What is an LPN? - The Complete Guide

Written By: Editorial Staff @

As an LPN, or licensed practical nurse, you are a vital part of the medical field. Your primary focus involves providing quality healthcare to patients under the direct supervision of a physician, nurse practitioner, or registered nurse. In the states of California, Texas, and Vermont, an LPN is known as an LVN, or licensed vocational nurse. In this guide, you will learn how to become an LPN, available educational options, the skills and qualities that will benefit you in this career, what you will do on the job, how much you will earn, and what your job outlook is like.


What Is an LPN/LVN?

A licensed practical nurse works with patients who are ill, injured, or disabled to provide healthcare services. You may choose to provide routine patient care in hospitals or clinics, or you may choose to specialize in a specific type of healthcare, such as emergency medicine or obstetrics. You will have fewer responsibilities than an RN, and as a result, you will complete less training in order to become licensed in your state.

What Does an LPN/LVN Do?

• Provide standard bedside care for patients by answering patient call lights and tending to basic needs.
• Perform triage duties, including taking patients' vital signs and medical histories.
• Assess patient injuries and illnesses.
• Record patient information in computers or written charts.
• Observe patients' intake of food and water.
• Observe patients' urine and bowel output.
• Monitor patients' blood loss during and after surgical procedures.
• Assist in surgical procedures.
• Act as a liaison between patients, their families, their doctors, and other members of the healthcare team.
• Administer medications as prescribed by patients' physicians.
• Dress, clean, and observe wounds, including surgical incisions.
• Assist patients with ambulation.
• Change patients' positions in bed to help prevent bedsores.
• Assist with catheters, urinals, and bedpans.
• Observe patients for signs of nosocomial infection.
• Contact family members in emergencies.
• Keep family members up-to-date on patients' condition and progress.
• Keep clear records of all patient care as required by HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
• Maintain patients' dignity at all times.
• Dress, groom, and assist patients with bathing.

Where Does a Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse Work?

Nursing Homes:

LPNs are in high demand in nursing homes, which offer a quieter, more home-like atmosphere for aging patients or those who need long-term care. Your duties in a nursing home include assisting patients with everyday tasks like dressing, grooming, and bathing, administering medications, and keeping accurate patient records for the other members of the healthcare team.

Physician's Offices:

You are often the first point of contact for patients in physicians' offices. Here, you will take patients' basic measurements, such as height and weight, and obtain their vital signs prior to an examination. You may be asked to assist during examinations or minor surgical procedures. Finally, you will often discuss home care with patients, including how to take any medications they were prescribed.


Your role in a hospital may vary depending on the specialization you choose. For example, if you choose to work in obstetrics, your job duties may involve assisting during deliveries or administering pain medications as needed. Conversely, if you work in emergency medicine, your primary duties may involve triaging and closely monitoring patients.

Home Health Care:

In a home healthcare setting, the duties you perform vary from patient to patient. In some settings, you may only need to check your patients' vitals and administer medications. In others, you may need to provide much more in-depth care, such as cleaning ventilators, checking IVs, checking and redressing wounds, and more. In some cases, your job involves providing companionship and entertainment to patients who may not get regular visits from friends and family.

Retirement Homes:

In a retirement home, your duties involve seeing to patients who may need emergency care. You may also monitor residents in a retirement home very closely for any changes in their health, which could signify an issue. You will need to remain in close contact with patients' doctors and keep accurate records to ensure quality healthcare.

Rehabilitation Centers:

Patients typically stay in rehabilitation centers for short periods of time, anywhere from one week to as long as 12 weeks. During this time, you might help patients walk to and from the restroom, monitor their progress as they heal, and administer any medications prescribed by physicians. You will also report any changes in patients' condition or status to an RN or doctor.


Children are at risk for various conditions at school, including everything from head lice to the flu. As a school nurse, you will see and sometimes treat children who are ill or who have been injured during the school day. You will need to contact children's parents in some cases to explain the nature of the injury or illness, and you may even need to contact paramedics on occasion. Many school nurses assist children with conditions like food allergies and diabetes, as well.

Work Schedule & Environment

Typical Schedule:

As an LPN, your working hours will vary drastically depending on your workplace. If you work in an emergency department or trauma center in a hospital, for example, you may work nights, weekends, and even holidays. If you work as a school nurse, you will only work on days school is in session, and usually only during school hours. Most LPNs work full time, though some work only part time while furthering their education.

Typical Environment:

Your working environment is almost always indoors in an approved healthcare facility. However, there may be cases in which you need to provide care outdoors, such as on an outing with residents of a nursing home or on a school playground. You will be exposed to unpleasant odors, blood, and other bodily fluids, and you may see wounds that are unsettling.

Step by Step Process to Become an LPN/LVN

1. Earn your high school diploma or GED.
2. Choose from a LPN certificate, diploma, or associate degree education path.
3. Choose and apply for a school offering the LPN certificate, diploma, or degree you want, but be sure you meet the admission criteria beforehand.
4. Ensure the school you choose is approved by the nursing board in your state. As an example, if you wanted to become an LPN in the state of Indiana, the program you choose must be accredited by the Indiana State Board of Nursing, a division of the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency.
5. Be sure the program is also accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or ACEN.
6. Apply for financial aid, student loans, or scholarships if needed/desired.
7. Complete all coursework with passing grades.
8. Complete clinical externships and/or practicums.
9. Graduate with a high GPA.
10. Apply for LPN/LVN licensure in your state.
11. Pass the NCLEX-PN examination, which allows you to become licensed to practice as a nurse in your state.
12. Obtain your LPN/LVN license.
13. Join the workforce with an entry-level nursing position, typically within a nursing or rehabilitation facility.

What Education will I need to become an LPN/LVN?

Once you decide to become a licensed practical nurse, there are several educational paths you can follow. You might opt to participate in a certificate, diploma, or degree program, and each of these offers its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks. Once you have chosen the LPN program type and found a school that offers the program you are interested in, you must ensure that program is accredited by your state nursing board. If it is not, you will be unable to sit for the NCLEX-PN, which means you cannot obtain licensure.

You should also ensure the program is accredited by the ACEN, which is beneficial in many ways. In some states, it makes you eligible for educational funding at both the state and local level, and in others, it is required if you choose to go back to school to become an RN in the future. The ACEN sets many educational standards for nursing schools across the country, which means that accredited schools offer high-quality education that is appropriate and applicable to each student's career goals.

• LPN/LVN Certificate Program

A certificate program is typically the fastest route to becoming a licensed practical nurse. It combines classroom and clinical training to ensure a well-rounded experience.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements vary from program to program, but because LPN is such an in-demand career choice, schools offering certificate programs are selective. You will need to meet the following criteria:

• A high school diploma or GED (a GPA of at least 2.5 is preferable).
• Proof of completion of the TEAS, or Test of Essential Academic Skills.
• Competency in math, reading, and English.
• No substantial criminal history.

Program Duration

The LPN certificate program typically lasts about 12 months, though some schools may offer shorter or longer course terms depending on students' needs.


• Biology
- These courses will teach you about the basics of life, which are vital for any profession within the medical field.
• Anatomy
- Courses in human anatomy will teach you to properly identify parts of the body, including individual bones and muscles.
This is vital for assisting in patient care.
• Psychology
- Psychology courses are important for interacting with patients on a day-to-day basis, particularly those who may be terminally or chronically ill.
It also helps you learn to sympathetically interact with family and friends whose loved ones may be in grave condition.
• College-Level English
- College-level English provides a solid foundation for your communication skills, both written and verbal.
• Pharmacology
- These courses teach you about medications and drugs and the ways in which they interact with the human body, viruses, bacteria, and each other.
• Nursing Ethics
- Ethics courses teach you about proper patient interaction, including how to better manage patients' privacy and protect their dignity while they are in your care.

Clinical Rotation

The clinical rotation is an important part of the LPN certificate program. It lasts between six and 12 weeks, and takes place in a nursing home, clinic, or hospital. During this time, you will work under the direct supervision of teachers, doctors, and registered nurses to provide hands-on care to patients and demonstrate your competency.

Program Cost

The most affordable way for you to obtain LPN certificate is to attend a public school, such as a community or technical college. Tuition and fees range from $363 to $25,424 for public schools, and students pay $8,033 on average. In private, not-for-profit colleges and universities, these costs increase to $4,404 to $36,965, and students pay an average of $16,730. Finally, should you choose to attend a private, for-profit university or college, you could pay anywhere from $4,024 to $42,096. The average cost of an LPN certificate program at a private, for-profit school is $20,474. Books, medical supplies, and scrubs are not included in these figures. For books and supplies, costs range from $1,300 to $2,800.

Type of School Tuition & Fees Range Average Tuition & Fees
Public $363 - $25,424 $8,033
Private Not-For-Profit $4,404 - $36,965 $16,730
Private For-Profit $4,024 - $42,096 $20,474

What will I Learn?

• Medical skills and knowledge including the human anatomy, physiology, and psychology.
• The ethics involved in providing quality patient care.
• Bedside manner and empathy when interacting with patients.
• How to perform basic medical procedures including taking vital signs and assisting with minor surgeries.
• How to administer medications according to doctors' orders.
• How to properly document patient information.

• Pursuing an Online LPN/LVN Program

A LPN diploma takes a little longer to earn than a certificate, but it offers advanced coursework. Like the certificate program, you will participate in both classroom and clinical training.

Admission Requirements

You should be able to meet the following criteria before applying to a school offering an LPN diploma program:

• A high school diploma or GED, preferably with high school courses focused on biology, anatomy, and other relevant sciences.
• A GPA of at least 2.5.
• Proof of passing the TEAS; some schools may require minimum scores.
• Competency in core areas such as reading, math, and English.

Program Duration

The average LPN diploma program takes about two years to complete, though some universities and private schools offer fast-track programs that will allow you to complete your education in as little as 15 or 16 months.


• Biology
- The basics of life, including human life.
• Anatomy
- The various parts of the human body, including bones, muscles, and systems that maintain human life.
• Psychology
- The study of the human mind and the way it works, particularly in a behavioral sense and how the mind reacts to various situations.
• College-Level English
- Advanced English courses can assist you with communication and documentation.
• Pharmacology
- The study of drugs and the way they interact with the human body, viruses, bacteria, and other drugs.
• Nursing Ethics
- Ethics courses focus on proper patient care, including the ability to maintain patient privacy and dignity while providing kindness and empathy.
• Acute Nursing Care
- These courses focus on providing nursing care in emergency situations.
• Dosage Calculations
- An advanced mathematics course that teaches you to properly calculate medication dosages based on doctors' orders.

Clinical Rotation

A clinical rotation during your LPN diploma program includes hands-on training in a medical facility such as a hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation facility. During this time, you will work directly with patients under the supervision of nurses, doctors, and other medical staff. Clinical rotation lengths vary from state to state, but you can expect to spend anywhere from six to 12 weeks working directly with patients. With each passing week, the tasks you perform and the responsibilities you will have increase in difficulty.

Program Cost

LPN Diploma program costs vary depending on the type of school you choose. Public schools, such as community and/or technical colleges, offer the most affordable diploma programs. These range in cost from $544 to $38,136 with an average cost of $12,050. If you attend a private, not-for-profit university, expect to pay anywhere from $6,606 to $55,447, or an average of $25,095. Finally, should you choose a private, for-profit college, you will pay anywhere from $6,306 to $63,144, or an average of $30,711. Books and supplies range from $1,950 to $4,200.

Type of School Tuition & Fees Range Average Tuition & Fees
Public $544 - $38,136 $12,050
Private Not-For-Profit $6,606 - $55,447 $25,095
Private For-Profit $6,036 - $63,144 $30,711

What will I Learn?

• Anatomy, physiology, and psychology as it pertains to the nursing field.
• How to provide quality patient care ethically.
• Kind and compassionate patient communication.
• Proper documentation (charting) of patients' conditions.
• How to measure and administer medications prescribed by patients' doctors.
• How to provide medical care in an emergency (acute) situation.

• LPN/LVN Associate Degree Program

Finally, you may opt to participate in an LPN associate degree program from a private or state university, which offers the most in-depth training for LPNs, but also takes the longest amount of time. This program, often referred to as an ADN (Associate's Degree in Nursing), covers the same material as a certificate or diploma program, but because it takes longer to complete, students have more time to focus and learn.

Admission Requirements

To be accepted into an LPN ADN program, you should be able to meet the following criteria:

• High school diploma or GED, ideally with high school courses focused on biology, anatomy, psychology, or physiology when possible.
• A GPA of 3.0 or higher (many schools will accept 2.5 depending on the nature of the courses).
• Proof of passing the TESA exam with a score of at least 62%, though some schools may require a higher passing grade.
• Competency in basic math, science, reading, and English.

Program Duration

Like the diploma program, it takes roughly two years to complete an accredited LPN ADN program. Some schools may offer fast-track programs, and still others may allow you to earn your ADN at your own pace, which is beneficial for you if you already work in healthcare or if you cannot attend school full-time for any reason.


• Nursing Fundamentals
- This course teaches the very basics of what it means to be a nurse and serves as an introduction to more complex courses later in the program.
• Nursing Pharmacology
- Nursing pharmacology is a focus on drugs and those most commonly used in healthcare settings today. This course also teaches nurses how to administer drugs in various ways, and in many cases, it also provides dosage calculation information.
• Clinical Practice
- Clinical practice courses range from beginner to advanced and teach you the ins and outs of daily life as a nurse.
• Clinical Care across Lifespan
- A broad but helpful look into the different types of care individuals need throughout the various stages of their lives.
• Management Concepts
- This course is ideal for you if you at some point would like a management role within a hospital, nursing home, or other facility.
• Anatomy & Physiology
- Basic scientific knowledge of the human body and its various processes.
• Microbiology
- Microbiology courses teach you about cellular reproduction, which is at the heart of many bodily processes and treatment options.
• Psychology
- Psychology is important for interacting with patients based on their current states of mind, or understanding how patients may feel during illness or after an injury.
• Sociology
- Sociology is the study of community and people, and because nurses work with families and communities, this course is especially helpful for nurses who may want to take jobs in the public health sector.
• Oral & Interpersonal Communication
- A more in-depth approach to learning how to communicate orally and interpersonally with patients, their families, and other members of the healthcare team.
• Medical Terminology
- This course focuses solely on medical terminology, which is important for accurate communication and recordkeeping.
• End-of-Life Care
- A course on end-of-life care is very helpful for you if you plan to work in hospice, home health, or nursing homes.
• People Skills for Healthcare Workers
- This course will teach you how to interact with others in various situations in a way that helps everyone listen and understand.
• Medical Laws & Ethics
- Finally, a course in medical laws and ethics teaches you the legal aspects involved in nursing.

Clinical Rotation

The clinical rotation portion of an LPN ADN program may extend throughout the entirety of the program, which differentiates it from a certificate or diploma program. Students are often asked to learn or at least observe in a clinical setting starting in the very first semester of their degree programs, so you may find yourself directly interacting with patients and providing hands-on care just a few short weeks into the program.

Program Cost

The costs associated with earning an ADN to become an LPN vary based on the type of educational facility you choose. There are some community and technical schools that offer access to associate degree programs for nursing, and in this case, you can expect a total cost of anywhere from $5,082 to $44,022, or an average of $17,470. In a private, not-for-profit college, the costs range from $4,198 to $60,778 with most students paying an average of $19,544. Finally, in a private, for-profit university, you will pay anywhere from $26,140 to $62,810, or an average of $41,936. Books and supplies for this program range in cost from $2,860 to $6,160.

Type of School Tuition & Fees Range Average Tuition & Fees
Public $5,082 - $44,022 $17,470
Private Not-For-Profit $4,198 - $60,778 $19,544
Private For-Profit $26,140 - $62,810 $41,936

What will I Learn?

• The basics of the healthcare field as it pertains to nurses, including physiology, anatomy, sociology, and pharmacology.
• The legal and ethical aspects of working in the healthcare field.
• How to properly communicate with patients, their families, and other members of the healthcare team.
• Using terminology to properly document patients' conditions or read doctors' orders.
• How to measure and administer medications as prescribed by a doctor.
• The basics of nursing management and how the nursing hierarchy works in various healthcare settings.
• How to provide healthcare throughout the various stages of an individual's life.
• The special requirements and tools required for providing end-of-life care.

Pursuing an Online LPN Program

These days, many of the people pursuing nursing programs are already in the workforce. In these cases, online LPN programs are beneficial. Should you choose to pursue your certificate, diploma, or degree online, it is vital to ensure that the school you choose is approved by your state and accredited by ACEN. You can only complete the classroom portion of your education online; you must complete the clinical portion at a healthcare facility assigned to you by the online school you choose. The length of your clinical program will vary from state to state as each state has prerequisite minimum hours.

Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse Scholarships & Financial Aid

• Scholarships

Because healthcare professionals are in such high demand across the country, if you are pursuing a career as an LPN, you will have many scholarships available to you. Some of these are based on your individual need, but others may be awarded to you based on your achievements. In some cases, you may receive a scholarship from a particular healthcare facility if you agree to work for that facility for a set timeframe once you graduate.

• Federal Grants

Federal grants provide more opportunity to secure financial assistance for LPN programs. These are sponsored by the Heath Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA. Some of these grants assist first-time students with paying for the cost of education initially, but others, such as the Faculty Loan Repayment Program, are geared toward healthcare staff who are struggling to repay past student debt. Other options include:

The Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program, administered by the Indian Health Service (IHS), which requires each applicant to commit to two years of service in a healthcare setting that caters to Native American and Alaskan Native populations. You could receive up to $20,000 each year to put toward loan repayment.
The Army Nurse Corps, which provides loan repayment programs totaling as much as $120,000 for enlisted, active-duty nurses.
The Pell Grant, which caps at $5920 per year, is available to those who can demonstrate financial need.

• Federal and Private Loans

Some students may need further help in paying for their LPN program even after scholarships and grants. In this case, federal and private loans can be very helpful. Students who want to apply for federal loans will first need to fill out a FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application determines your eligibility for grants and loans provided by the federal government, which can help you optimize your budget.

Though federal loans are quite popular, many people - particularly those who have outstanding credit - may choose to fund their education privately through their own banking institutions. In some cases, you (or your parents) may be able to secure a lower interest rate when you choose a private loan to complete your LPN schooling.

• Work-Study

Work study LPN programs are ideal for you if you need to work at least part time to assist in paying for college-related expenses. Some schools may hire you to work for them during the academic year, giving you the opportunity to learn and work at the same time. Not all schools will offer work study opportunities for LPNs, so if this is a requirement for you or something you are interested in doing, you will need to speak directly with the admissions department of the school of your choice.

How do I Obtain Licensure as LPN/LVN?

Once you have graduated from an accredited LPN program, you will need to sit for and pass an exam called the NCLEX-PN in order to receive your licensure. You cannot work as a nurse in any facility in the United States until you have this license. You will need to apply, register for, and take the NCLEX-PN, then meet the requirements to keep it active in your state or transfer it to another state if you move.

• Apply for Your License

In order to apply for your license, you will need to submit an application to the board of nursing or regulatory body in the state where you want to be licensed. For example, if you want to be licensed in New York because that is where you will practice, but you live in New Jersey, you would submit your application to the New York State Board of Nursing. You cannot register for the NCLEX-PN until you have submitted your application, and there is an application fee of $200.

• Register for NCLEX-PN Exam

Before you can register for the examination itself, which is administered via Pearson VUE testing centers, you will need a program code. This code will be provided to you by your state's nursing board or regulatory body when your application to take the examination is approved. It is recommended that you register for your examination online to avoid long hold times on the phone. Remember that you will need to pay for the exam when you register. The registration and licensure fee varies from state to state, so you can contact your board of nursing or regulatory body for that information.

• Take NCLEX-PN Exam


The NCLEX-PN exam is broken down into four categories and eight subcategories. You may answer as few as 85 or as many as 205 questions, and 25 of these are considered "experimental" and do not count for or against your score. You will have a maximum of five hours to complete all of the questions on the examination, and you can take an optional break after the first two hours. Another optional break is provided another 90 minutes after the first.

The exam is set up in such a way that it ends when you have passed or failed, which means you may not need to answer all the questions. To pass, and to obtain your licensure, you will need to get 85 questions correct. If you get the first 85 questions correct, you do not need to answer more. However, if you answer a total of 205 questions before answering 85 of them correctly, you will not pass the test. You will also not pass the test if you do not answer 85 questions correctly within the allotted five hours.

Exam Content:

The NCLEX-PN examination is broken down into categories.
• Coordinated Care (21%)
- Focuses on coordinating with patients and other healthcare professionals to provide the best possible healthcare.
• Safety and Infection Control (13%)
- Questions about controlling infections and keeping patients safe while under your care.
• Health Promotion and Maintenance (9%)
- These are questions about healthcare in general and how to promote patients' health and wellbeing before they become ill or injured.
• Psychosocial Integrity (12%)
- The assessment of your ability to help patients and their families maintain their emotional health as well as their physical health.
• Basic Care and Comfort (10%)
- Questions regarding your ability to offer help to your patients with basic things, including assistance with everyday tasks.
• Pharmacologic Therapies (13%)
- Assesses your knowledge of medications and how to measure and administer them according to a doctor's orders.
• Reduction of Risk Potential (12%)
- Questions regarding your ability help prevent infections and complications after procedures.
• Physiological Adaptation (10%)
- Assesses your knowledge as it pertains to providing care to patients who have life-threatening, acute, chronic, or terminal conditions or illnesses.

Question Types:

All of the questions on the NCLEX-PN are multiple choice and fall into one of the eight subcategories listed above.

• Things you Need to Know About LPN License

License Verification/License Status

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing lists as the only national database that allows for verification of nursing licensure. It also lists privileges and discipline for nurses in jurisdictions and states that participate in the Nursing Licensure Compact.

License Renewal

Renewal procedures will vary from state to state, but in almost every state and jurisdiction, you must prove that you worked a minimum number of hours during the previous year and that you have completed continuing education (CE) requirements. You will need to fill out an application provided by your state board of nursing or regulatory body to renew your license, and fees (which vary from state to state) are due when you turn in the application.

Licensure by Endorsement

Licensure by endorsement occurs when you have already passed the NCLEX-PN, and you have already been licensed in one state, but you wish to become licensed in another state. In this case, the second state will check your credentials with the first state. If your credentials for the initial state check out, you will be required to pay a fee to become licensed in the other. You may opt to maintain your licensure in both states as long as you work the minimum number of hours, obtain the minimum continuing education, and pay the licensure fees to both states each year.

Nursing Licensure Compact

At the beginning of 2018, 26 states across the US participated in the Nurse Licensure Compact. Simply put, this allows mutual recognition of licensure between these states. Nurses who are licensed in Delaware, for example, can physically or electronically practice nursing in any of the other 25 states.

26 Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) States
1 Arizona 2 Arkansas 3 Colorado 4 Delaware 5 Florida
6 Idaho 7 Iowa 8 Kentucky 9 Maine 10 Maryland
11 Mississippi 12 Missouri 13 Montana 14 Nebraska 15 New Hampshire
16 New Mexico 17 North Carolina 18 North Dakota 19 Rhode Island 20 South Carolina
21 South Dakota 22 Tennessee 23 Texas 24 Utah 25 Virginia
26 Wisconsin

Recommended Certifications

Though no other certifications outside of licensure are required for you to practice as an LPN in your state, there is an extensive list of recommended certifications you might choose to pursue. These often focus on a specialty, and they can increase your chances of obtaining employment or even provide a boost to your salary. Some of the most common include:

IV Therapy

- In some states, LPNs must have a separate certification to start and maintain IVs for patients. Employers will typically offer these classes to their employees, or you can visit the NAPNES website to learn more about their universal certification for all qualifying LPNs.

Advanced Life Support (ACLS)

- As an LPN, you may be limited in your scope of practice in some states when it comes to providing advanced life support. With the proper certification, this is no longer the case. You can learn more at the CPR website about ACLS certification.

Hospice Care

- Many LPNs, and in particular those who work in nursing homes or with terminally-ill patients, opt to obtain hospice and palliative care certification. This is administered through the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses.

LPN/LVN Scope of Practice

As an LPN, you will be required to adhere to your state's "scope of practice" which dictates what you can and cannot do in terms of providing patient care. For example, in many states, an LPN cannot start, remove, or maintain a patient's IV, but in others, they can.

• What you Can Do

Your primary job description involves providing quality patient care under a doctor or RN. Because you have less training than a doctor or RN, you will be limited somewhat as to how you can help patients. You may administer basic medical care, including medications, you may dress wounds, and you may assess patients' conditions.

• What You Cannot Do

In most states, you will be unable to start IVs, push IV medications, or administer IV blood products. LPNs cannot pronounce patients dead or use advanced life support equipment to attempt to revive or resuscitate patients without the proper credentials. You cannot close wounds with stitches, and you cannot perform any kind of surgical procedure (no matter how minor).

Qualities, Skills, Knowledge & Abilities You will need to Work as an LPN/LVN

• Personal Qualities

• Good character

- You will often be the first person who helps patients and family members come to terms with terminal illness, severe injury, or significant illness. For this reason, you should be of excellent character and always speak with kindness and empathy.

• Able to withstand unpleasantries

- You will often deal with blood and other bodily fluids, which can be tough for many people.

• Strong work ethic

- You may work very long hours at times, which can be draining and exhausting. As an LPN, you should have a strong work ethic and realize that you may be needed on weekends and holidays.

• Skills

• Interpersonal skills

- One of the main facets of your job as an LPN is communication, so you will need solid interpersonal skills to communicate effectively with patients, their families, and other members of the healthcare team.

• Computer skills

- You will enter data into computer systems frequently, so being able to use a computer with skill is incredibly helpful.

• Decision-making skills

- Often, you will make spur-of-the-moment decisions that can have a tremendous impact on patients' lives. Being able to think critically under pressure and make snap decisions can save lives.

• Knowledge

• Human Anatomy & Physiology

- Understanding the basics about the human body, disease, and the various ways to treat patients is vital.

• Mathematics

- You will need to be able to properly measure medications for patients based on their weights and other figures.

• Psychiatry and Sociology

- This knowledge is invaluable as a LPN. The better you can understand how your patients and their families feel, the better you can help them.

• Abilities

• Physical strength

- You will often need to help move patients, which requires a great deal of strength.

• Stamina

- You will work on your feet for many hours at a time, and often many hours a week. Stamina is a must-have as an LPN.

• Attention to detail

- Sometimes even very small details can help save patients' lives, so the ability to be incredibly observant at all times will serve you well.

Tools & Equipment you will use as LPN/LVN

• Sphygmomanometer

- This is the medical term for a blood pressure measurement device, which is important for monitoring your patients' health.

• Thermometer

- These may be placed under patients' tongues or armpits, run along their foreheads, or inserted into their ear canals or rectums depending on the need for precision. Different tools exist for each method.

• Pulse Oximeter

- This device measures not only a patient's pulse, but also the saturation of oxygen in his or her blood.

• Computers and tablets

- You will likely record patient information on a laptop or tablet you bring with you into each patient room.

• Stethoscope

- This instrument allows you to clearly hear a patient's heartbeat, which can help you detect issues or assist in taking patients' blood pressure measurements.

• Glucometers

- These allow you to quickly check patients' blood sugar levels.

LPN/LVN Salary

• What Is the Average Salary?

On average, you will earn $21.56 an hour or $44,840 a year as an LPN.

Hourly Average Wage $21.56
Annual Average Salary $44,840

• What Is the Starting Salary?

At the entry level, LPNs in the US earn an average of $15.63 an hour or $32,510 each year.

Starting Hourly Wage $15.63
Starting Annual Salary $32,510

• What Is the Salary With Experience?

The average experienced hourly wage for an LPN is $29.05. The average experienced annual salary is $60,420.

Experienced Hourly Wage $29.05
Experienced Annual Salary $60,420

National LPN Salary Details

Level of Experience Hourly Wages Annual Salary
Less than 1 year (Starting) $15.63 $32,510
1-4 years $17.81 $37,040
5-9 years $21.20 $44,090
10-19 years $24.63 $51,220
20 years or more $29.05 $60,420
Average Salary $21.56 $44,840

Career Outlook

• How Many LPNs Currently Work in the United States?

Right now, there are 724,500 LPNs working in different facilities across the United States.

LPNs Currently Employed (2018) 724,500

• Projected Annual Average LPN Job Openings

It is estimated that some 62,700 new jobs for LPNs will open up in the coming year, for both new LPNs and replacements.

Projected Annual Average Job Openings (New + Replacement)

• What Is the Future Demand for LPNs?

In 2016, there were 724,500 LPNs in the US. It is estimated that by 2026, there will be 813,400, an increase of 88,900 people or 12.27%. The demand for new LPNs is huge, and this profession is expected to grow much faster than all others. This is due in part to the aging baby boomer population and advances in healthcare that are allowing people to live much longer with the proper treatments.

Employment 10 Year Change, 2016-26
2016 2026 Number Percent
724,500 813,400 88,900 12.27%

State Wise LPN/LVN Salary Details

State Employment Starting Salary Salary with Experience Average Salary
Alabama 13,030 $36,300 $25,830 $47,870
Alaska 500 $53,760 $41,160 $69,540
Arizona 6,100 $51,670 $39,060 $63,580
Arkansas 12,100 $36,800 $27,330 $47,710
California 68,110 $52,670 $37,010 $70,350
Colorado 5,010 $48,690 $36,810 $61,490
Connecticut 7,780 $55,720 $43,240 $67,010
Delaware 2,120 $50,330 $37,780 $63,130
District of Columbia 1,720 $55,200 $42,770 $70,800
Florida 44,820 $42,960 $32,960 $55,180
Georgia 26,510 $40,250 $29,750 $51,380
Hawaii 1,280 $48,980 $40,710 $61,120
Idaho 2,390 $40,680 $31,680 $50,120
Illinois 20,140 $48,070 $33,250 $62,250
Indiana 16,090 $41,540 $32,910 $50,460
Iowa 6,340 $40,710 $32,510 $49,840
Kansas 7,380 $40,880 $32,580 $50,070
Kentucky 10,520 $39,460 $30,620 $49,480
Louisiana 20,580 $38,070 $29,090 $48,820
Maine 1,250 $43,680 $34,530 $52,130
Maryland 11,640 $51,980 $40,780 $64,710
Massachusetts 15,890 $55,190 $42,110 $70,120
Michigan 14,980 $46,660 $34,520 $60,140
Minnesota 17,070 $43,620 $33,890 $54,710
Mississippi 8,990 $36,840 $28,360 $47,650
Missouri 15,810 $39,600 $30,440 $49,890
Montana 2,490 $40,920 $30,450 $51,080
Nebraska 5,100 $40,630 $32,400 $49,920
Nevada 2,570 $53,500 $42,050 $64,690
New Hampshire 2,290 $49,040 $38,910 $61,970
New Jersey 16,360 $53,740 $41,530 $64,340
New Mexico 2,100 $47,770 $33,160 $61,990
New York 46,990 $47,170 $33,410 $62,140
North Carolina 17,930 $42,510 $33,260 $51,460
North Dakota 2,670 $43,200 $33,580 $53,990
Ohio 39,920 $41,320 $32,390 $51,470
Oklahoma 11,580 $39,290 $31,170 $49,350
Oregon 2,780 $50,160 $40,890 $61,580
Pennsylvania 38,020 $45,810 $33,180 $60,840
Rhode Island 1,060 $55,410 $43,420 $65,930
South Carolina 9,440 $40,090 $30,700 $50,180
South Dakota 1,820 $37,100 $28,480 $47,090
Tennessee 23,620 $37,920 $28,820 $48,860
Texas 70,810 $46,110 $33,830 $61,190
Utah 1,910 $42,720 $30,240 $56,670
Vermont 1,350 $46,790 $34,950 $60,600
Virginia 21,410 $41,450 $31,640 $52,720
Washington 7,250 $50,740 $39,530 $63,120
West Virginia 6,090 $36,050 $26,870 $47,400
Wisconsin 7,990 $43,820 $33,860 $55,310
Wyoming 680 $45,590 $35,800 $57,120

Furthering my Education with Bridge Programs

As an LPN, you may be able to participate in a bridge program that allows you to transfer your existing credits to a new program. The "bridge" is made up of the classes that fill in the gaps between the two different career levels.

• LPN to RN

There are two bridge options to become an RN either you can take up the LPN to ADN or LPN to BSN option. The prerequisite courses for an RN bridge program include English composition, anatomy and physiology, biology, and general chemistry courses prior to starting the program.

LPN to ADN :

The LPN to ADN bridge program will allow you to learn everything you need to know to sit for the NCLEX-RN without having to retake the same courses you took during your LPN training. You can also continue to work as an LPN as you take the rest of the courses you need to get your ADN degree.

LPN to BSN :

For many nursing careers, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is considered entry-level. Fortunately, you can get your bachelor's degree and transfer the credits from your LPN education to help you along your way. Whereas it would typically take four years to earn a bachelor's degree, with the bridge program, you can earn it in about three.

• LPN to MSN

Finally, if you would like to push yourself to the top and earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree, bridge programs do exist. An LPN to MSN program is ideal for you if you want to become a nurse practitioner, as well. This bridge program will take about four years to complete.

Helpful LPN/LVN Sites & Organizations

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses on O*Net

- This website gives a quick overview of the LPN profession, including basic tasks, educational requirements, and more.

National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses

- The NALPN is a professional organization dedicated to supporting LPNs and LVNs across the country. Optional membership provides access to the annual convention and other perks.

National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service

- NAPNES is an organization that works to promote and defend the regulation, practice, and even education of LPNs and LVNs nationwide. The organization also serves Practical Nursing students, schools, and educators.

National Council of State Boards of Nursing

- Generally considered the number one nursing resource on the internet today, the NCSBN offers information about the NCLEX and other nursing exams, licensure compacts, state boards and regulations, and more.