Licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, provide basic medical care to patients in hospitals, medical clinics and doctor's offices. LPNs fit right in between nursing assistants and registered nurses, having more education than the first but less than the second. If you want to become an LPN, join an accredited course at your local community college. LPN courses take about a year to finish and are followed by the National Council Licensure Examination. Pass that and you've got your LPN license. Now, if you want to be a successful LPN, you might want to keep a few objectives in mind when you go to work.
Be in the Know
LPNs must have a thorough understanding of anatomy and proper medical procedures to be good at their jobs. After all, no one wants to been seen by a nurse who can't quite remember how to draw blood. The exact procedures you can perform are regulated by the state you work in, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some LPNs may have to insert catheters, initiate intravenous drips or administer medicine. Depending on the work setting, you may also have to assist in birth and delivery, teach families how to care for a sick relative and test specimen samples. The better you are at what you do, and the more consistently you provide excellent care, the more likely you'll get noticed.
We all know what it feels like to be seen by a nurse who acts as though she would have preferred we hadn't walked in the door. Patients shouldn't be treated as one more task to finish before quitting time. They're human beings with feelings, fears and lives that are just as important to them as yours are to you. Take the time to actively listen to your patients and answer their questions. Explain procedures to them and address their needs. Remember also that your patients come from a variety of backgrounds, beliefs and cultures. Try to connect with them on their level.
As an LPN, you'll routinely encounter sickness and disease on any given day. You'll come in direct contact with the people who carry them, plus you may be in charge of obtaining blood and urine samples. It's vital to the safety of yourself, your patients and your coworkers that you strictly adhere to safety protocol at all times. Samples should be collected safely. Used medical equipment should be disposed of or sterilized, depending on the type of equipment being used. Accidents, such as blood spills or vomit, should be dealt with immediately and all surfaces sanitized.
Moving On Up
The reputation you've built and the experience you've gained as an LPN are going to help -- or hinder -- getting that promotion. If you've done a good job, you may be in line for a supervisory position. You know what that means: more responsibility and more money. Or you could even go back to school to further your medical education. Many schools offer LPN-to-RN programs that allow LPNs to build on the education and experience they already have to earn an associate degree. The program typically takes about one year to complete. RNs averaged $64,690 a year in 2010, according to the BLS. That's $20,000 more than LPNs!
2016 Salary Information for Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses earned a median annual salary of $44,090 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $37,040, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $51,220, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 724,500 people were employed in the U.S. as licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse
- Camden County College: LPN Program Description
- South Florida State College: Allied Health Programs: Nursing: Transition--LPN to RN
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
- Career Trend: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
Brooke Julia has been a writer since 2009. Her work has been featured in regional magazines, including "She" and "Hagerstown Magazine," as well as national magazines, including "Pregnancy & Newborn" and "Fit Pregnancy."