What is a Licensed Practical Nurse?

A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), also known as a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) in some states, is a healthcare professional who provides basic nursing care under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and physicians.

LPNs work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and home healthcare agencies, to assist in the care of patients across the lifespan. They play an important role in providing direct patient care, administering medications, monitoring vital signs, and assisting with activities of daily living.

What does a Licensed Practical Nurse do?

A licensed practical nurse smiling with one of her young patients.

Duties and Responsibilities
Licensed practical nurses provide direct patient care under the supervision of registered nurses and other healthcare professionals. Here are some of the key duties and responsibilities of LPNs:

  • Patient Care: LPNs assist with the basic care needs of patients, including bathing, dressing, feeding, and toileting. They monitor patients' vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and respiratory rate, and report any significant changes to the healthcare team. LPNs also assist patients with mobility, transferring them safely from beds to wheelchairs or assisting with ambulation as needed.
  • Medication Administration: LPNs administer medications orally, topically, intramuscularly, and intravenously under the direction of RNs or physicians. They ensure proper medication dosage, timing, and route of administration, and monitor patients for any adverse reactions or side effects. LPNs may also educate patients and their families about medication instructions, potential side effects, and the importance of medication compliance.
  • Wound Care and Dressing Changes: LPNs perform basic wound care procedures, such as cleaning and dressing wounds, applying topical medications, and monitoring wound healing progress. They follow infection control protocols to prevent the spread of infection and ensure that wounds are properly cared for to promote healing and prevent complications.
  • Documentation and Reporting: LPNs maintain accurate and thorough patient records, including nursing assessments, care plans, medication administration records, and progress notes. They communicate effectively with other members of the healthcare team, providing updates on patient status, changes in condition, and any concerns or observations that may impact patient care.
  • Patient Education and Support: LPNs provide education and support to patients and their families on various health topics, including disease management, medication management, dietary guidelines, and lifestyle modifications. They offer emotional support and comfort to patients during difficult times and advocate for their needs and preferences within the healthcare setting.
  • Collaboration and Teamwork: LPNs collaborate with RNs, physicians, therapists, and other healthcare professionals to ensure comprehensive and coordinated patient care. They participate in interdisciplinary team meetings, contribute to care planning discussions, and share valuable insights and observations to improve patient outcomes and quality of care.

Types of Licensed Practical Nurses
Licensed practical nurses work in various healthcare settings and may specialize in different areas of patient care. LPNs may have specific roles or work in specialized fields within the nursing profession. Here are some types of LPNs and their roles:

  • Geriatric LPNs: LPNs specializing in geriatrics focus on the unique healthcare needs of elderly patients, including managing chronic conditions, promoting healthy aging, and providing compassionate end-of-life care. They work in various settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, home healthcare agencies, and community centers, collaborating with interdisciplinary teams to improve the quality of life for older adults.
  • Long-Term Care LPNs: LPNs employed in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and rehabilitation centers, focus on providing care to elderly or disabled individuals who require long-term assistance. They help residents with activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, and mobility, and may also assist with medication management and wound care.
  • Pediatric LPNs: LPNs specializing in pediatrics work in pediatric clinics, hospitals, schools, and pediatricians' offices, providing nursing care to infants, children, and adolescents. They assist pediatricians with physical examinations, immunizations, and other medical procedures, and provide support to children and their families during hospitalization or outpatient visits.
  • Specialty LPNs: LPNs may also work in specialized areas such as mental health, rehabilitation, dialysis, and occupational health, where they provide nursing care tailored to the specific needs of patients with particular health conditions or requirements.

Are you suited to be a licensed practical nurse?

Licensed practical nurses have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

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What is the workplace of a Licensed Practical Nurse like?

The workplace of a licensed practical nurse can vary depending on the healthcare setting in which they are employed. LPNs work in a wide range of environments, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, physician's offices, schools, home healthcare agencies, and community health centers. Each setting offers its own unique challenges and opportunities for LPNs to provide patient care and contribute to the healthcare team.

In hospitals, LPNs may work on medical-surgical units, emergency departments, or specialty areas such as pediatrics or obstetrics. They collaborate with RNs, physicians, and other healthcare professionals to provide bedside care to patients, administer medications, monitor vital signs, and assist with medical procedures. Hospitals are fast-paced environments where LPNs must be adaptable and able to prioritize patient needs in dynamic situations.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are common workplaces for LPNs who specialize in providing care to elderly or disabled individuals. In these settings, LPNs assist residents with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and eating, and help manage chronic conditions and age-related health issues. LPNs in long-term care settings develop close relationships with residents and their families, providing emotional support and advocating for their well-being. Additionally, LPNs may work in outpatient clinics, physician's offices, or community health centers, where they provide preventive care, health education, and support to patients in a more primary care-focused setting.

Frequently Asked Questions



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Nursing-Type Careers Without a Bachelor's Degree

There are several nursing type careers that you can pursue without attaining a bachelor's degree and becoming a registered nurse (RN), including:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): CNAs provide direct patient care and assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, grooming, feeding, and toileting. They work under the supervision of nurses or other healthcare professionals in nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and home care settings. CNAs play a vital role in ensuring patients' comfort, safety, and well-being.
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), or Paramedic: EMTs and paramedics provide emergency medical care and transportation to individuals in need of urgent medical attention. They respond to 911 calls, assess patients' conditions, administer first aid and life-saving interventions, and transport patients to medical facilities for further treatment. EMTs and paramedics work in ambulance services, fire departments, hospitals, and other emergency medical services (EMS) agencies.
  • Home Health Aide (HHA): Home health aides provide personal care and support services to individuals who require assistance with activities of daily living in their homes. They help with tasks such as bathing, dressing, meal preparation, medication reminders, and light housekeeping. HHAs work under the supervision of registered nurses or other healthcare professionals to support patients' independence and improve their quality of life while living at home.
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): LPNs provide basic nursing care under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) or physicians. They typically work in long-term care facilities, clinics, physician's offices, or home healthcare settings, assisting with tasks such as administering medications, dressing wounds, monitoring patient vital signs, and providing personal care to patients.
  • Medical Assistant (MA): Medical assistants perform administrative and clinical tasks to support healthcare providers in medical offices, clinics, and other outpatient settings. They may assist with patient intake, record-keeping, scheduling appointments, taking vital signs, preparing patients for examinations, and performing basic laboratory tests. Medical assistants work closely with nurses, physicians, and other members of the healthcare team to deliver quality patient care.
  • Orderly: Orderlies assist with the general care and comfort of patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. They perform tasks such as transporting patients between rooms and departments, assisting with patient transfers and positioning, delivering supplies and equipment, and maintaining cleanliness and orderliness in patient care areas. Orderlies work under the direction of nurses and other healthcare staff to ensure patients' safety and well-being during their hospital stay.
  • Patient Care Technician (PCT): Patient care technicians provide direct care and assistance to patients under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs). They help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, feeding, and toileting, as well as monitoring patient vital signs, reporting changes in condition to the nursing staff, and assisting with basic medical procedures. Patient care technicians support patients' comfort, mobility, and recovery while promoting a safe and therapeutic environment in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare settings.

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Licensed Practical Nurses are also known as:
LVN LPN Licensed Vocational Nurse Vocational Nurse