Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses


Quick Facts: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
2017 Median Pay $45,030 per year 
$21.65 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Postsecondary nondegree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 724,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 12% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 88,900

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Licensed Practical, and Licensed Vocational Nurses Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses Do

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic medical care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

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Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Duties of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses typically do the following:

  • Monitor patients’ health—for example, by checking their blood pressure

  • Administer basic patient care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters

  • Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as helping them bathe or dress

  • Discuss the care they are providing with patients and listen to their concerns

  • Report patients’ status and concerns to registered nurses and doctors

  • Keep records on patients’ health

Duties of LPNs and LVNs vary, depending on their work setting and the state in which they work. For example, they may reinforce teaching done by registered nurses regarding how family members should care for a relative; help to deliver, care for, and feed infants; collect samples for testing and do routine laboratory tests; or feed patients who need help eating.

LPNs and LVNs may be limited to doing certain tasks, depending on the state where they work. For example, in some states, LPNs with proper training can give medication or start intravenous (IV) drips, but in other states LPNs cannot perform these tasks. State regulations also govern the extent to which LPNs and LVNs must be directly supervised. For example, an LPN may provide certain forms of care only with instructions from a registered nurse.

In some states, experienced licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses supervise and direct other LPNs or LVNs and unlicensed medical staff.


Work Environment for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses held about 724,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses were as follows:

Nursing and residential care facilities: 38%

Hospitals; state, local, and private: 16%

Offices of physicians: 13%

Home healthcare services: 12%

Government: 7%

Nurses must often be on their feet for much of the day. They are vulnerable to back injuries, because they may have to lift patients who have trouble moving in bed, standing, or walking. These duties can be stressful, as can dealing with ill and injured people.

Work Schedules for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) work full time, although about 1 in 5 worked part time in 2016. Many work nights, weekends, and holidays, because medical care takes place at all hours. They may be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours.


How to Become a Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse

Becoming a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse (LPN or LVN) requires completing an approved educational program. LPNs and LVNs must have a license.

Education

LPNs and LVNs must complete an approved educational program. These programs award a certificate or diploma and typically take about 1 year to complete, but may take longer. They are commonly found in technical schools and community colleges, although some programs may be available in high schools or hospitals.

Practical nursing programs combine classroom learning in subjects such as nursing, biology, and pharmacology. All programs also include supervised clinical experience.

Contact state boards of nursing for lists of approved programs.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

After completing a state-approved educational program, prospective LPNs and LVNs can take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). In all states, they must pass the exam to get a license and work as an LPN or LVN. For more information on the NCLEX-PN examination and a list of state boards of nursing, visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

LPNs and LVNs may choose to become certified through professional associations in areas such as gerontology and intravenous (IV) therapy. Certifications show that an LPN or LVN has an advanced level of knowledge about a specific subject.

In addition, employers may prefer to hire candidates who are trained to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Advancement

With experience, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses may advance to supervisory positions. Some LPNs and LVNs advance to other healthcare occupations. For example, an LPN may complete a LPN to RN education program to become a registered nurse.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses must be empathetic and caring toward the people they serve.

Detail oriented. LPNs and LVNs need to be responsible and detail oriented, because they must make sure that patients get the correct care at the right time.

Interpersonal skills. Interacting with patients and other healthcare providers is a big part of their jobs, so LPNs and LVNs need good interpersonal skills.

Patience. Dealing with sick and injured people may be stressful. LPNs and LVNs should be patient, so they can cope with any stress that stems from providing care to these patients.

Physical stamina. LPNs and LVNs should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over patients for a long time.

Speaking skills. It is important that LPNs and LVNs communicate effectively. For example, they may need to relay information about a patient’s current condition to a registered nurse.


salaries for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses 

The median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses was $45,030 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,970, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,030.

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government: $46,660

Nursing and residential care facilities: $46,280

Home healthcare services: $45,220

Hospitals; state, local, and private: $43,550

Offices of physicians: $41,270

Most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) work full time, although about 1 in 5 worked part time in 2016. Many work nights, weekends, and holidays, because medical care takes place at all hours. They may be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours.


Job Outlook for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses 

Employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

As the baby-boom population ages, the overall need for healthcare services is expected to increase. LPNs and LVNs will be needed in residential care facilities and in home health environments to care for older patients.

A number of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, have become more prevalent in recent years. LPNs and LVNs will be needed to assist and care for patients with chronic conditions in skilled nursing and other extended care facilities. In addition, many procedures that once could be done only in hospitals are now being done outside of hospitals, creating demand in other settings, such as outpatient care centers.

Job Prospects for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Job prospects for dentists are expected to be good. There are still areas of the country where patients need dental care but have little access to it. Job prospects will be especially good for dentists who are willing to work in these areas.

Employment projections data for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 724,500

Projected Employment, 2026: 813,400

Change, 2016-2026: +12%, +88,900


Careers Related to licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Nursing assistants, sometimes called nursing aides, help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients; occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Physical therapist assistants, sometimes called PTAs, and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain.

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

Psychiatric technicians and aides care for people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities. Technicians typically provide therapeutic care and monitor their patients’ conditions. Aides help patients in their daily activities and ensure a safe, clean environment.

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors during surgeries.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies$27,510
Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides$56,690
Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides$46,920
Psychiatric Technicians and Aides$29,330
Registered NursesBachelor's degree$70,000
Surgical TechnologistsPostsecondary nondegree award$46,310
Medical AssistantsPostsecondary nondegree award$32,480

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm