The Scoop on Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

We always see LPN or LVN after a nurse's name but we never have any idea what these initials mean.

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN) are interchangeable terms. That solves some of the confusion right there. The job outlook in this field is good, but many openings will come when nurses retire so if you want to get in the game get in now before the river runs dry.

What in the World Does a Licensed Practical (or Vocational) Nurse Do?

An LPN cares for patients who are recovering from surgery, in convalescent care, or for patients who might be in hospice. If you're working as an LPN you are under the direct supervision of an RN (Registered Nurse) or a Doctor. Depending on where you work and where you live the amount of supervision you're supposed to have might vary.

As an LPN you might need to gather samples from your patients for testing, get their medical history or try to learn certain things about them that might help the Doctors in treating them. You may need to go so far as helping a patient dress or bathe because they may be physically unable to do so themselves. Outside of helping the patient you may need to instruct their family in how to care for them or answer any questions the family might have.

Because you would be a generalist you can work in any medical field as an LPN and you will be able to learn a lot about a lot of different medical fields if you so choose. Since many medical fields are similar you will also be able to help produce patient care plans and advise Doctors on how a patient is doing or what they need.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Training programs for LPN's vary from situation to situation, but usually the training program will last about a year. Depending on your situation you might take your training at a local hospital, health clinic, community college, or vocational school.

Because Licensing is in the title it stands to reason that you will have to be licensed to work as an LPN. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing offers the NCLEX-PN exam that you would have to pass to get your license to practice as an LPN. The best part of this licensing process if that the exam is taken on the computer. (That way it doesn't feel so much like the SAT.)

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

LPN's usually work in hospitals and health clinics. Basically the rule of thumb is...wherever there are Doctors and RNs there are also LPNs. Hospitals are the biggest employers in this field, but health clinics, nursing homes, doctor's offices, and hospice facilities. In each setting you would be working under RNs and Doctors.

If you wanted to do something that was a little more "outside the box" you might want to work part-time hours in more than one place to get more experience in different medical fields. This is an especially god idea if you want to become an RN or a Doctor later on.

Advancement in the profession is going to require more schooling. The only case in which it doesn't is if you get promoted to "charge nurse" within a nursing home or health clinic. Otherwise, you will need to go to school to become an RN or a Doctor. The good news is that you can work in a variety of settings and that can make this job very interesting.

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Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses Overview

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse Salary:$39,030
Job Prospects:A-
Education after high school:1 years
# Employed in US:730,500
% Who work Part Time:18%
Physical Difficulty:+ + + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being a LPN or LVN

  • The training doesn't take very long
  • You can work in multiple settings
  • It is great preparation for nursing school or a great job to have while you're in nursing school

The Cons of being a LPN or LVN

  • You stay on your feet a lot
  • It might be hard to work in hospice care with dying patients
  • The only way to advance yourself is to go back to school