Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) provide basic nursing care for patients. These medical professionals collaborate with registered nurses (RNs) to make sure that the people in their care are as comfortable as possible. Is becoming an LPN worth it? Find out with our deep dive into the current LPN job outlook statistics.
- Where do LPNs work?
- How do you become an LPN?
- What is the LPN job outlook and salary?
- Are LPNs being phased out?
- Is licensed practical nursing a good career?
Where do LPNs work?
Licensed practical nurses (and licensed vocational nurses, which is a different title for the same job in California and Texas) work in a variety of settings; depending on what the rest of the staff looks like, there's a lot of room for LPNs on the team.
Residential care facilities and nursing homes
Long-term care facilities are the most common employers of LPNs. Up to 35% of licensed practical nurses can be found in these environments.
Working in nursing homes and other long-term healthcare facilities like skilled nursing facilities gives LPNs the opportunity to really build relationships while providing basic patient care.
The job duties for LPNs in this environment will involve more day-to-day tasks since patients have different goals. Licensed practical nurses in residential care facilities and similar settings spend more time assisting with patients' routines, personal care, their activities of daily living, and helping patients navigate external social services.
Hospitals are the next most-common employers of licensed practical nurses. Depending on the available job openings, LPNs can be found in essentially every area, from the emergency department to the maternity ward.
Licensed practical nurses still provide basic medical care for these patients, but their job description may differ from LPNs employed elsewhere. A licensed practical nurse employed at a hospital is often supervised by registered nurses, and can be responsible for tasks like collecting samples, inserting catheters, taking vital signs, administering medication both orally and intravenously, and wound care.
Home health and patient homes
For a little more variety in their day, some LPNs choose to work in home health settings. These licensed practical nurses travel from multiple patients' homes throughout the day or week to assist with personal care. Home healthcare services can offer a more flexible schedule for LPNs, in addition to regular meetings with team members from their agency.
These licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses also spend time with patients' family members, giving them the tools to administer necessary basic health care to their loved ones without the immediate supervision of someone in a nursing career.
Outpatient care centers and clinics
This fast-paced work environment can be exactly what licensed practical nurses crave in their healthcare careers. Speed is often of the essence in this kind of healthcare facility, and LPNs must be confident in their efficient use of basic medical equipment in addition to sometimes triaging patients, depending on the clinic.
Licensed vocational nurses who work in outpatient care centers and similar healthcare services typically are responsible for tasks like assisting with examinations, taking vital signs like blood pressure, performing routine laboratory tests, collecting samples, and clerical duties.
Finally, LPNs can gain clinical experience while working in physicians' offices. These job prospects can have several different varieties of job description, from focusing on the "nursing" part of LPN, to a more clerical or administrative role. This often depends on the size of the team. If the physician's office has a larger staff, the licensed practical nurse will probably have reduced responsibilities.
A licensed practical nurse in this work environment can be assigned tasks anywhere from "greet that patient," to "collect samples." Both licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses will work with patients who have acute and chronic conditions.
Other job opportunities exist for a licensed vocational nurse who knows where to look - although less typical, some LPNs can find job openings in correctional facilities, schools, mental health facilities, insurance companies, forensic health facilities, and even theme parks.
How do you become an LPN?
Getting into licensed practical nursing is much more convenient than you may think. You'll need to, in order:
Earn a high school or diploma or GED
Enroll in an accredited LPN program
Apply for Authorization to Test through your local board of nursing
Schedule and pass your National Council Licensure Examination
Many students finish the program in 1-2 years, depending on their workload, but there are some accelerated LPN training programs which can send you to the finish line in about a year. Check your local technical schools and community colleges to see what's available.
The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) can be intimidating, but you don't need to be afraid of the state boards. With your courses completed, you'll ace the NCLEX-PN on your way to joining other medical professionals in healthcare services.
How long does it take to become an RN vs. LPN?
Completing an LPN certificate program is faster than an associate degree in nursing, which is required to become a registered nurse. Although you may later go on to pursue a bachelor's degree or other college degree, an LPN certificate allows you to get into the field quickly, while paying less tuition on the fewer education requirements.
LPN salary and job growth outlook
Overall, the job outlook for LPNs is bright. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for LPNs will grow at least 6% by 2031, adding approximately 58,000 jobs to the market. Some experts estimate the employment growth to be even higher: as the baby boom population ages, the new influx of patients will be creating demand for more LPNs and similar occupations in the healthcare system.
The median annual wage for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses was $48,070 in 2021, while the average salary is $52,912.
This does not take into account the increased wage that many LPNs can receive from pursuing a career in travel nursing; the national average salary tends to skyrocket when traveling is added into the equation.
RN salary vs. LPN salary
Registered nurses complete more school and earn a more in-depth degree. They are expected to take care of more complicated tasks on a daily basis, whether they're working in nursing homes or in hospitals. Because of this, registered nurses earn a significantly higher median salary than licensed vocational nurses. RNs also have more access to advanced job opportunities, and professional associations.
LPNs (and similar occupations) are still incredibly important roles in nursing. Their work with patient care is essential in the healthcare services.
Are LPNs being phased out?
It depends on what you mean by "phased out." At one point, it seemed like the demand for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses would diminish, due to the changing healthcare industry. Some healthcare facilities thought that it made more sense to exclusively hire registered nurses, who are able to practice in more areas.
But the national nursing shortage has changed that.
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment growth will be much slower for LPNs than RNs, it's still positive demand. This means that if you're a licensed practical nurse, you don't need to head back to school and become a registered nurse - but it also means you might be interested in looking into that option.
If you decide to pursue an associate degree in nursing (or a bachelor's of science in nursing), you may want to consider part-time school while still working as an LPN, to continue gaining clinical experience and ease the financial burden.
Is LPN a good career?
Yes! Whether you consider yourself a licensed practical nurse or one of the many licensed vocational nurses in California and Texas, this is a career that many healthcare professionals find meaningful and rewarding.
If you're interested in opportunities for LPN career advancement, look into specialty LPN certifications. Becoming certified in different nursing specialties may give you the advantage when it comes to finding the best job opportunities.
It's an excellent time to be an LPN, and the nursing field is full of opportunities for the licensed practical nurses who are willing to find them. Consider travel nursing as an LPN with Fusion Marketplace to discover high-paying jobs, a brighter job outlook, and adventure around every corner.