Licensed Practical Nurse

Licensed practical nurses (LPN) care for the sick, injured, convalescent and disabled under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. Most LPNs provide bedside care to patients and perform a variety of nursing tasks, including taking vital signs, providing wound and incision care, collecting specimens for laboratory tests, administering medications, starting intravenous therapy, assisting patients perform routine daily activities, observing patients response to illness and treatment, assisting patients cope with their illness and treatment, and providing comfort measures to patients.


Education

Individuals who wish to practice as a licensed practical nurse must complete a practical nursing program that is generally about one year in length. Vocational-technical schools, community colleges, and some hospital-based nursing education programs offer licensed practical nursing education programs. The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing must approve all practical nursing education programs that operate in the commonwealth.  

Following completion of the yearlong education and training program, the graduate must successfully pass a licensing exam to practice as a practical nurse and use the title licensed practical nurse.

Licensed practical nurses wishing to become registered nurses can generally obtain advanced placement standing in either a hospital based education program or associate degree nursing education program, which allows the student to complete requirements for graduation from a registered nursing education program in a shorter amount of time.

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Places of Employment

Together, hospitals and nursing homes employed the largest number of LPNs. A smaller percent work in physician offices, clinics, home health agencies, schools, residential care facilities, and government agencies.

LPNs working in nursing homes, in addition to providing routine care, may also help evaluate resident needs, develop care plans, and supervise care provided to residents by nursing assistants. In doctorsí offices and clinics, LPNs may also make appointments, keep records, and perform other clerical duties.

LPNs working in nursing homes and hospitals typically work weekends, holidays, and evening/night hours since care is provided around the clock to patients and residents in those facilities. In other settings, hours will be dependent upon the business hours of the employing organization.

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Career Outlook

Employment of LPNs is expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2008 in response to the long-term care needs of a rapidly growing elderly population. Employment for LPNs in nursing homes should grow faster than most other segments of the health care industry, but as hospitals and home care face difficulty in filling registered nurse positions, there may be increased opportunity for LPN employment in these settings as well.

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Salary

Median annual earnings for LPNs was $26,940 in 1998. The middle 50 percent earned between $23,160 and $31,870 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,210 per year and the highest 10 percent earned more than $37,540 annually.

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Copyright 2001 The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pa.