Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Summary

licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses image
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses provide basic medical care, such as checking a patient’s blood pressure.
Quick Facts: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
2012 Median Pay $41,540 per year
$19.97 per hour
Entry-Level Education Postsecondary non-degree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 738,400
Job Outlook, 2012-22 25% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 182,900

What Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses Do

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

Work Environment

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses work in many settings, including nursing homes and extended care facilities, hospitals, physicians' offices, and private homes. Most work full time.

How to Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses must complete a state-approved educational program, which typically takes about 1 year to complete. They must also be licensed.

Pay

The median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses was $41,540 in May 2012.

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.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses Do

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses
Licensed practical and vocational nurses should be friendly and enjoy helping people.

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic medical care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

Duties

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses typically do the following:

  • Monitor patients’ health—for example, by checking their blood pressure
  • Administer basic patient care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters
  • Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as helping them bathe or dress
  • Discuss the care they are providing with patients and listen to their concerns
  • Report patients’ status and concerns to registered nurses and doctors
  • Keep records on patients’ health

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.

Work Environment

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses
In some states, licensed practical and vocational nurses can give medication or start intravenous (IV) drips.

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 private20
Offices of physicians12
Home health care services11
Residential care facilities8

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.

How to Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses
Licensed practical and vocational nurses take tissue samples to check for illnesses.

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

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Median annual wages, May 2012

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

$41,540

Health technologists and technicians

$40,380

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

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

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

25%

Health technologists and technicians

24%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

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.

Employment projections data for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

29-2061 738,400 921,300 25 182,900 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Nursing assistants and orderlies help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

See How to Become One $24,400
Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients, while occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.

See How to Become One $48,940
Physical therapist assistants and aides

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Physical therapist assistants (sometimes called PTAs) and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain.

See How to Become One $39,430
Psychiatric technicians and aides

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

Psychiatric technicians and aides care for people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities. Technicians typically provide therapeutic care. Aides help patients in their daily activities and ensure a safe, clean environment.

See How to Become One $27,440
Registered nurses

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Associate’s degree $65,470
Surgical technologists

Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors during surgeries.

Postsecondary non-degree award $41,790
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm (visited July 24, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014