Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

‚ÄčLicensed practical nurses (LPNs) are the entry level of the profession. In Iowa they are responsible for utilizing their nursing knowledge and skills to care for the sick, injured, convalescent, and disabled under the direction of physicians or registered nurses in structured health care settings.

What do LPNs do?

The LPN works with other licensed health care professionals to assess clients (patients) as well as to coordinate and implement nursing care. Responsibilities may range from:

  • direct client care, including such skills as
    • measuring vital signs
    • bathing
    • feeding and toileting clients
    • medication administration
    • preparing and giving injections
    • complex dressing changes
    • supervising nursing assistants
    • administering CPR

The above is only a partial listing of LPN duties. To learn more, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses.

The U.S. Department of Labor's O*NET OnLine provides comprehensive information on key characteristics of workers and occupations. Information on Licensed Practical Nursing.

LPNs are professionally responsible for their actions and must function within the legal guidelines of the Board of Nursing of the state in which they practice, as well as within the ethical guidelines of the nursing profession. Learn more about the Iowa Board of Nursing's guidelines for LPNs

Return to top

Where do LPNs work?

The Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) practices in a variety of arenas including:

  • long-term care (nursing homes and other non-acute care nursing facilities)
  • community care
    • physician's offices
    • patient's homes
    • outpatient care centers
    • school systems
    • industry
    • correctional facilities
    • community mental health
  • acute care (hospitals)
  • chronic care (kidney dialysis centers)

Depending on the care setting, LPN's may care for groups of four or more people at a time. The ability to do critical thinking and to solve problems while caring for individuals is vital for the practical nurse.

Return to top

Job Outlook and Salaries for LPNs

Currently the job outlook for LPNs is very bright, particularly in the areas of long term care, physicians' offices and home health care. Average starting salary for LPNs is $33,345 (based on DMACC's 2010-2011 Placement Report). More information on wages and employment is available at the O*Net OnLine site.

Return to top

Training Programs for Practical Nurses

Practical Nursing - Diploma - programs prepare students for the role of the Practical Nurse at a basic level and are typically a one-year course of study. They are available at vocational/technical schools, community and junior colleges, hospitals, colleges and universities. For a list of approved programs in Iowa, visit the Iowa Board of Nursing website.

Return to top

What is the difference between an LPN and an RN?

Briefly, the difference is the length and depth of training and the scope of practice. The educational program for RNs is two to four times longer than LPNs. This expanded time provides RN graduates with additional training in advanced skills, procedures, therapies and a deeper fund of nursing knowledge. The Iowa Board of Nursing specifies that the LPN shall not perform any activity requiring the knowledge and skill ascribed to the registered nurse. The limitations in LPNs activities generally pertain to

  • intravenous therapy
  • formulation of nursing diagnoses
  • practicing with supervision of a physician or RN
  • supervision of others

They are specified by the Iowa Board of Nursing in the "Nurse Practice Act for Registered Nurses/Licensed Practical Nurses."

Return to top

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition internet site was used as a source for some of the information on this page.