Licensed Practical Nurse
Education and Training: Vocational training or community college, in addition to National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse licensing
Average Salary: $39,030
Job Outlook: Very good
A licensed practical nurse, also known as a licensed vocational nurse in Texas and California, provides medical assistance and direct patient care to individuals in healthcare environments under the direct supervision of a registered nurse or a physician. Although some licensed practical nurses work in specialized areas, they generally work in any area of healthcare i.e. physician’s offices, clinics, hospitals, the military, nursing homes, etc.
Typical job duties can include monitoring patient’s vital signs, gathering preliminary patient information, giving patient’s discharge instructions, helping patients with basic healthcare needs, feeding patients, administering intravenous fluids, monitoring equipment, dressing wounds, and performing lab tests. Ultimately, job responsibilities are determined by state regulations and the employer.
Excellent people skills and good mental health are a requirement. Licensed practical nurses must be sympathetic to and observant of patient needs. They must be able to communicate quickly and effectively and work well with others. They must also be able to handle the stress that comes with working with individuals who are not well and handle patients effectively.
Education and Training Requirements
High school courses in pre-nursing and mathematics and science are beneficial. Typical nursing programs can range from seven months to two years. Nursing programs are comprised of two parts: classroom instruction and clinicals. During classroom instruction, students are taught anatomy and physiology, first aid, and other medical concepts. During the clinical portion of instruction, students perform learned tasks in a healthcare environment under the supervision of a nurse. Clinicals may occur in a hospital or other healthcare setting.
A licensed practical nurse must also possess National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN) licensing prior to beginning work as a licensed practical nurse. In addition a licensed practical nurse will need to possess Basic Life Support certification prior to working in specialized areas such as cardiac rehab.
Education is a lifelong companion for the licensed practical nurse. Some states and organizations require individuals to maintain continuing education credits to keep their skills up-to-date. Some of this training is done on-site while other classes are offered through several organizations that educate or regulate the profession.
Getting the Job
You must be a graduate of an accredited nursing school and licensed by the state of your potential employment prior to commencing work as a licensed practical nurse. Specific requirements depend on the organization and the area in which the nurse works. Licensed practical nurses who work in specialized areas may be required to have six months to one year work experience in addition to previous experience in the specialized area. In addition, Basic Life Support certification is a requirement for working in specialized areas.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development
The potential for growth for licensed practical nurses is faster than average. As the population ages and older nurses retire, a need will exist for more nurses. According to the 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook, licensed practical nursing will increase by 21 percent between 2008 and 2018. The greatest growth of employment will occur in geriatric areas such as nursing homes, home healthcare facilities, and daycare facilities.
Certification is available for certain specialties such as intravenous therapy, long-term care, pharmacology, and gerontology. Many licensed practical nurses continue their education and become registered nurses. Others move into the teaching profession.
Working Conditions and Environment
Licensed practical nurses work in a variety of environments. Home health facilities, hospitals, health clinics, factories, physician’s offices, schools, and nursing homes are typical workplaces for the licensed practical nurse.
Long hours and physically demanding work are the norm for a licensed practical nurse. A nurse may have to assist a patient with standing, sitting, walking, or repositioning them in bed. The licensed practical nurse must also be capable of handling a large about of stress, long work hours, and rotating shifts.
Salary and Benefits
The median wage for a licensed practical nurse was $39,030 in 2008. Fifty percent of licensed practical nurses earn between $33,360 and $46,710. Health benefits and paid vacation/leave are the standard for larger organizations such as hospitals. Many employers also offer tuition reimbursement for courses taken.
Where to Go for More Information
National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service
1940 Duke St., Ste. 200
Alexandria, VA 22314
National Council of State Boards of Nursing
111 East Wacker Dr., Ste. 2900
Chicago, IL 60601-4277
National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses
111 West Main St., Ste. 100
Garner, NC 27529
National League for Nursing
610 Broadway, 33rd Fl.
New York, NY 10006
Ocean County College
PO Box 2001
Toms River, NJ 08754-2001