Duties of LPNs and LVNs vary, depending on their work setting and the state in which they work. For example, they may reinforce teaching done by registered nurses regarding how family members should care for a relative; help to deliver, care for, and feed infants; collect samples for testing and do routine laboratory tests; or feed patients who need help eating.

LPNs and LVNs may be limited to doing certain tasks, depending on their state. For example, in some states, LPNs with proper training can give medication or start intravenous (IV) drips, while in other states LPNs cannot perform these tasks. State regulations also govern the extent to which LPNs and LVNs must be directly supervised. For example, an LPN may provide certain forms of care only with instructions from a registered nurse.

In some states, experienced licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses oversee and direct other LPNs or LVNs and unlicensed medical staff.

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) held about 738,400 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses in 2012 were as follows:

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 29%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 20
Offices of physicians 12
Home health care services 11
Residential care facilities 8

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses work in nursing homes and extended care facilities, hospitals, physicians' offices, and private homes. LPNs and LVNs often wear scrubs, a type of medical clothing that usually consists of a shirt and drawstring pants.

Nurses must often be on their feet for much of the day and may have to lift patients who have trouble moving in bed, standing, or walking. These duties can be stressful, as can dealing with ill and injured people.

Work Schedules

Most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses work full time, although about 1 in 5 worked part time in 2012. Many LPNs and LVNs work nights, weekends, and holidays, because medical care takes place at all hours. They may be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours.

Work Environment

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) held about 738,400 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses in 2012 were as follows:

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 29%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 20
Offices of physicians 12
Home health care services 11
Residential care facilities 8

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses work in nursing homes and extended care facilities, hospitals, physicians' offices, and private homes. LPNs and LVNs often wear scrubs, a type of medical clothing that usually consists of a shirt and drawstring pants.

Nurses must often be on their feet for much of the day and may have to lift patients who have trouble moving in bed, standing, or walking. These duties can be stressful, as can dealing with ill and injured people.

Work Schedules

Most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses work full time, although about 1 in 5 worked part time in 2012. Many LPNs and LVNs work nights, weekends, and holidays, because medical care takes place at all hours. They may be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours.

Education and Training

Becoming a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse (LPN or LVN) requires completing an approved educational program. LPNs and LVNs must also have a license.

Education

LPNs and LVNs must complete an approved educational program. These programs award a certificate or diploma and typically take about 1 year to complete, but may take longer. They are commonly found in technical schools and community colleges, though some programs may be available in high schools and hospitals.

Practical nursing programs combine classroom learning in subjects, such as nursing, biology, and pharmacology. All programs also include supervised clinical experience.

Contact state boards of nursing for lists of approved programs.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

After completing a state-approved educational program, prospective LPNs and LVNs can take the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN. In all states, they must pass the exam to get a license and work as an LPN or LVN.

LPNs and LVNs may choose to become certified through professional associations in areas such as gerontology and IV therapy, among others. Certifications show that an LPN or LVN has an advanced level of knowledge about a specific subject.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses must be empathetic and caring toward the people they serve.

Detail oriented. LPNs and LVNs need to be responsible and detail-oriented, because they must make sure that patients get the correct care at the right time.

Interpersonal skills. Interacting with patients and other healthcare providers is a big part of their jobs, so LPNs and LVNs need good interpersonal skills.

Patience. Dealing with sick and injured people may be stressful. LPNs and LVNs should be patient, so they can cope with any stress that stems from providing healthcare to these patients.

Physical stamina. LPNs and LVNs should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over patients for a long time.

Speaking skills. It is important that LPNs and LVNs be able to communicate effectively. For example, they may need to relay information about a patient’s current condition to a registered nurse.

Advancement

With experience, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses may advance to supervisory positions. Some LPNs and LVNs advance to other healthcare occupations. For example, an LPN may complete an LPN to RN education program to become a registered nurse.

Pay

The median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses was $41,540 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,970, and the top 10 percent earned more than $57,360.

Most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses work full time, although about 1 in 5 worked part time in 2012. Many work nights, weekends, and holidays, because medical care takes place at all hours. They may be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours.

Job Outlook

Employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is projected to grow 25 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As the baby-boom population ages, the overall need for healthcare services is expected to increase. LPNs and LVNs will be needed in residential care facilities and in home health environments to care for geriatric patients.

Growing rates of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity will lead to increased demand for LPNs and LVNs in skilled nursing and other extended care facilities. In addition, many procedures that once could be done only in hospitals are now being done outside of hospitals, creating demand in other settings, such as outpatient care centers.

Job Prospects

A large number of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses are expected to retire over the coming decade, creating potential job openings. Job prospects should also be favorable for LPNs and LVNs, who are willing to work in rural and medically underserved areas.

For More Information

For more information about licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses, visit

National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service

National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.