A licensed practice nurse (LPN), which is sometimes referred to as a licensed vocation nurse (LVN) in states like Texas and California, is a nurse who generally works under the direction of a physician or registered nurse (RN).

A licensed practical nurse must have mastery and confidence in performing many standardized nursing duties, such as recording a patient’s physical condition (height, weight, vital signs, temperature, pulse, blood pressure, etc). Additional duties may include preparing and administering injections, enemas, dressing wounds and tending to bedridden patients’ hygiene. Most LPNs are generalists, however, some will specialize in nursing homes or home care. As generalized healthcare assistants, LPNs are in high demand and may have to work demanding hours (nights, holidays and weekends).

The education required to become an LPN usually involves a one-year training program offered by local community colleges or technical schools, which require a high school diploma for entrance. The course of study is heavy on medical science, as would be expected. Subjects typically include physiology, anatomy, nursing, pharmacology, nutrition, first aid, pediatrics and more. Programs will also include a supervised clinical practice portion.

To obtain final licensure, LPN candidates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination – Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN). However, many LPNs also attain higher levels of education, such as LPN-to-RN programs, to further their careers. RNs then have the option to take a further step in their education by entering a Master of Nursing program to become an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN), who have the skills and responsibilities associated with highly qualified, specialized healthcare professionals.