What is a Licensed Practical Nurse?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2019
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A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is a nurse who has completed a practical nursing program, which usually offers around one year of nursing training. Licensed practical nurses can perform a variety of tasks related to patient care, but they must work under the supervision of a registered nurse or doctor. Employment prospects in this nursing field are generally quite good, and licensed practical nurses work in a range of environments to provide valuable nursing services and support.

Registered nurses have more training than licensed practical nurses, allowing them to perform more procedures and to work more independently. Nurse practitioners have even more training, and in some cases they have completed almost as much training as doctors. All of these different nursing careers are valuable and useful, with the key differences being the level of training involved and the level of medicine which can be practiced after certification.

Under supervision, a licensed practical nurse can do things like start IVs, administer medications, take samples, perform basic lab analysis, dress wounds, take vital signs, and perform basic diagnostic tasks. They also chart patient progress, provide updates on patient status to supervising nurses and doctors, and assist patients with questions and concerns. Licensed practical nurses also monitor patients under their care, and they may supervise orderlies, nursing assistants, and other members of the nursing staff, depending on where they work. With experience, a licensed practical nurse may become very skilled at a variety of nursing tasks.


Some licensed practical nurses work in hospital settings, providing patient care, assistance with intake, and similar services. Others may work in residential treatment facilities, nursing homes, and similar establishments. It is also possible to work as an in-home care provider with a licensed practical nurse certification. Rates of compensation vary, depending on work experience and additional certifications, and they may include benefits such as health care, paid vacations, or payments into retirement funds.

Depending on where in the world one is, a licensed practical nurse may also be called an enrolled nurse, licensed vocational nurse, or registered practical nurse. Education and certification requirements vary around the world, but as a general rule, a licensed practical nurse must obtain a high school diploma and follow up with college training. Vocational colleges and community colleges often offer certification to people interested in this branch of the nursing field, and some medical schools may also provide nursing certifications.



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