How to Become a LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse)

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Around the country there are millions of patients in a variety of health care facilities that need excellent nursing care. Under the supervision of registered nurses or physicians, LPNs, formally called licensed practical nurses care for patients who are ill, injured, disabled, or recovering from medical treatment.


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What does a LPN do?

Licensed practical nurses care for patients in a variety of ways including basic bedside care, measuring and recording vital signs (weight, height, pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and temperature), and administering medications. They prepare and administer shots and injections, dress wounds, monitor catheters, give enemas, and give massages. They also help patients with activities such as walking, eating, bathing, and dressing. LPNs are also responsible for monitoring patients and making note of reactions to treatments or medications. They collect samples, record food and liquid intake and output, and perform routine laboratory tests. They also monitor and sanitize medical equipment and help registered nurses and physicians perform procedures and tests. They often educate family members on how to care for patients when they leave the medical facility.

What kind of training does a LPN need?

LPNs typically need formal practical nurse training, which is offered by many community and junior colleges and technical and vocational schools. Some high schools, colleges and universities, and hospitals also offer practical nurse training programs. Most programs include classroom instruction and supervised clinical practice. Classroom coursework includes basic nursing concepts on patient care, anatomy, physiology, pediatrics, medical surgical nursing, obstetrics, psychiatric nursing, and first aid, nutrition, and the administration of medication. Clinical practice usually takes place in hospitals, clinics, or other health care settings.

All states require licensed practical nurses to be licensed. The licensing requirements are usually completing an approved practical nursing program and passing the NCLEX-PN examination.

What are the prospects for a career as a LPN?

Employment of LPNs is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Population growth, an aging population, and increase in health care services will drive job growth.

Job prospects are projected to be very good especially in nursing care and home health care positions. Job opportunities will also occur from the need to replace LPNs that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do LPNs make?

As of September 2009, the middle 50% of LPNs earned annual salaries between $36,033 and $43,420. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $46,826 (2).

A career as a LPN is a great choice for individuals who wish to care for patients in a variety of settings. LPNs should be caring, sympathetic, and have great bedside manner. Great communication, good judgment and decision-making, and excellent observation are essential. They must be emotionally stable and be able to work well under pressure and in stressful and dangerous situations. LPNs must be able to effectively work as part of a team and follow directions.

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