Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic medical care to the sick, injured, and disabled under the supervision of doctors and/or registered nurses (RNs). The LPN/LVN profession only requires you to obtain a diploma, certificate, or associate degree from an accredited nursing program; these typically take one or two years. The term ‘LPN’ is most frequently used to describe these professionals, though some states prefer to call them LVNs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does LPN Stand For?
An LPN is a Licensed Practical Nurse.
What Does LVN Stand For?
An LVN is a Licensed Vocational Nurse.
What’s the Difference Between an LPN and LVN?
‘LPN’ and ‘LVN’ can be used interchangeably to describe the same position. Both have the same educational and licensing requirements, and they generally perform the same tasks. The difference between the two terms acronyms lies in which state the nurse practices: nurses in California, Texas, and Vermont are called LVNs, while all other states in the U.S. call them LPNs.
What Does an LPN Do?
An LPN is a healthcare professional trained in practical nursing. LPNs work under the supervision of their doctors and sometimes other nurses to accomplish a variety of tasks important for ordinary patient care. These tasks include monitoring a patient’s health, measuring vital signs, tracking medical history, administer medications, perform treatments, changing bandages, helping patients bathe and dress, discussing medical care and concerns with patients, and in some cases assume leadership roles.
The roles of an LPN and RN in healthcare settings are rather different due to the limitations imposed by their respective licensure boards. LPNs work under their own license and within their own scope of practice.
The LPN is responsible for more basic patient care and comfort, and they generally report to doctors and RNs; the RN guides treatment plans for patients based on the data and observations gathered by the LPN.
In accordance with their increased responsibility, RNs also have more education and training than LPNs. They also usually earn a higher salary.
LPNS are found working in many different settings, including:
- Hospitals (private and public)
- Physicians’ offices
- Nursing homes
- In-home healthcare
- Military organizations
- Residential care facilities
- Correctional facilities
What Does It Take to Become an LPN?
LPNs spend most of their time in direct contact with patients and must notice even small changes in their health. Understanding these changes and quickly noticing them can prevent further damage to their health and direct future treatment plans.
Organized and Detail-Oriented
Nurses need strong organizational skills to keep track of all patient records and to provide patients with pertinent information at a moment’s notice. There are often a shortage of nurses in many patient care facilities, and LPNs must be organized to accommodate several patients at once and ensure that each receives adequate and effective care in a timely manner. Attention to detail is key for ensuring a patient’s vitals and medicines are correctly recorded at each check-in.
Compassionate and Patient
Being compassionate helps patients and their loved ones feel comfortable putting their care in the hands of LPNs. Some patients have some degree of physical or mental disability and may need extra help with basic tasks, which also requires patience and empathy. Your compassion can also reduce the stress your patients feel.
Physical Strength and Stamina
Caring for patients of all shapes and sizes in long (8-12 hour) shifts can be strenuous and requires a great deal of physical strength and stamina. LPNs are also frequently on their feet all day, running between patients and supervisors; great shoes and good endurance are important.
LPNs must be able to comprehend both old and new patient data and integrate it with the patient’s current medical status to provide an accurate assessment for further care. This skill is particularly important in cases of emergency, where examinations and decisions must be made quickly.
LPNs interact with patients, nurses, family members, and many other people throughout the course of their day. They must effectively communicate medical care and prescription information to patients at all levels of competency, and also be comfortable working in teams with doctors and nurses to efficiently coordinate each patient’s care.
Caring for others, especially those in critical condition, requires significant mental strength. Additionally, medical emergencies and other environmental stressors (noisy offices, potent chemicals, varying schedules, etc.) challenge LPNs to maintain composure under difficult circumstances.
LPN/LVN Salary Information and Job Outlook
How much do LPN/LVN nurses make?$34,920+$39,960+$45,000+$50,030+
- Median Hourly Wage (2015): $21.17
- Mean Salary (2015): $44,030
Nurses are in Demand
- 712,000 New Jobs
- 495,500 Replacement Jobs
- 10.2 Million by 2020
- 26% More Nursing Jobs Expected to Be Created between 2010 and 2020
Source: Data taken from The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed: December 2015.
Meet an LPN Nurse
LPN/LVN Nurse Resources
LPN Career Resources
Certification and Licensure Resources for LPNs
Online LPN Programs
There are no fully online programs that offer LPN certificates. The skills that LPNs need can only be learned in an in-person program: most of your tasks are practice-based, and must be learned in person. Some programs, however, offer a few classes online in addition to the in-person requirements. In class, you’ll learn how to obtain a patient’s vital signs and laboratory specimens, change bandages and dressings, and work within a medical team.
If you are an accredited, not-for-profit institution that offers an online LPN or LVN program and that isn’t listed, please contact us with details about your program, a link to your program page and proof of accreditation.
LVN Programs & LPN Programs
If you notice any errors in the database below or are a college or university that is not represented here, please contact us. We will get on it immediately!