The Licensed Practical Nursing profession began in the late 1800s when women were trained for careers as home “attendants” caring for invalids, the elderly, and children in a home setting.
The profession moved outside the home during World Wars I and II, when there was an acute need for nurses who could be trained to care for soldiers in the battlefield. In the 1940s, the National Association of Practical Nurse Education was formed. This association planned a curriculum for LPNs, and accreditation of schools became possible. In the late 1950s, the National League for Nursing took over this task in addition to the accreditation of schools for the training of RNs.
Today, there are approximately 1,100 LPN/LVN programs, producing a total of more than 44,000 graduates. Most programs are one year long, and a high school diploma is usually needed for acceptance. The standard for training is one-third class and two-thirds clinical work, with the emphasis on the hospital or clinical experience. However, the class content is just as important; it usually includes basic science as well as nutrition, health promotion, and information about disease categories.
Licensed Practical Nursing Profession
An LPN’s scope of practice is defined by the rules and regulations of the State Board of Nursing in each state. Nurses must pass the NCLEX-PN in order to obtain their license. The test is developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc., based on periodic surveys of the tasks and skills needed by practicing LPNs.
To practice in another state, a nurse must simply apply to that state for licensure. The license is usually granted after a check of the nurse’s records and does not require retaking the test.
A Licensed Practical (or Vocational) Nurse can work in many different settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, physicians’ offices, or as private-duty nurses. An LPN’s job is to provide basic bedside care, including taking vital signs, changing dressings, inserting catheters, performing routine laboratory tests, and helping patients with bathing, dressing, and personal hygiene. In some states, nurses may also administer prescribed medications and IV fluids.
Licensed Practical Nurse Job Overview
Presently, approximately one third of all LPNs work in hospitals, one third work in nursing homes, and the remainder work in doctors’ offices, clinics, home health-care services, or government agencies.
Employment of LPNs is expected to increase faster than most jobs because of the long-term care needs of the growing population of older people. The number of hospital inpatients is not expected to increase and may actually decrease.
Home health services, as well as work in private physicians’ offices and clinics, are also expected to offer a growing number of jobs. (In 2000–01, median earnings were approximately $26,940 a year with the middle fifty percent earning between $23,000 and $30,000 a year. Since the demand now exceeds supply, some temporary help agencies are offering sign-on bonuses.)
How to Apply for the NCLEX-PN Examination
Once you graduate from an accredited LPN program, you must complete an examination application and submit it, along with a fee and a certificate of graduation, to the State Board of Nursing in your state (the addresses and phone numbers can be found in the appendix).
Each state has slightly different deadlines and requirements, so you must contact yours to make sure you have the correct information. Your nursing school may have this information available in the NCLEX Examination Candidate Bulletin.
After you have been declared eligible by your State Board of Nursing, you must register for the NCLEX either online, by mail, or by telephone. (Residents of Massachusetts must register by mail in their own jurisdiction.) You will receive an authorization to test in the mail, then you must schedule your exam.