How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)


Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), also known as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) in some states, play a vital role in the healthcare system by providing direct patient care under the supervision of Registered Nurses (RNs) and physicians. LPNs work in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics, where they perform tasks like administering medications, taking vital signs, and assisting with personal care. In this article, we will outline the steps you need to take to become a successful LPN.

Understanding the Role of a Licensed Practical Nurse

Job Responsibilities

LPNs perform a variety of tasks in their day-to-day work, including:

  • Monitoring patients’ health conditions and reporting changes to RNs or physicians
  • Administering medications and injections
  • Collecting samples for laboratory testing
  • Taking vital signs, such as blood pressure, temperature, and pulse rate
  • Assisting with personal care tasks, such as bathing and dressing
  • Providing basic patient education on topics like medication management and self-care
  • Documenting patient care and updating medical records

Essential Qualities

To be successful as an LPN, you should possess the following qualities:

  • Compassion and empathy for patients and their families
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • Attention to detail and the ability to follow instructions
  • Adaptability and resilience when working in a challenging and fast-paced environment
  • Physical stamina to perform tasks that require standing, bending, and lifting

Educational Requirements and Training

Obtain a High School Diploma or GED

The first step in becoming an LPN is to complete your high school education or obtain a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. This provides a solid foundation for the prerequisite coursework required in LPN programs.

Complete Prerequisite Courses

Before enrolling in an LPN program, you may be required to complete prerequisite courses in subjects such as biology, chemistry, and anatomy. These courses provide a strong foundation in the sciences, which is essential for success in an LPN program.

Enroll in a State-Approved LPN Program

LPN programs are typically offered by community colleges, vocational schools, and technical institutes. These programs usually take 12 to 18 months to complete and include both classroom instruction and clinical experiences. The curriculum covers essential topics such as:

  • Nursing fundamentals
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical-surgical nursing
  • Maternity and pediatric nursing
  • Mental health nursing
  • Geriatric nursing

Ensure that your state’s nursing board approves the LPN program you choose, as this is a requirement for licensure.

Complete Clinical Hours

As part of your LPN program, you will be required to complete a certain number of clinical hours under the supervision of an experienced nurse. The required hours vary by program, but typically ranges from 500 to 700 hours. During your clinical experiences, you will have the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge you’ve learned in the classroom to real-life patient care situations.

Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN)

After completing your LPN program, you must pass the NCLEX-PN to become licensed as an LPN. The NCLEX-PN is a computer-adaptive exam that tests your nursing knowledge and skills, focusing on patient safety, health promotion, and disease prevention. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions and alternate item formats such as fill-in-the-blank and multiple-response questions.

To prepare for the NCLEX-PN, consider using study guides, practice exams, and review courses

Obtain State Licensure

After passing the NCLEX-PN, you must apply for licensure through your state’s board of nursing. This process typically involves submitting an application form, proof of completion of a state-approved LPN program, NCLEX-PN exam results, and a background check. Some states may also require additional exams or documentation, such as proof of immunizations or a jurisprudence exam, which tests your knowledge of state nursing laws and regulations.

Upon approval of your application, you will receive your LPN license and be legally authorized to practice nursing in your state.

Finding Employment

Prepare Your Resume and Cover Letter

Create a professional resume and cover letter that highlight your LPN education, clinical experience, and any relevant certifications or specialty training. Emphasize your skills and qualities that make you a strong candidate for an LPN position, such as your attention to detail, effective communication skills, and adaptability.

Apply for LPN Positions

Begin your job search by applying for LPN positions in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and home healthcare agencies. You can search for job openings through online job boards, healthcare facility websites, or professional nursing organizations.

Attend Job Fairs and Networking Events

Job fairs and networking events can be valuable opportunities to connect with potential employers and learn about job openings in your area. Bring copies of your resume and be prepared to discuss your qualifications and interest in working as an LPN.

Utilize Your LPN Program’s Resources

Many LPN programs offer job placement assistance or have connections with local healthcare facilities. Reach out to your instructors or the program’s career services department to inquire about job leads or networking opportunities.

Advancing Your Career

Pursue Continuing Education

As an LPN, it is essential to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in patient care and healthcare practices. Many states require LPNs to complete a certain number of continuing education hours to maintain their license. In addition to meeting these requirements, pursuing additional training in areas such as wound care, geriatric care, or intravenous therapy can enhance your skills and make you more marketable to employers.

Obtain Specialty Certifications

Obtaining specialized certifications can help you advance your career and increase your earning potential. Some popular certifications for LPNs include:

  • IV Therapy Certification
  • Wound Care Certification
  • Gerontological Nursing Certification

Consider Pursuing a Higher Degree in Nursing

If you are interested in furthering your career in healthcare, consider pursuing a higher degree in nursing, such as becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) or an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). These roles offer increased responsibilities, greater autonomy, and higher earning potential. Many nursing programs offer credit for your LPN training, which can shorten the time it takes to complete your degree.

By following these steps and dedicating time and effort to your professional development, you can successfully become a Licensed Practical Nurse and make a meaningful impact on the lives of patients and their families.