What is an LPN and How do you become one? Your Ultimate Guide to Practical Nursing

Jun 26, 2024

Thinking about a healthcare career, but still deciding which path to take? Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) offers a rewarding and practical route to becoming a valuable medical team member. This blog post is your one-stop guide to understanding what practical nurses do, the steps to becoming one, and the key differences between Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses (RNs). We’ll also explore potential salary ranges and future career advancement options.

What is an LPN?

Licensed Practical Nurses are an extremely important part of the healthcare team. They help by providing basic patient care under the supervision of registered nurses and doctors. They work in various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and home health. 

Licensed practical nurses have a lot of responsibilities but their main roles are:

  • Taking vital signs like temperature and blood pressure.
  • Assisting with daily living activities like bathing and dressing.
  • Administering oral and topical medications. Some LPNs also give injections based on certifications.
  • Monitoring patients and reporting changes to RNs and doctors.
  • Educating patients on self-care and treatment plans.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse?

The best part about LPN programs is that they don’t take very long. Programs usually take between 12-18 months to complete and they consist of classroom learning and clinical rotations. Some nurses choose to become LPNs because it takes a lot less time than a 4 year RN degree.  

Average Cost to Become an LPN

The average cost range in the United States is between $12,000 and $15,000 but can vary greatly depending on location and program type. Some schools can cost as much as $30,000 while some cost as little as $4,000. 

What is the Difference Between an LPN and an RN?

Practical Nurses and Registered nurses play crucial roles in patient care, but their responsibilities and educational backgrounds differ. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Education: LPNs complete a diploma or certificate program while RNs require a degree this can either be a bachelor’s degree (BSN) or an associate degree (ADN).
  • Scope of practice: LPNs perform basic tasks under the supervision of RNs, while RNs have a broader scope of practice. Like administering complex medications, developing care plans, and supervising LPNs and nursing assistants.

What is a Practical Nurse’s salary like?

The average salary of an LPN is $53,761 a year. The salary varies heavily depending on location, some of the highest-paying jobs can pay $65,000 a year and the lower ends will pay around $44,000. 

Some people decide to use their license to travel because travel nurse positions tend to pay higher than regular staff jobs.

Here’s a breakdown of the average pay in each state:

Source: Zippia.com Zippia Logo

LPN Schedules Can Be Intimidating

Schedules will vary depending on what type of facility you work in, however, practical nurses are needed 24/7 to provide the best patient care possible. Some nurses choose to work the night shift while others prefer the day shift. 

Like many healthcare providers practical nurses experience significant burnout from long hours and low staff-to-patient ratios, there are many options for them to take control of their schedule through Per Diem (PRN) employment. 

Is Being an LPN a Good Career Choice?

Becoming a practical nurse is a great way to enter the healthcare field, and quickly make a difference in people’s lives, without all of the schooling required to be an RN. Once you know you love it, programs are available to help you bridge the gap between being a practical nurse and a Registered Nurse. This makes it a great choice for people who want to work in healthcare but aren’t 100% sure it is right for them.

See also: Things to Consider Before Becoming a Registered Nurse

Let’s talk About Travel LPNs

Travel LPN going on a hike

It’s not just for RNs –– Practical Nurses can embark on incredible healthcare adventures while experiencing the freedom and flexibility this career path offers. Let’s face it, a potential pay increase is a welcome bonus too!

How Do You Find a LPN Contract?

Think of travel nurse agencies as your captains, guiding you through the application process. They’ll connect you with open positions that match your skills and preferences, negotiate contracts on your behalf, and often provide housing assistance and other perks. Here’s a breakdown of the two main agency types:

  1. The Big Players: National Agencies with Vast Networks National agencies have a wider range of job opportunities thanks to their extensive network of healthcare facilities across the country. These agencies may have less time to provide continued support since they are dealing with nurses and healthcare facilities across the United States.
  2. Local Gems: Regional Agencies with Personalized Touch Local or regional travel agencies like Cascade Health Services can provide a more personalized experience and might specialize in specific healthcare settings you’re interested in. They can also offer valuable insights into nearby travel nurse destinations. Since they focus on individual areas they can spend more time helping you find the perfect match.

How Much Do Travel LPNs Make?

Like most travel positions, pay is based heavily on location, certifications, and experience. The average pay in the United States is $1,195/week, but it can see pay as high as $1,750/week and as low as $635/week. Some things to consider when looking for travel jobs:

Location (specific state and city): Working in high-cost-of-living areas or areas with a shortage of qualified nurses can command higher salaries.

Experience: Travel LPNs with more experience and specialized skills typically earn more.

Facility Type: Working in hospitals often earn more than those working in home health agencies.

Contract Terms: The specific terms of your travel nurse contract, including housing stipends and benefits packages, can also impact your overall compensation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a great resource when you’re researching which states you want to travel to.

What we do

Allied Healthcare & Nurse Staffing Services

Founded in 1988, Cascade Health Services is a leading healthcare and nurse staffing agency in the United States. More than 2,500 nurses, nurse aides and allied health professionals work with Cascade across the nation. We are hiring RN, LPN, LVN, CNA, CMA, CMT and other healthcare professionals for immediate Travel, Contract and PRN jobs in Nursing Homes, Long Term Care Centers, Skilled Nursing Facilities, Assisted Living, Rehabilitation Centers and Hospitals.