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Requirements for Becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Higher Education Articles March 27, 2013

For Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) hoping to advance their career, pursuing qualification as a Licensed Practical Nurse is a natural step in the process.

However, with career advancement comes increased responsibility, as the Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) is held to a standard more similar to the Registered Nurse (RN) than a CNA. Like RNs, LPNs are required to take a certification exam given by the National Council for Licensure. While CNAs work under LPNs and RNs primarily, LPNs are supervised by doctors and RNs.

The term Licensed Vocational Nurse is similar to LPN, and is the official terminology for LPNs in the states of Texas and California.

Education Requirements

A General Educational Development (GED) certificate or high school diploma is normally the only educational qualifications required to begin an LPN program. LPN programs are sometimes offered at high schools that offer Regional Occupational Program (ROP) which allow students to learn a vocational skill at school. Most programs offered to adults are offered through a community college or distance learning.

Most LPN programs include courses in the following areas:

•Psychiatric nursing
•Medical-surgical nursing

Upon completing all educational requirements, aspiring LPNs should take the National Council Licensure Examination for a Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN), in addition to the state-specific exam to become an LPN.


The specific career skills will depend on the work environment. Working in an intensive care unit is more stressful than a private practice. Regardless of work environment, all LVNs will need excellent communication skills to work with patients and coworkers and the ability to withstand stress, as any healthcare environment can be stressful at some point.

Duties of a licensed practical nurse:

•Recording and monitoring vitals
•Responding to patient calls
•Dressing wounds and injuries
•Administering basic first aid such as cold compresses, heat pads and ointments
•Caring for and preventing bedsores
•Maintaining accurate records
•Providing personal care such as food and baths
•Setting up machines, catheters or IVs
•Maintaining medical supplies

An LPN may also prepare patients for more intensive tests delivered by RNs and monitor reaction to medications

Additional duties

Though LPNs traditionally work in assisting other medical staff, LPNs may supervise other coworkers of the same level with limited experience or training. LPNs are expected to have the necessary training to prepare the patient for Doctors and RNs, in addition to basic patient care tasks. Working in an environment that allows you to glean from the experience of seasoned RNs is an excellent way to move up in a challenging unit like Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Emergency Room (ER).


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