How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse

Training and Education Jobs and Salaries

Most LPN training programs, lasting about one year, are offered by vocational or technical schools or community or junior colleges.Practical nurses must be licensed in order to be allowed to practice. Successful completion of a practical nurse program and passing an examination are required to become licensed. All States and the District of Columbia require licensed practical nurses to pass a licensing examination, known as the NCLEX-PN, after completing a State-approved practical nursing program.

A high school diploma or its equivalent usually is required for entry, although some programs accept candidates without a diploma, and some programs are part of a high school curriculum. There are more than 1,500 State-approved training programs in practical nursing. Most training programs are available from technical and vocational schools or community and junior colleges. Other programs are available through high schools, hospitals, and colleges and universities.

Most year-long practical nursing programs include both classroom study and supervised clinical practice (patient care). Classroom study covers basic nursing concepts and subjects related to patient care, including anatomy, physiology, medical-surgical nursing, pediatrics, obstetrics, psychiatric nursing, the administration of drugs, nutrition, and first aid. Clinical practice usually is in a hospital but sometimes includes other settings.

The NCLEX-PN licensing exam is required in order to obtain licensure as an LPN. The exam is developed and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The NCLEX-PN is a computer-based exam and varies in length. The exam covers four major categories: safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity.

Licensed practical nurses should have a caring, sympathetic nature. They should be emotionally stable because working with the sick and injured can be stressful. They also need to be observant, and to have good decision-making and communication skills. As part of a health-care team, they must be able to follow orders and work under close supervision. In some employment settings, such as nursing homes, LPN can advance to become charge nurses who oversee the work of other licensed practical nurses and of nursing aides. Some licensed practical nurses also choose to become registered nurses through numerous LPN-to-RN training programs.