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How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse

Caitlin Goodwin DNP, RN has 14 years of nursing experience and is a collegiate educator.

How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse

Are you interested in becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN)? Becoming an LPN is the quickest route into the nursing field. It is a direct path to nursing that requires approximately one to two years of schooling.

LPNs are nurses that care for the sick, injured, or those requiring intermediate or long-term care. They are known as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) in some states. There's no difference between the two titles other than geography. LVNs exist only in Texas and California, whereas all other states call them LPNs.

Many people wonder what it takes to obtain an LPN degree. This article will tell you what you need to know to train to become an LPN. However, education doesn't end there. After nursing school, an LPN must receive continuing health education to maintain their license.

Becoming an LPN opens a variety of opportunities.


What is the Salary of a Licensed Practical (Vocational) Nurse?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the 2022 job outlook for LPNs is increasing by 9%. This job outlook is on pace with most other professions.

The licensed practical nurse's average salary has increased to $48,070 annually, and the average hourly wage is $23.11 per hour (Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 2021).

What does a Licensed Practical Nurse do?

LPNs/LVNs' scope differs from that of a Registered Nurse (RN). Licensed practical nurses work under the direction of an RN and physician and may supervise nursing assistants and aides. The scope of practice often varies by both state and facility.

LPNs may be able to:

  • infuse intravenous fluids
  • provide respiratory care to patients on a ventilator
  • administer oral medications and injections

However, when administering medications, all nurses need to report adverse reactions.

LPNs perform a variety of important health care interventions. For example, they measure vital signs, insert urinary catheters, and complete dressing changes on wounds.

They perform activities of daily living, known as ADLs, including bathing, dressing, personal hygiene, toileting, repositioning, ambulating, and feeding.

In addition, LPNs must perform patient and family education regarding medical treatments and at-home care.

Where do Licensed Practical Nurses work?

LVN or LPNs can be employed at a number of facilities:

  • long-term care
  • nursing homes
  • rehabilitation centers
  • school nursing
  • skilled nursing facilities
  • physician's offices
  • home health
  • hospital teams

How long does it take to become an LPN?

Becoming an LPN is a heavy workload. Luckily, it will has the benefit of enabling students to become a nurse in less than two years. The average length of education is approximately one year.

What is the fastest way to become an LPN?

Becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse is one of the quickest ways to become a nurse. But, the LPN program remains an intensive program of study.

The required education to become an LPN covers:

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  • anatomy and physiology
  • nutrition
  • pharmacology
  • maternal-child health
  • medical-surgical nursing
  • psychosocial nursing.

They also participate in clinical experiences supervised by a clinical instructor at nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and hospitals.

It's crucial to stay organized, study frequently, and attend all clinical experiences. Unexcused absences and lack of preparation will fail students. Nursing students must complete a great deal of reading, nursing skill lab assessments, and attend long clinical days.

Proprietary schools (for-profit schools) and public colleges provide LPN programs. Unfortunately, some proprietary schools scam students out of tens of thousands of dollars.

To become an LPN, one must pass a Board of Nursing-approved educational program. Therefore, knowing what accrediting body has accredited the academic program you select is essential.

If you want to continue to become a registered nurse, you will need to understand accreditation. In that case, certain institutions require that the Accreditation Commission has accredited your LPN school for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

LPNs (LVNs) are nurses who have a specific and important role in health care.

What board exams are required to become an LPN?

After one receives their diploma as a Practical Nurse (PN) or Vocational Nurse (VN), one must take the National Council Licensure Examination- Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN) to become a licensed practical nurse. The NCLEX-PN tests the knowledge, skills, and abilities vital to the safe and efficient practice of practical nursing. The test is administered by Pearson VUE and developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

The test is a computerized adaptive testing format (CAT), meaning the test questions adapt to the difficulty level the examinee can answer. If the test-taker answers correctly on an item of intermediate difficulty, he or she will next encounter a more difficult question. If they answered the question incorrectly, they would next receive an easier question.

The test questions are written to an advanced cognition level and focus on a safe, effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, and psychosocial and physiologic integrity. Most NCLEX questions are multiple-choice, select all that apply, free response medication calculations, arranging steps of the nursing procedure, and identification of diagrams or drawings.

If you have more questions, you should visit your state's Board of Nursing to determine the requirements and legal ramifications of having a license as an LPN or LVN.

What is the difference between being an LPN vs. RN?

LPNs can work under the supervision of RNs. RNs have additional responsibilities that go above and beyond what an LPN is licensed to do, like creating care plans, performing assessments, and specializing in a specific medical area.

Becoming an RN requires additional training and education, and thus the salary is higher. Luckily, LPNs can continue their education with an LPN-to-RN bridge program to become a Registered Nurse (RN)

Pursuing the LPN/LVN Career

If you have decided to pursue the LPN/LVN career path, congratulations! These nurses have an incredibly important role in the health care system. Becoming an LPN or LVN can be overwhelming, but here is a list of resources:

Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

© 2013 Caitlin Goodwin


Mason on February 21, 2015:

Typically, I find this type of information very dull, but you made it ineetrsting to me. This took me in and made me really think about the things you wrote. I really like this article.

Caitlin Goodwin (author) from West Palm Beach, FL on February 20, 2015:

I love being a nurse and wouldn't trade it for the world! It's an incredibly worthwhile profession. What were you thinking about doing with your BBA and MBA?

Hiroaki on February 19, 2015:

July 2, 2012 at 4:16 amI was inspired wanthicg RN's work and observing how many seem to enjoy their job! I have a bachelors degree in business administration, but I want to go back to undergrad after graduate school to earn a BSN. I want to have all: A BSN, a BBA and an MBA. My goal is to work full-time as a trauma nurse in the state of Maryland, and work part-time as a mgmt consultant. I'm not sure how to balance the two, but I believe where there is a will, there is a way! Prestin, Maryland Reply

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