A licensed practical nurse (LPN), known as a vocational practical nurse (VPN) in California and Texas, works with registered nurses (RNs) and medical doctors to care for patients of all ages.
An LPN provides routine care, including checking temperature and blood pressure; helps patients perform routine activities, such as eating, bathing, and dressing; and administers medication (in certain states).
Other LPN duties include applying dressings, changing catheters, treating bedsores, collecting specimens for laboratory tests, and devising care plans. An LPN must carefully monitor patients and report any changes or adverse reactions to medications to the supervising RN or physician.
Usually, an LPN can perform an array of medical procedures—from first aid to minor surgery—but can do so only under the supervision of a physician or an RN. Some LPNs supervise orderlies or nursing assistants.
The ideal candidate for LPN licensure is tactful and caring and possesses strong communication skills. LPNs should also be able to lift a substantial amount of weight.
Although each state has its own requirements for nurses, in general, one should have a high school diploma and no criminal record before pursuing an LPN program.
Vocational schools and community colleges offer LPN programs, which usually take about a year to complete. LPN students take classes in medications and in physiology and anatomy, and they gain experience in a clinical setting.
Upon successful completion of the program, graduates receive a certificate or diploma in practical nursing; they then sit for the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-PN). Throughout their careers, LPNs must renew their license through continuing education courses.
LPNs work in many environments, including hospitals, skilled-nursing facilities, nursing homes, clinics, doctors’ offices, and private homes.