Why Become a Licensed Practical Nurse?

Training and Education Jobs and Salaries

Licensed practical nurses (LPN), or licensed vocational nurses (LVN), care for people who are sick, injured, convalescent, or disabled under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. (The work of physicians and surgeons and of registered nurses is described elsewhere on this website.) The nature of the direction and supervision required varies by State and job setting. Licensed practical nurses care for patients in many ways but in general they provide basic bedside care.

Many of licensed practical nurses measure and record patient vital signs such as height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration. They also prepare and give injections and enemas, monitor catheters, dress wounds, and give alcohol rubs and massages. To help keep patients comfortable, they assist with bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene, moving in bed, standing, and walking. They might also feed patients who need help eating. Experienced of licensed practical nurses may supervise nursing assistants and aides. As part of their work, LPN collect samples for testing, perform routine laboratory tests, and record food and fluid intake and output. They also clean and monitor medical equipment.

Sometimes, they help physicians and registered nurses perform tests and procedures. Some LPN help to deliver, care for, and feed infants. Licensed practical nurses also monitor their patients and report adverse reactions to medications or treatments. LPN gather information from patients, including their health history and how they are currently feeling. They may use this information to complete insurance forms, pre-authorizations, and referrals, and they share information with registered nurses and doctors to help determine the best course of care for a patient.

Licensed practical nurses often teach family members how to care for a relative or teach patients about good health habits. Most LPN are generalists and work in all areas of health care however, some work in a specialized setting, such as a nursing home, a doctor office, or in home health care. LPN in nursing care facilities help to evaluate resident needs, develop care plans, and supervise the care provided by nursing aides. In doctor offices and clinics, they may be responsible for making appointments, keeping records, and performing other clerical duties.

Licensed practical nurses who work in home health care may prepare meals and teach family members simple nursing tasks. In some States, LPN are permitted to administer prescribed medicines, start intravenous fluids, and provide care to ventilator-dependent patients. Most licensed practical nurses in hospitals and nursing care facilities work a 40-hour week, but because patients need round-the-clock care, some work nights, weekends, and holidays. They often stand for long periods and help patients move in bed, stand, or walk. LPN may face hazards from caustic chemicals, radiation, and infectious diseases. They are subject to back injuries when moving patients. They often must deal with the stress of heavy workloads. In addition, the patients they care for may be confused, agitated, or uncooperative.