Vocational Nursing
Career Information

Career Snapshot: Licensed Vocational Nursing
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Training lasting about 1 year is available in about 1,200 State-approved programs, mostly in vocational or technical schools.
  • Applicants for jobs in hospitals may face competition as the number of hospital jobs for licensed practical nurses declines; however, rapid employment growth is projected in other health care industries, with the best job opportunities occurring in nursing care facilities and in home health care services.
  • Replacement needs will be a major source of job openings, as many workers leave the occupation permanently.

About the Profession
Vocational nursing is the entry level into the nursing profession. The licensed vocational nurse practices under the supervision of a registered nurse, advanced practice nurse, physician's assistant, physician, podiatrist, or dentist. The licensed vocational nurse practices in structured health care settings with clients with predictable healthcare needs.

Texas and California use the title Licensed Vocational Nurse; all other states use the title Licensed Practical Nurse; graduates of both programs take the same licensure exam.

In addition to providing routine bedside care, LPNs in nursing care facilities help to evaluate residents’ needs, develop care plans, and supervise the care provided by nursing aides. In doctors’ offices and clinics, they also may make appointments, keep records, and perform other clerical duties. LPNs who work in private homes may prepare meals and teach family members simple nursing tasks.

Most licensed practical nurses in hospitals and nursing care facilities work a 40-hour week, but because patients need round-the-clock care, some work nights, weekends, and holidays. They often stand for long periods and help patients move in bed, stand, or walk.

LPNs may face hazards from caustic chemicals, radiation, and infectious diseases such as hepatitis. They are subject to back injuries when moving patients and shock from electrical equipment. They often must deal with the stress of heavy workloads. In addition, the patients they care for may be confused, irrational, agitated, or uncooperative.

Licensed practical nurses held about 726,000 jobs in 2004. About 27 percent of LPNs worked in hospitals, 25 percent in nursing care facilities, and another 12 percent in offices of physicians. Others worked for home health care services; employment services; community care facilities for the elderly; public and private educational services; outpatient care centers; and Federal, State, and local government agencies. About 1 in 5 worked part time.

Employment of LPNs is expected to grow about as fast as average for all occupations through 2014 in response to the long-term care needs of an increasing elderly population and the general growth of health care services. Replacement needs will be a major source of job openings, as many workers leave the occupation permanently. Applicants for jobs in hospitals may face competition as the number of hospital jobs for LPNs declines; however, rapid employment growth is projected in other health care industries, with the best job opportunities occurring in nursing care facilities and in home health care services.