly injured, or even dying.
    The LPNs’ priority is making them as comfortable as possible.
  • Patience:
    Providing care to injured or sick people can be extremely stressful.
    Patients can be in pain or experience discomfort or be unable to cooperate for some other reason.
  • Stamina:
    Most of the day nurses work on their feet or have to help move patients.
    They may also have to help patients with physical tasks like bathing, getting dressed, or using the bathroom.
  • Communication:
    LPNs need to communicate with patients to determine their conditions as well as with doctors and nurses about the overall care of each patient.
  • Detail-oriented:
    LPNs work with multiple patients monitoring their vital signs, dietary needs, or medication schedules.
    Even minor errors with any of these details can have serious consequences.
    So LPNs should be extremely accurate.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects the employment rate for LPNs to grow by 12% through 2026.

This rate is 7% higher than the national average for all occupations.

With the aging boomer population, the demand for healthcare services grows as well as for LPNs with certifications or experience with elderly citizens.

Work Environment

LPNs work in various healthcare settings as a part of a medical team, including RNs, doctors, and other professionals.

They can be employed in health clinics, hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and private physician practices.

Some LPNs provide in-home care to patients.

They work on their feet almost all day and may have to help lift and move patients.

Work Schedule

LPNs can work both full-time and part-time.

Schedules often include nights, holidays, and weekends since healthcare is necessary 24/7.

Sometimes, shifts can last longer than 8 hours, but in this case, the workweek can be shorter.

How to Get the Job

Training

LPNs can get a diploma or a certificate through community colleges and even hospitals.

Licensing

In all states, LPNs must pass the NCLEX-PN exam to become licensed.

Serve Greatest Needs

LPNs who wish to serve areas of the greatest needs (e.g., nursing care facilities) have better chances of finding a job.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Those who are interested in becoming an LPN can also consider the following careers:

  • Registered Nurse: median salary – $70,000.
  • Psychiatric Technician or Aide: median salary – $29,330.
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant or Aide: median salary – $56,690.

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