A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) is a nursing professional who is able to perform a wide variety of tasks under the supervision or a registered nurse (RN) or doctor. LPNs are also known as Licensed Vocation Nurses (LVNs) in some regions. These members of the health care community can provide a wide range of valuable services in a variety of settings, including hospitals, residential care facilities, and private homes.
In order to become an LPN, a nurse must take a one to two year vocational training program. He or she can also choose to pursue certification in specializations such as oncology or obstetrics to provide nursing in particular subsets of the medical field. Vocational colleges and some nursing schools offer programs for this type of nursing, along with practical experience to students. Most candidates try to get a good grounding in biology in high school, and some may also pursue training in a foreign language so that they can work in areas with a mixed population.
Once he or she is certified, an LPN can provide patient care at a range of levels. He or she can do routine nursing tasks like assisting patients with bathing, going to the bathroom and going to physical therapy, along with monitoring patients, charting changes in their condition, and collecting samples for testing. LPNs can also start intravenous drips, perform minor procedures, change dressings, and engage in similar tasks under the supervision of a doctor or RN.
LPNs cannot perform complex tasks like anesthesia induction and surgery, but they can be involved in many aspects of a patient's care. In a busy hospital, LPNs often float, taking up slack as needed on various wards to ensure that patients receive the level of care they need. They may also provide basic primary care to patients in a medical clinic, and help to teach community information classes or to formulate a nursing plan for a specific patient.
Employment prospects for an LPN, especially one with specialized training, tend to be quite good. Many nations experience chronic nursing shortages, and welcome skilled medical professionals who can assist with patient care. Depending on an LPN's preference, he or she could seek employment as a private nurse caring for patients in their homes, or work with patients in a residential facility or hospital, providing primary care and nursing interventions to patients in need. Some LPNs also decide to pursue additional training so that they can become registered nurses or doctors.