Licensed Practical Nurse

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs), also known as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), are responsible for providing basic care to ill, injured, convalescent, and disabled persons. They work under the supervision of physicians and registered nurses. The scope of the care they provide includes measuring vital signs, giving rubs or massages, changing dressings, and giving enemas and injections. In addition, LPNs help patients eat, dress, and bathe, collect blood samples, and, in some States, administer intravenous fluids. Their duties are often defined by the type of facility in which they work. In nursing care facilities, they may evaluate care plans and supervise nursing aides; in private homes, they may cook meals and assist family members with nursing work; and in doctor’s offices, they may assist with clerical duties such as record-keeping and answering phones.

Job Skills

LPNs need to have well-developed communication skills, and the ability to observe accurately and make decisions accordingly. They must be willing to work with a team, as well as follow orders from supervisors. Due to the nature of the work, LPNs should be emotionally stable and have a sympathetic disposition.


In 2002, LPNs earned a median annual salary of $31,440. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10 percent, who earned less than $22,860, and the highest 10 percent, who earned more than $44,040. The highest annual salary was found in employment services, and the lowest was found in physicians’ offices.

Training and Education

A high school diploma, or equivalent, is required to be accepted into one of the more than 1,100 State-approved practical nursing programs in the country. After completing this program, LPN candidates must pass a licensing examination required by all 50 States and the District of Columbia. Most students enroll in a practical nursing program through community college or vocational school, although some receive training in high schools, hospitals, and universities. Most programs take about 1 year to complete, and include both classroom study and clinical practice.


In 2002, approximately 702,000 jobs were held by licensed practical nurses, with the highest numbers working in hospitals and nursing care facilities.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of LPNs is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Factors such as the growing elderly population and general growth of healthcare will keep the number of jobs rising at a steady pace. However, due to technological advances that encourage more procedures being performed away from hospitals, job growth will be faster than the average in physician’s offices and outpatient care centers.

Directory of LPN Nursing Schools