• An LPN is a licensed practical nurse, sometimes known as an LVN, or licensed vocational nurse. An LPN works under the direction of a physician or a registered nurse. LPNs work in a wide variety of settings, including doctors' offices, home health care, clinics, hospitals and nursing homes.


    LPNs provide general medical care to patients and help families of patients understand how to administer home health care. They take a patient's health histories, chart and track patient vitals (such as blood pressure and pulse rate), bathe and dress patients, administer enemas and injections, dress wounds and generally see to patients' needs. LPNs often supervise nursing aides.


    Nursing programs require a high school diploma or GED before beginning the typical year of study. Both classroom study and practical training is involved. These nursing programs can be found in trade schools, community colleges and some high schools.


    After completing the required coursework and practicum, an LPN candidate must take an exam called the NCLEX-PN. This computer-based exam covers four essential aspects of nursing: psychosocial integrity, health promotion, physiological integrity and effective and safe care.


    LPNs need more than high test scores to be qualified caregivers. Because they work in high-stress and often extremely emotional settings, they must be level-headed, detail-oriented and able to make quick decisions as well as supportive, caring and sympathetic. LPNs must be able to work both independently and as a team member and be able to take orders.


    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 750,000 LPNs are at work in the United States. The majority work in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors' offices. Employment is expected to rise 14 percent by 2016, mainly in the field of elder care, both in nursing homes and home health care.


    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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