Licensed practical nurses or vocational nurses perform a variety of nursing tasks in a variety of healthcare settings. They are usually supervised by a physician or registered nurse.
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses usually care for ill, injured, or convalescing patients or persons with disabilities. Their description encompasses Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) who care for the sick, injured, convalescent, and disabled under the direction of physicians, and registered nurses.
The LPN LVN job description includes but is not limited to basic
bedside care, taking vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse,
and respiration. They also prepare and give injections and enemas, monitor
catheters, apply dressings, treat bedsores, and give alcohol rubs and massages.
LPNs monitor their patients and report adverse reactions to medications or
treatments. They collect samples for testing; perform routine laboratory tests,
feed patients, and record food and fluid intake and output. To help keep
patients comfortable, LPNs assist with bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene.
In States where the law allows, they may administer prescribed medicines or start intravenous fluids. Some LPNs help to deliver, care for, and feed infants. Experienced LPNs may supervise nursing assistants and aides.
In addition to providing routine bedside care, LPNs in nursing care facilities (nursing homes) help to evaluate residents’ needs, develop care plans, and supervise the care provided by nursing aides. In doctors’ offices and clinics, they also may make appointments, keep records, and perform other clerical duties. LPNs who work in private homes may prepare meals and teach family members simple nursing tasks.
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.
LPNs are often engaged in very physically demanding work as well as exposed to chemical and environmental hazards such as hepatitis and other infectious diseases.
Education and Training
Most Licensed practical nurses or licensed vocational nurses attend a vocational program offered through a community college or a vocational school. Many schools of nursing require additional prerequisites such as anatomy & physiology, biology and/or organic chemistry with the idea being that many LPN or LVN students will go on to become registered nurses.
Practical nursing programs last about 1 year and include both classroom study and supervised clinical practice (patient care). Classroom study covers basic nursing concepts and patient care-related subjects, including anatomy, physiology, medical-surgical nursing, pediatrics, obstetrics, psychiatric nursing, and the administration of drugs, nutrition, and first aid. Clinical practice usually is in a hospital, but sometimes includes other settings.
Licensing and Credentialing
In all 50 states and the U.S. Territories Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses are required to take a licensing exam called the N-CLEX PN. In order to sit for the exam they must successfully graduate from an accredited practical or vocational nurse program.
Once they have successfully passed the exam the LPN or LVN is required to be licensed. The process is similar in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
Training lasting about 1 year is available in about 1,200 State-approved programs, mostly in vocational or technical schools.
Applicants for jobs in hospitals may face competition as the number of hospital jobs for licensed practical nurses declines; however, rapid employment growth is projected in other health care industries, with the best job opportunities occurring in nursing care facilities and in home health care services.
Replacement needs will be a major source of job openings, as many workers leave the occupation permanently.
LPNs should have a caring, sympathetic nature. They should be emotionally stable because working with the sick and injured can be stressful. They also should have keen observational, decision-making, and communication skills. As part of a health care team, they must be able to follow orders and work under close supervision.
Career Path – Progression
In some employment settings, such as nursing homes, LPNs can advance to become charge nurses who oversee the work of other LPNs and of nursing aides. Some LPNs also choose to become registered nurses through an LPN-to-RN training program. Other career choices include informatics, healthcare administration, or even going on to become a medical doctor.
Resources for LPN/LVN Job Description:
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses Job Description Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition.