Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse Career Guide

practical nurse with elderly patient

Table of Contents

Overview

Job Responsibilities

  • Monitor patients’ health
  • Perform basic patient care, including changing bandages, administering medication and inserting catheters
  • Assist with tests and procedures
  • Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as grooming and feeding
  • Communicate the care they are providing their patients 
  • Listen to their patients’ concerns
  • Report patients’ health status and concerns to registered nurses and doctors
  • Keep patients’ health records

How Much Does a Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse Make?

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse made a median salary of $46,240 in 2018. The best-paid 10 percent made $62,160 that year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent made $33,680.

median salary bell graph

Common Requirements

  • Certificate of completion for LPN or LVN program
  • Pass the NCLEX-PN
  • CPR training
  • Training and certification in specialized skills such as IV therapy

Similar Careers

Medical Assistants

Nursing Assistant

Orderlies

Occupational Therapy Assistants

Occupational Therapy Aides

Psychiatric Technicians

Psychiatric Aides

Registered Nurses

Physical Therapy Assistants

Surgical Technologists

Common Skills

Communication

Decision making

Time management

Clinical skills

Computer skills

Nonclinical patient care

Leadership 

Motor skills

MEDIAN SALARY

$46,240 per year
$22.23 per hour

JOB OUTLOOK

11%

NUMBER OF JOBS

728,900

A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse

If you want to pursue a medical-related career, becoming a licensed practical nurse or a licensed vocational nurse is a great and easy start. Many registered nurses started out their careers in this path, and it is no wonder because becoming an LPN or LVN eases you into the healthcare fieldgiving you basic tasks that are not too difficult to perform for a beginner, but also giving you the opportunity to actually handle patients in need of medical attention.

What Does a Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse Do?

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses are healthcare workers assigned to take care of the basic medical and wellness needs of patients. They monitor a patient’s health, watch out for health changes, report to RNs and MDs, and assist patients in self-care activities. Below are some of the details of an LPN or LVN’s job:

 

  • Monitor patients’ health
  • Perform basic patient care, including changing bandages, administering medication and inserting catheters
  • Assist with tests and procedures
  • Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as grooming and feeding
  • Communicate the care they are providing their patients 
  • Listen to their patients’ concerns
  • Report patients’ health status and concerns to registered nurses and doctors
  • Keep patients’ health records

An LPN’s job responsibilities may vary depending on the area that he or she practices or specializes in. here are a handful of examples of work-settings for LPNs or LVNs:

  • Doctors clinics: LPNs that work in doctors’ offices report directly to a physician. Their duties depend heavily on the specialization of the physician they report to. For example, LPNs under pediatricians may often give immunizations, while those under surgeons may perform a lot of wound care.
  • Nursing homes: More than a third of LPNs in the US are found in nursing care facilities. They usually undertake routine care for these patients. This may include feeding, bathing, dressing, monitoring medication, and watching out for overall health concerns.
  • Hospitals: Hospitals are not primarily limited to only RNs. LPNs are also employed to assist RNs in performing basic medical procedures such as medicating and checking and monitoring vital signs.
  • Home health care: LPNs also provide care at home for the sick, elderly, or disabled. They usually function under the direction of a registered nurse or a doctor. 
  • Rehabilitation centers: Just as they do in home care settings, LPNs do the same in rehab centers for those under-recovery. In this setting, they usually work with other professionals as a team.
  • Military: LPNs are much-needed members of the military. One who enlists in the military becomes medics who assist in emergency medical care in the battlefield, military camps, and military hospitals. This area is extremely fast-paced and involves an element of increased risk.
  • Correctional facilities: Those incarcerated are still eligible for health care. Therefore, jails also require LPNs among other health professionals. Although LPNs in this area perform the usual routine and emergency medical care, it also requires one to have a good grasp of the sociological and psychological factors in the treatment of inmates. 
  • Travel: Travel nursing is a lucrative field that LPNs with more than a year of experience can undertake. The setting calls for a nurse to travel and work in different hospitals across different locations for short periods.

