Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) provide patients with essential healthcare services including vital signs monitoring and medication maintenance. Working in healthcare facilities that range from hospitals and nursing homes to physician’s offices and schools, LPNs have the opportunity to care for patients across all age groups and demographics, ensuring people of all backgrounds receive quality, dignified care.
Exploring how to become an LPN is a great first step for those looking to pursue a career in healthcare while keeping their options open for future advancement or specialization. By completing a nursing school program, students can set themselves up for success in the medical field.
What Does an LPN Do?
For many people, nursing is a calling as much as it is a job. However, knowing which area of nursing to choose can be challenging, making entering the field as an LPN a great option for many individuals. As entry-level nurses, LPNs work closely with registered nurses (RNs), nurse practitioners (NPs), doctors, and other medical professionals, assisting them with procedures and providing basic care to patients.
For those interested in how to become an LPN, learning about the tasks and responsibilities of the job is key. Whether they are treating hospital patients with a range of medical conditions, hospice patients requiring end-of-life care, chronic care patients undergoing therapy, or students with minor ailments and illnesses, LPNs play a crucial role in the day-to-day operations of healthcare facilities.
Depending on the facility, LPN duties can include:
- Monitoring and recording patients’ symptoms and vital signs
- Applying or changing dressings for patients and assisting with their hygiene
- Collecting samples and specimens for laboratory tests
- Assisting surgical teams and other medical professionals
- Preparing patients for medical procedures
Steps to Become an LPN
The path toward becoming an LPN is one of the most accessible for individuals looking to enter the nursing field. After graduating from high school or earning a GED certificate, a prospective nurse can become an LPN to explore the profession prior to enrolling in more extensive training or pursuing career advancement through specialization.
1. Complete a Vocational Training Course
Prospective nurses exploring how to become an LPN should know that the first step is to enroll in a practical nursing program to earn a nursing diploma or certificate. In many cases, these vocational courses can be completed in as few as 15 months.
2. Develop Key Skills
Nurses are typically the main point of contact between a patient and their medical care team. To care for patients with sometimes severe medical concerns, nurses must build practical hard skills and soft skills to provide both effective and compassionate care. Some of the skills required of LPNs are:
- Communication and active listening: By taking the time to build rapport with patients and better understand their circumstances and symptoms, nurses can tailor their care to each patient’s needs.
- Compassion: Seeking medical care can be stressful for many patients. By treating patients and their families with compassion, LPNs can work to improve patients’ outcomes and experiences.
- Time management: Much of what LPNs do is time sensitive and requires multitasking. From keeping track of medications and changing dressings to prioritizing certain tasks and procedures, nurses must be able to manage their time effectively.
- Attention to detail: Tasked with detail-oriented duties such as monitoring vital signs and symptoms, recording patient information, and administering care, LPNs must be aware of each patient’s status and condition at all times.
- Critical thinking and problem-solving: While LPNs report to other medical professionals, they must also be able to think critically and make decisions under pressure to ensure the health of their patients.
3. Pass the Licensure Examination
Becoming an LPN requires both education and licensure prior to entering the workforce. After completing their nursing school program, prospective LPNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) in order to gain their license and begin practicing as an LPN.
4. Gain Work Experience
Hospitals, clinics, government agencies, and other care providers across the U.S. seek the expertise and dedication of LPNs. After completing their schooling and licensure examinations, LPNs can pursue job opportunities in any of a number of different areas and specializations within the nursing field to gain experience and learn which area of healthcare is right for them. Emergency care, gerontology, oncology, rehabilitation, pediatrics, and labor and delivery are just a few of the multitude of specialization options available to LPNs.
5. Continue to Pursue Professional Development
A career as an LPN can be a fulfilling one, allowing individuals to provide patients with the care and comfort they need during challenging health events. After learning how to become an LPN, individuals who choose to pursue this path should know that practical nursing can be a steppingstone to further education, specialization, and career advancement in nursing as well.
Depending on their goals, an LPN can advance their nursing career and increase their earning potential by pursuing additional certifications to be able to provide more comprehensive care as an LPN, or look toward becoming an RN, NP, nurse leader, or nurse educator by earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
Job Outlook for LPNs
Healthcare professionals, and nurses in particular, are in high demand nationwide. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing predicts a shortage of nurses across the country due to the aging U.S. population and the growing number of nurses retiring or changing careers. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, 54,400 openings for LPNs will be available each year between 2022 and 2032, with overall employment of LPNs expected to grow by 5% over the same period.
Make a Meaningful Impact by Becoming an LPN
LPNs play a key role in maintaining the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare facilities nationwide. When exploring how to become an LPN, prospective nurses need to learn how to build the knowledge and skills required to ensure that both patients and care providers have the tools they need to succeed.
Enrolling in a nursing school program, such as the licensed practical nursing program at Fortis, can help individuals build the well-rounded foundation needed to enter the workforce with confidence. Fortis’ 15-month comprehensive practical nursing program helps prepare students to pass the NCLEX-PN exam by combining clinical, laboratory, and theory-based training. Completing a training program with Fortis can open the door to a fulfilling career in healthcare. Discover how you can make a meaningful impact as an LPN.