By Sarah Stevenson
A licensed practical nurse—also called a licensed vocational nurse—provides direct care to patients in a variety of settings. It usually takes about a year of serious study to acquire the necessary skills to give appropriate bedside care and to learn to administer various tests and procedures.
Traditional or online LPN nursing classes from an accredited, state-approved nursing program, followed by a licensing exam, are required in order to practice as an LPN.
It's important to note that fully online LPN programs are difficult to find, although you may be able to do some prerequisite work or take some of your nursing courses online. If you are already an LPN and are looking to advance your nursing career, accredited online bridge training is available, such as LPN-to-BSN programs.
What You'll Do in an LPN Job
LPNs provide a large proportion of the direct patient care in today's healthcare environment, including:
- basic bedside care, such as measuring vital signs, giving injections, and keeping patients comfortable
- patient monitoring, including recording patient health and treatment information
- feeding and caring for infants
- teaching family members how to care for a patient in-home
- supervising nursing assistants and aides
LPNs are an essential part of the health care system, but a one-year LPN program can also be an important early step on the road to a more advanced nursing career.
Further study in an LPN-to-BSN or LPN-to-RN program requires more years of coursework, but in the end provides the knowledge necessary for a more supervisory role or a teaching career.
Where LPNs Work
As you might expect, many LPNs practice in hospitals, where they work under a physician or registered nurse in one or more specific departments. However, LPNs are increasingly needed in specialized settings, particularly home health care services, nursing care facilities and office/outpatient nursing. LPNs more advanced in their careers may become treatment nurses or special procedure nurses, or attain supervisory positions.
Start Your Search Online for LPN Nursing Classes
LPN programs are generally offered at technical or vocational schools or at community colleges, though some are available through high schools or hospital training programs. The LPN program includes a combination of classroom training and supervised clinical practice, followed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-PN.
Because of the importance of gaining in-person experience caring for patients, it isn't advisable to pursue an LPN program that claims to be fully online. However, it may be possible to complete some or all of your coursework through online LPN nursing classes. Check with your state Board of Nursing for a list of approved training programs.
Also, be sure that your chosen program is accredited by the National League of Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Although accreditation is voluntary, such programs meet high standards of educational quality established by the accrediting agency. Graduation from an accredited program may improve your future job and education prospects.
The Future of LPN Nursing
There is no denying that nursing is a booming career, with the LPN field expected to grow 16 percent through 2024—much faster than average—according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Nursing care facilities and home healthcare services will offer some of the best career bets. Because more medical procedures are expected to take place in doctors' offices and outpatient facilities, those settings will also employ large numbers of LPNs/LVNs.