Signs You Should Consider Becoming a Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse

Nursing is a special occupation because it involves getting in close contact with people who are in medical need. Like RNs, LPNs and LVNs are the most constantly present healthcare professionals during a patient’s treatment. It is safe to say that it takes a special person to excel in this type of profession. Below are some of the most important traits that a licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse must possess:

You are dedicated and patient 

An LPN or LVN is responsible for administering care to patients consistently with careful instruction from doctors and RNs. Being in the healthcare profession means having to work long shifts which may include nights, working on weekends and holidays as well. You need to have a strong dedication in order to fulfill this job. You also need a lot of patience as dealing with the sick and injured can be quite stressful and demanding both physically and mentally.

You are responsible

If you work as a nurse, you cannot just skip work on a whim, or do it half-heartedly. You need to put all of your effort and attention to what you are doing because people’s lives and wellbeing are at stake. You need to have a strong sense of responsibility and accountability for your actions since you are literally handling someone’s life and health. If you are a naturally responsible person who is dependable in terms of work and other tasks, becoming a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse might just be perfect for you.

You are detail-oriented

Taking care of patients involves tasks that are technical and require a lot of attention to detail. A stark example of this is administering medication. You need to be mindful of everything, down to the last decimal so as to avoid errors that may put patients at risk. If you are the type of person who gets down to the nitty-gritty of things and appreciates the finer details, you should seriously consider a career in this type of profession as your character is one that is highly valued in this field.

You are energetic and physically fit

When assisting injured, sick, or elderly patients, you may need to do a lot of lifting, supporting, pulling, and pushing. Examples of tasks that involve physical strength and stamina are bathing patients, helping them get dressed, and helping them mobilize. You don’t have to be a professional athlete or bodybuilder, but having a good amount of strength and stamina allows you to perform the tasks with ease and precision. Make sure that you are in top shape before entering this profession. You can’t look after the ill if you are sick yourself.

You are compassionate

Nursing is one of those jobs that demand a lot of heart from a person. You will be caring and handling people who are probably on the worst days of their lives. Your clients will be patients who are weak, frustrated, and in pain. To have empathy towards their struggles allows you to put yourself in their shoes and know how they feel. Being attuned to how your patients feel lets you get down to their level to administer care in the best way possible. While this may seem like a great benefit for the patients, which is excellent, it is also to your advantage since patients who feel understood often cooperate with their carers more readily, thus making your work a lot easier.

practical nurse giving medication

How Do You Become a Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse?

If you think you have what it takes to become a licensed practical or vocational nurse, the good news is that it only takes a couple of steps. All you need is about a year’s worth of education, pass a licensure exam, and you’re already an LPN/LVN! Here are the details on how you can get to that title:

1. Complete a practical nursing program 

In order to become a licensed practical or vocational nurse, you need to complete a practical nursing program. There is no other substitute or relevant degree that you can take to push through with the career as it is a specific program that combines pertinent subjects such as nursing, biology, pharmacology, and some supervised related learning experience.

The program usually takes at least one year to complete, after which you will be given a certificate of completion. Practical nursing programs are usually available in community colleges or technical or vocational schools. However, some high schools and training hospitals also offer the program. You can look through some of the best schools to get a practical nursing program below.

2. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) 

After completing a practical nursing program, PNs need to get licensed by passing the National Council Licensure Exam for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) developed and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. You can take a peek at their website to check for different state boards for nursing, and any information on the NCLEX-PN. They also offer simulated practice exams for you to have a look and feel of the actual exams you will take on your licensure process.

3. Acquire certification from various associations (optional)

This step is entirely optional, but can give you bonus points if you want to work in specialized areas or specialty care. For example, if you receive certification for gerontology, you will likely advance better at an elderly-care setting since it shows that you have a deeper and more advanced knowledge of the setting that you are working in.

4. Attend CPR training (optional)

While this is also optional, you might as well prioritize getting CPR training after or even during your practical nursing program. Employers and institutions have a natural preference for candidates who are trained to do CPR because it is such a basic but essential and life-saving skill that every health professional must know how to perform.

What are the Knowledge and Skills Needed to be a Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse?

It does not only take the heart and personality to become a licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse. It takes specialized knowledge and skills as well. Here are some of the most important skills that an LPN or LVN should possess in order to be able to do their job well:

Clinical skills

There is an actual list of clinical skills that a nurse must possess in order to be deemed fit for the job. Licensed practical nurses are only expected to be well-versed in basic skills such as vital signs taking (blood pressure, body temperature and respiration), isolation procedures, glucose monitoring, pain assessment, and postmortem care. More complex clinical skills are delegated to registered nurses, or to LPNs assigned in special areas.

