Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and physicians to provide patients with basic medical care. They are employed in hospitals, physician’s clinics, nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitation centers, extended care facilities, and hospices. Their tasks include checking a patient’s blood pressure, changing bandages, collecting samples for testing, and helping patients bathe and eat. LPNs may also advise a patient’s family on how to care for their loved one at home. State regulations determine the limits on the type of patient care LPNs can provide.
Although some hospitals across the U.S. are phasing out their LPN staff or requiring that their LPNs obtain a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), the demand for LPNs remains high due the health needs of the nation’s large and aging baby boomer population. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that from 2010 to 2020, employment of LPNs is expected to increase by 22%.
Obtaining a practical nursing certificate through a state-approved program is the first step to becoming an LPN. Practical nursing programs combine classroom instruction with hands-on laboratory practice and clinical training and are offered by technical school and community colleges as well as high schools and hospitals. These programs are designed to prepare students to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) which candidates must pass in order to become licensed and practice as an LPN or a licensed vocational nurse (LVN).