When many people hear the word “nurse”, they think only of a registered nurse. They may not be aware that there are different levels of registered nursing, ranging from preparation with an associate degree, diploma, BSN, or advanced practice certification. They may also not be aware that there is another important nursing career level: the licensed practical nurse, or LPN.
Licensed practical nurses, or licensed vocational nurses (LVN) in some states, play an important role in patient care. During and shortly after World War II, many joined military nursing. It became necessary to create an option whereby individuals who wanted to become nurses could finish nursing school and get to work more quickly than in the current RN programs. The LPN programs were designed to be nine to twelve months in length. This still remains true today. Most LPN programs are in vocational-technical schools or community colleges, however, some hospital-based programs still remain. As with the RN, the LPN must pass the national licensure exam, or NCLEX-PN, after graduating from a state-accredited LPN school.
LPNs are trained to be the bedside caregivers, learning technical skills and theory preparing them to care for the sick, injured, and chronically ill. They are employed in many different healthcare settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health, physician offices, correctional facilities, mental health facilities, and clinics. LPNs function under the direction of a registered nurse or other licensed health care professional, such as a physician. The scope of practice for these nurses varies somewhat from state to state, but generally speaking they may perform any task for which they have been trained which does not require complex assessment, or independent decision-making, as to the plan of care for the patient. LPNs typically administer medications including injections, take vital signs, superv