Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) care for sick, injured, convalescing and disabled patients under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. Most LPNs provide basic bedside care. They measure and record vital signs such as height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiration. They assist physicians with treatments and exams, administer medications, dress wounds, and also assist in convalescence and rehabilitation. Duties can include helping patients eat; assisting them with bathing, dressing and personal hygiene; helping patients move, stand and walk; keeping patients comfortable; and caring for their emotional needs. LPNs also monitor their patient’s progress and report any adverse reactions, gather information regarding health history, and teach patients and/or family members how to provide ongoing care. The LPN reports all information to the RNs or physicians to help determine the best course of care.
- Long-term care facilities
- Assisted living facilities
- Physician offices
- Home healthcare agencies
- Community care facilities
- Outpatient care centers
Licensed practical nurses spend a large part of their work hours on their feet, and require physical stamina to help patients move in bed, stand or walk. They must strictly observe proper moving and lifting techniques to guard against the risk of back injurty. LPNs must also observe strict infection control guidelines to protect themselves and their patients from the risk or spread of infection.
Most LPNs work a 40-hour week. In facilities providing round-the-clock care, LPNs may have to work evenings, nights, weekends or holidays. Both part-time and full-time shifts are available, and due to demand, LPNs may find a work schedule available that fits their particular needs.
Employment of LPNs is expected to increase 21 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. And increase in demand for healthcare services and the growing elderly population will account for most of the growth in employment. LPNs will find most job opportunities in nursing care facilities and home healthcare services. Employment in outpatient care centers is expected to increase faster than in hospitals, as procedures once performed only in hospitals are being performed in physicians’ offices and outpatient care centers.
- Ability to work with a variety of people
- Ability to be caring and sympathetic
- Ability to work calmly in stressful situations
- Good verbal and written communication skills
- Ability to learn basic medical terminology and nursing techniques
- Ability to work accurately within set standards
- Good observational skills
- Good space and form perception and manual dexterity
- Physically fit to handle working on their feet for long periods and to lift and move patients
LPNs must graduate from an accredited program, usually 1-2 years in length. Most programs include both classroom study and supervised clinical (patient care) practice. Coursework includes basic nursing concepts and subjects related to patient care, including anatomy, physiology, medical-surgical nursing, pediatrics, obstetrics nursing, pharmacology, nutrition and first aid. Most clinical practice is done in a hospital, but can include other settings.
All LPNs must be licensed, which requires passing the national licensing exam – the NCLEX-PN – and meeting the eligibility requirements of the State. The National Council Licensure Examination is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
In Nebraska, LPNs who complete an additional certification course and take a state exam, can receive certification to give IV-therapy and nasogastric intubation.
Programs in Nebraska
- Central Community College – Columbus, Grand Island, Kearney (Diploma)
- Clarkson College – Omaha (Diploma)
- College of Saint Mary – Omaha (Certificate)
- Metropolitan Community College – Omaha (Certificate)
- Mid-Plains Community College – McCook, North Platte (Diploma)
- Northeast Community College – Norfolk (Certificate)
- Southeast Community College – Beatrice, Lincoln (Diploma)
- Western Nebraska Community College – Scottsbluff, Alliance, Sidney (Diploma)
Related / Links
Other careers that work closely with patients and/or have similar educational requirements:
For information about practice nursing and specialty credentialing:
- National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service, Inc.
- National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses
- National League for Nursing
Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Licensed Practice Nurses, on the Internet at www.bls.gov