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Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are the backbone of the nursing and medical fields. Licensed practical nurses provide the basic care that is required in hospitals, medical offices, assisted living facilities, and other situations such as providing home care. LPNs are trained to give injections, change dressings, take vital signs, and many other basic care procedures. LPNs normally work under the supervision of a doctor or a registered nurse.
LPNs provide different kinds of care depending on the type of facility they are working in. In hospitals they may assist injured or ill patients with eating, walking, or getting dressed. An assisted care facility might require them to supervise aides, or monitor the daily care of those who are ill or disabled. LPNs who provide home care may help family members with dietary needs or cleaning the room of the patient.
Licensed practical nurses must be able to work as a part of a team, and must be able to follow orders. They should also be observant and care about helping others. LPNs are in constant contact with patients, so they must be able to communicate, and be sympathetic to the plights of patients. Even though they are under the supervision of highly trained medical professionals, there may be times they are required to handle highly stressful situations and make appropriate decisions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for LPNs in 2008 was $39,030, with top earners making over $53,580 per year. The lowest 10 percent of earners averaged less than $28,260 annually.
Training and Education
There are training programs for those interested in becoming a licensed practical nurse. Normally a high school diploma or equivalent is required to be accepted into a training program. The programs vary in length, but are usually about 1 year. Many community colleges offer nursing programs, and they are also available at some vocational schools. You may also be able to find practical nursing training programs at some colleges and hospitals. Your training can involve attending classes and performing clinical work. After completing the course, you are required to pass a licensing examination in order to work as a licensed practical nurse.
Some people enter the nursing field at this level to find out if the career is right for them. After working as a LPN for a period of time, the progression to becoming a registered nurse involves earning an undergraduate degree in nursing through a college or university with a nursing program.
The latest data shows that in 2008 there were approximately 730,000 licensed practical nurses employed in this country. Of those, approximately 30 percent worked in nursing homes, 23 percent in hospitals, 12 percent in doctors' offices, and the rest in other medical facilities.
Job growth in the nursing and healthcare fields is projected to be excellent over the next 10 years and likely beyond. The aging of the baby boomer generation, a growing concern with living a healthy lifestyle, and the retirement of those already working in the field should combine to create job growth of 14 percent or better.