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Licensed Practical Nurse: Education and Career Information

If you enjoy working in a medical setting, but do not want to handle all the intricacies of a registered nurse (RN), a career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) may be the route for you. Although they work in medical facilities, they assist registered nurses and other medical professionals. They handle a number of administrative responsibilities that help free up the registered nurses to complete their duties. There is a distinct difference between an LPN and an RN, from roles and responsibilities, to the educational path they must take. An LPN does not have as many educational requirements as an RN, but tend to learn as much as an RN through practical application.

What does a licensed practical nurse do?

A licensed practical nurse does a variety of jobs and assists the registered nurses and medical professionals. They handle a variety of tasks, especially administrative, and are able to perform clinical tasks such as charting the medical record, administering oral and IV medicine, collecting blood and urine specimens, changing dressings, inserting tubes, feeding through tubes, caring for urinary catheters, performing CPR, taking orders from the medical practitioner, and monitoring patients. Many LPNs are long-term caregivers and can be found in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, medical offices, urgent care clinics, schools and working in home care.

How much does a licensed practical nurse earn?

According to, a licensed practical nurse makes on average, $44,692. The overall range for this career is between $40,600 and $50,034, but can vary depending on education, location, facility, or whether or not they are working in home care. The LPN is a very important role in the medical profession, and this position stays in high demand.

What types of skills are needed to become a long-term care nurse?

Communication Skills: Communication skills are vital as an LPN. This role works closely with patients and their families, as well as with other healthcare professionals. They must be able to disseminate, comprehend and gather information from all parties about the needs and condition of the patient to make sure they are receiving the care they need.

Decision-Making Skills: The LPN must be able to make sound decisions and use good judgment. This is essential in being able to perform efficiently and productively. They must be able to handle stress well, and handle issues as they arise. An LPN must be able to think quick and react in preparation for emergencies.

Time Management Skills: An LPN must have excellent time management skills. As the backup to a registered nurse, they will have a number of patients to attend to at one time. They are always busy, and must be able to keep track of the patients, their needs, their medications, doctor’s orders, and the needs of the nurses they assist.

Computer Skills: Technology skills are a must, as the medical field relies heavily on the use of technology to keep track of patient records, administer medications, keep reports and changes, and other vital information. The LPN is highly administrative, which means they are held accountable for the accuracy of records and monitoring the conditions of the patients. They must be able to quickly grasp new software and be adaptable to change.

Supervisory Skills: Since LPNs typically monitor the activities of nursing assistants and orderlies, good supervisory skills are essential to ensure a functional and professional team environment.

Clinical Skills: An LPN must have excellent clinical skills, which are learned through the program and during internships. The practical nursing program will adequately prepare the LPN in the care of patients and how to properly deal with their families and other medical professionals. The LPN must have knowledge, skills and ability to be able to perform their duties successfully.

Internship Requirements

There are clinical requirements in the LPN program that are necessary in order to earn the certificate. Requirements vary per program and are usually very hands-on throughout the learning process.

Education Requirements

LPNs attend special programs that are specifically designed to attain the licensed practical nurse designation through a certificate or diploma. These programs are significantly shorter than a traditional RN program. Students should expect to complete the LPN program in about 18 months. This program focuses on the “hands-on” aspects of learning, and has a number of schooling options available. Coursework for the LPN program may include medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, nursing care of adults and children, nutrition, pharmacology, and psychology.

Once the LPN program has been completed, the student must sit for the NCLEX-PN exam, which is the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses. This is a 5-hour exam and is computerized, adjusting the difficulty and subject matter based on how the student answers the questions.

LPNs can move forward in their careers by qualifying for special clinical roles. This requires additional training or professional development courses. LPN specialized certifications include long-term care, gerontology, IV therapy, pharmacology, hospice and palliative care, immunization, neonatal education and dialysis.

Many individuals who start out as a licensed practical nurse realize they want to further their career and enter the nursing program. Because they already have the LPN designation, their route to the Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree will not take as long. By going this route, they already have a lot of clinical experience, and will quickly move up the career ladder once they attain the RN designation in roles, responsibilities and pay.

LPNs are an asset to the medical profession and are diligent in their roles. Every time you are in a medical facility or hospital, you will encounter an LPN assisting in some way. For those who prefer to assist rather than become a full-fledged nurse, this is a great way to contribute to the profession. Many LPNs have other careers and do this as a side profession because of their desire to help others. It is a rewarding and enriching role that is important within the healthcare industry.

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship
The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association
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