What is an LPN?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 17, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Health
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An LPN is a licensed practical nurse. This type of nurse is often referred to as a practical nurse, as well. When you become an LPN, you will become an essential part of the medical staff.

You will take on many responsibilities when it comes to caring for injured and sick patients. You might work to help with rehabilitation treatments, as well. LPNs are entry-level workers and often work towards a higher-level nursing position.

Becoming an LPN requires a degree program in practical nursing. You will also need to complete the national exam requirements to get your license.

RN vs. LPN vs. CNA

You might be confused about what an LPN is compared to an RN or a CNA. An RN is a registered nurse, while a CNA is a certified nursing assistant. These three careers are all in nursing, but they are different.

A registered nurse will have a higher education level and certification level. You will need an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing to become an RN. An LPN will only need about one year of training. CNAs, on the other hand, only need three to six months of training.

It’s not uncommon for a CNA or LPN to work in these careers, while training to become an RN. LPNs can oversee CNAs in many circumstances, while RNs may oversee LPNs. The medical duties will also vary from one level to another.

The amount you will earn will also be quite different. Registered nurses earn the highest of the three at nearly $37 per hour. If you become a registered nurse in the operating room, you can earn more than $55 per hour. CNAs earn less than LPNs, as well.

What is an LPN?

Job Duties of an LPN

When you become an LPN, you will have many job duties. You will help to provide patient care and assist both registered nurses and doctors. You will also communicate with patients and their families. It’s also common to handle documenting patient symptoms and monitor their progress.

How to Become an LPN in 5 Steps

Step #1 – Complete High School

Before you can start an LPN program, you will need to complete high school or get your GED. This is required to get into an LPN program and become licensed.

Step #2 – Complete a Practical Nursing Program

Your LPN program will take about one year to complete. You will need to complete coursework in subjects, such as physiology, nursing practices, clinical practicums, biology, and anatomy.

LPNs will also need to complete clinical practicums. This will provide the hands-on training you need to work as an LPN. Most of these programs are offered through community or technical colleges.

Step #3 – Get your License

After completing your training, you will need to get your license to work as a practical nurse. This will require you to pass the national licensing examination for practical nursing. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing will proctor this exam.

Once you pass the exam; you will be able to get your LPN license and start working.

Step #4 – Advance Your Career

It’s common for LPNs to continue their education and advance their nursing career. You can work towards a degree in nursing and become an RN. With the experience you gain as an LPN, it will be much easier to make this transition, as well.

If you decide to advance your career, it will likely take about two years to go from an LPN to an RN. There are LPN-to-RN bridge programs to ensure you can make this move and get the education you need.

It’s also possible to use your LPN to become an NP. You will need to earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing and become an RN first. Then, after a few years of experience you can enter into graduate school to become an NP. This is another way to advance your career and your salary in nursing.

Step #5 – Specialize

As an LPN, you can specialize in many areas. Usually, this will require more training and maybe a certification. Specializing can make it easier to find a good nursing job. It can also lead to a higher salary.

The areas you can specialize in as an LPN include:

All of these areas offer LPN specialties.

Frequently Asked Questions About Being an LPN

How much can I make as an LPN?

According to Indeed.com, you can make more than $27 per hour, on average, as an LPN. It’s also common for LPNs to earn overtime compensation with an average amount of about $7,750 per year. Your level of experience, employer, and location will likely determine your salary, as well.

Top employers will pay well over $30 per hour for LPNs. Some will pay over $35 per hour. If you work in New York City, Phoenix, Indianapolis, or Columbus, you will likely earn more than other locations throughout the country.

How can I earn more money as an LPN?

One of the best ways to earn more money as an LPN is to specialize or gain new skills. Some of the best options to get you a higher salary include:

All of these options offer the ability to earn a higher salary. They can also make you a more desirable candidate for employers.

What type of benefits do LPNs get?

If you become an LPN, you will likely get an employee benefits package. This package will likely include health insurance with vision and dental insurance. You might also get life insurance, paid time off, and a 401(k). Some employers will offer matching on your 401(k).

Some of the other benefits you might get as an LPN is a flexible schedule, tuition reimbursement, license reimbursement, and relocation assistance.

How many hours will I work as an LPN?

It’s common for LPNs to be hired as full-time and part-time employees. Working an eight to twelve-hour shift is common. Many LPNs will work nights, weekends, and holidays, as well.

Expect to work at least 40 hours per week. You may also need to take on-call shifts and come in during an emergency situation.

Are LPNs in high demand?

Yes, this career, as with many others in the medical field, is in high demand. LPNs are actually known as the fourth most searched for job title on job sites by employers.

Where do LPNs work?

LPNs work in many healthcare settings. They might work in a long-term care facility, nursing home, hospital, private practices, or rehab centers.

Can I become a traveling LPN?

Yes, there are traveling LPNs that can work short-term assignments in different areas. Usually, you will need at least one year of experience. Contracts can range from three months to a year when you’re a traveling LPN.

Where do LPNs work?

It’s very common for LPNs to work in many different medical facilities. You might work in a hospital, physicians’ office, private practice, nursing home, or a health clinic.

Can I earn advanced certifications as an LPN?

Yes, you can earn many different certifications from the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses (NFLPN). The National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service (NAPNES) also offers certifications. There are more than 20 total certifications that can help you specialize and advance your career.

Can I complete my training program online to become an LPN?

No. Nursing degrees cannot complete the training or a degree program online. You will need to complete hands-on training, which requires you to attend the program in person. Typically, you will attend classes and do your hands-on training at a community college or technical college.

How long will it take me to become an LPN?

You will likely be able to complete a training program to become an LPN in about one year. Some programs are as short as seven months, while others can take as long as two years.

Nursing is a very rewarding career. Your job will include helping people that truly need your help. You will be trained to work with people and help with patient care in many different healthcare facilities.

If you’re looking for a rewarding career that doesn’t take long to get started, becoming an LPN makes a lot of sense. It’s a good place to start if you want to advance in nursing, as well. You can go from an LPN to an RN to an NP if you prefer.

Becoming an LPN offers plenty of opportunities. If you want to help others and earn a good wage, this might be the perfect career for you.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story is coming soon!