Nonclinical skills

Aside from clinical skills, LPNs also need other skills that are inherent in the caring profession. Things like bathing, feeding, and grooming should be part of your roster. You should be able to do for the patient what they cannot do for themselves since they would be mostly dependent on you to be able to accomplish their self-care activities.

Communication

LPNs should be well-versed enough to know and understand the medical terminologies used by other healthcare professionals that they are working with. In addition to that, they should also be able to clearly and adequately communicate with patients when it comes to their care. They should be able to explain the procedures that they or other members of the healthcare team are about to perform. They should also be able to explain the reason why those procedures are necessary for the patient’s ongoing care.

Basic computer skills

In this modern era, computers and technology are integral in the process of patient care. Licensed practical and vocational nurses should have at least basic computer skills to be able to input patient data accurately within the system. Most documentation is done in computers nowadays, and so LPNs need to be familiar and adept in using them during the course of their everyday work.

Time management

A licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse has a lot of responsibilities. Being in charge of the overall wellbeing of patients can be taxing mentally and physically. If you don’t know how to manage your time well, you might get stressed easily. Worse, you might commit some serious mistakes that can prove to be harmful to your patients. Proper time management does not only save time and effort, it also saves you from unwanted errors at work.

Decision-making

LPNs are integral parts of handling emergency medical situations. In such instances, quick decisions must be made because there will likely be no time to discuss courses of action. Good decision-making skills give LPNs confidence and agility in times where the work is immediate and fast-paced. Saving time and making good decisions at the drop of a hat is a valuable skill to have in the healthcare field.

There are a lot of schools and colleges that offer certificate programs for LPNs. You can even check out other institutions like training hospitals that offer the program. Here are the top 100 schools that offer LPN courses in the US:

Get 30 days fREE All Access Pass and learn from over 1,000 online video courses

practical nurse talking to patient

How to Get a Job as a Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse

With a job outlook of 11%, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse jobs are expected to be on the rise until 2028. You can rest easy knowing that there will always be jobs for LPNs because healthcare is an ever constant and ever-growing aspect of society. Below are a few ways you can find LPN or LVN jobs:.

Check online job search engines

Online job search engines are the best go-to options for the modern-day jobseeker. You have a lot of online job search engines to choose from. Below are some of the most popular ones that post job openings for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse jobs:

Check online job sites that specialize in healthcare professions

Aside from online job search engines, there are several websites that specialize in healthcare-related jobs only. With these sites, you can have a more specialized and more focused job search since LPN jobs won’t be mixed up with non-healthcare job posts. Here are a few examples of such websites:

Check hospital or institution websites for available openings

If you want to go onto a more direct hiring process, you can simply check out your community hospital’s website to see if they have any job openings for LPNs or LVNs. Usually, institution websites have a careers page where they regularly update any vacancies. Some institution websites also allow potential applicants to submit their resumes in advance just in case of a future vacancy.

Learn About Geographic and Location Pay Differentials

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses may belong to the lower spectrum of wages for healthcare professionals, but the fact that you do not need a college degree already makes it a lucrative prospect among jobs that only require certificate programs. Below, you will see the pay differentials for LPNs/LVNs per state.

State2018 Mean Annual Wage
Rhode Island$59130
Massachusetts$58990
Alaska$58250
Nevada$57140
Connecticut$56970
New Jersey$56290
California$56200
Washington$55420
Arizona$54090
Maryland$53650
Oregon$53240
Delaware$52860
New Hampshire$52510
Colorado$51210
Illinois$51080
Hawaii$50930
Vermont$49720
Michigan$49040
New York$48770
Utah$48130
Pennsylvania$48120
New Mexico$47560
Minnesota$47020
Texas$46990
Virgin Islands$46970
State2018 Mean Annual Wage
Wyoming$46790
North Dakota$46410
Maine$45610
Wisconsin$45290
Virginia$44850
North Carolina$44610
Florida$44400
Indiana$44310
Idaho$44280
Montana$43770
Ohio$43430
Kansas$43240
Nebraska$43160
Iowa$42820
Missouri$42580
Kentucky$41920
Georgia$41690
Oklahoma$41260
South Carolina$40890
Tennessee$40120
Arkansas$39570
Louisiana$39480
South Dakota$38630
Alabama$38230
Mississippi$37930

Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Make Your Resume Stand Out

Here are a few things you can consider to help make your resume stand out among the rest of the licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse applicants:

  1. Contact details

Conventionally, and ideally, your contact details should be somewhere highly visible and easy to spot. That is why, oftentimes, it is conveniently situated right below your name. The logic behind this is fairly simpleyou want them to call you back for an interview. It should not be too hard for them to locate your contact details. Otherwise, at a fast-paced hiring process, the hiring manager might skip over to someone of the same qualifications whose contact details are easier to find.

  1. Career Objective

Why do you want the job? What can you bring to the table if you are chosen? What do you plan to achieve once you get the position? Make an impactful opening with your objective because it is basically the introduction to your resume.

  1. Academics

Since all the position requires is a certificate program, you may need to spice things up with other credentials such as specialized training, workshops and seminars you have attended, and your academic performance during the certificate program itself.

  1. Work experience

If you have had previous experience as an LPN or LVN, enumerate them from latest to earliest in this section. If you have not had experience, you may include the hours of supervised training you had while working on your certificate program, as well as character references from instructors.

Ace Your Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse Interview

Here are some of the most common questions that licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses face during job interviews:

  1. How well do you work under pressure?

This is a highly demanding job that is often fast-paced. You need to work long hours, even on weekends and holidays, handling difficult patients, getting along with the healthcare team, and dealing with distressed individuals. You need to work well under pressurenot panicking, but making sound decisions while remaining calm and composed.

  1. Do you get along well with colleagues?

As mentioned above, you will be working with other members of the healthcare team. You will be under the supervision of RNs, taking directions from doctors, and coordinating with allied health professionals such as laboratory technicians, medical assistants, psychologists, dietitians and nutritionists, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and even social workers.

  1. Why did you choose a nursing career?

Nursing takes a lot of heart and determination. Your employer should know how dedicated and passionate you are towards the job. It is your dedication that will allow you to excel in the job and give the best possible service to your patients.

  1. How do you handle difficult patients?

It takes some amount of skill to handle difficult patients -those who are severely debilitated, need special care and close monitoring, or simply those patients that are so distressed that they become uncooperative.

  1. What do you think are the most important traits of a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse?

As previously discussed, the most important traits of an LPN or LVN are dedication, patience, responsibility, and compassion. Make sure to explain why these traits are important in your personal opinion.

Top Online Courses for Aspiring Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Sharpen your skills in Practical and Vocational Nursing by taking these top online courses

While you may have no choice but to go through a practical nursing certificate program in order to become a licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse, you can definitely improve your on-the-job skills and performance through these carefully-curated online courses from SkillSuccess:

Customer Reviews

Sonia
Sonia
Read More
Course: Decision Making: Solve Problems With Emotional Intelligence

"5 Stars all around! Robin Hill is very inspiring and I was engaged by every video! The activities really make you become more aware of your behavior and very good for self-awareness."
Yelizaveta
Yelizaveta
Read More
Course: Time Management: Prioritization And Productivity

" I defiantly liked the writing along the part that way I can always have something to look to. And will be doing the Pomodoro and the the Ta-Da list. Excited!"
Alison Dempsey
Alison Dempsey
Read More
Course: Nutritional Therapy: 30 Plant Foods To Repair DNA And Nutrigenomics

"Great class, very informative! I learned a lot!"
Catherine
Catherine
Read More
Course: Nutrition For Optimal Health

"I always enjoy Angela's courses and look forward to new topics in nutrition, I enjoy updating knowledge on this all the time."
Devin Jordan
Devin Jordan
Read More
Course: Body Language Fundamentals: Improve Nonverbal Communication

"You can learn so much from this class. I really suggest it. You can notice how while getting further in the class you start using the instructions in everyday life."
Catherine
Catherine
Read More
Course: Decision Making: Solve Problems With Emotional Intelligence

"Management of the self and mind and emotions, it overlaps with psychology, counselling and business, good course."
Previous
Next

Ready to move up in your career?

Advance your skills with 30 days free of All Access Pass and learn from over 1,000 online video courses