The position of the licensed practical nurse (LPN), also known as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) in Texas and California, is the lowest level of the nursing professions in the United States. It is a good career choice for individuals who are interested in the field of nursing but don't have the financial resources or desire to complete a two or four-year program. LPNs typically are the ones who provide direct, hands-on, bedside care for patients. Most often they work in hospitals and nursing homes.
The appeal of the LPN position is that it enables workers to complete their education and get into the workforce very quickly. However, many individuals use the LPN position as a stepping stone to eventually become a registered nurse. Doing things this way allow an individual to get working as soon as possible so he or she can earn a living while undergoing a registered nursing program. In some cases the education and experience one receives as an LPN allows the individual to enter an accelerated BSN (Bachelor of Science in nursing) program to become an RN.
Duties of the Licensed Practical Nurse
Because state regulations limit the tasks a licensed practical nurse is allowed to perform, you rarely find them working anywhere other than hospitals and nursing homes. As stated earlier, their tasks consist mainly of the daily bedside care of patients. They will do things like check vital signs, monitor patient condition and recovery, watch for adverse reactions to medications, bathe and groom patients, help patients move in and out of bed, and so on. It is a demanding career which requires physical stamina and a lot of compassion.
The duties for a licensed practical nurse in a nursing home setting are often more demanding than those in the hospital setting. The primary reason for this lies in the fact that the nursing home is made up of elderly people and those with disabilities that prevent them from living elsewhere. That means a lot of strenuous activities like moving patients, changing linens, and bathing and grooming. In addition, since hospitals and nursing homes require 24-hour staffing, LPNs will work all three shifts.
Becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse
One of the benefits of pursuing a career as a licensed practical nurse comes by way of the relatively short certification program. A typical program focuses mainly on routine tasks of daily care and can be completed within one year. Courses are offered through local community colleges, nursing schools, vocational training centers, and hospitals. There are even some cases where programs are available to high school seniors as part of their final year of public school education.
The one thing candidates need to be aware of is that in order to take a state licensing exam you must complete a certification program that has state approval. Using Texas as an example, that state has hundreds of schools offering state approved nursing programs through which students can complete their education and then take a licensing exam. However, there are currently six schools in the state whose programs are not approved. Their graduates are not able to take the licensing exam at the end of their educational program. Why students would consider enrolling in such a program is unclear.
Job Outlook and Salary
An ever increasing demand for healthcare services indicates that the job outlook for LPN graduates is very bright. Currently, demand is out-pacing supply to the extent that there are incredible LPN shortages all around the country. As our population continues to age, and more baby boomers begin accessing long-term healthcare services, the demand for LPNs is expected to grow proportionately. Suffice it to say that graduates should have their choice of work assignments for quite some time in the future.
The earning potential for LPNs is obviously not as great as it is for those who go on to get higher degrees, but it's also not bad either. According to the most recent statistics the average annual salary for an LPN in a hospital or nursing home setting is approximately $30,000. That's certainly enough to raise a family on if you are budget conscious. For singles, it's a salary which would allow one to lead a fairly comfortable life without having to worry about income.
Working as an LPN takes a certain type of individual with a strong back and a hefty dose of compassion. As a career choice it allows individuals to get to work very quickly with certification that only takes a year. If you're getting ready to graduate from high school this spring you might consider becoming a licensed practical nurse. It is a rewarding career both financially and personally.