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How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse

3 min readApril, 28 2023

Nursing is a rewarding field with plenty of room for personal and professional growth. Choosing the right nursing career pathway starts your profession on the right foot. To become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), you must complete an LPN training program and pass a licensing test.

Becoming an LPN involves less time and expense than becoming a registered nurse (RN). That makes it an excellent option if you're interested in becoming a nurse but want to start working as soon as possible. LPN-to-RN bridge programs can help you advance if you decide to complete a more intensive nurse training program later.

What Is an LPN?

A licensed practical nurse is a health care professional responsible for basic patient care and comfort. LPNs are essential to the patient experience and work closely with RNs and physicians. They monitor a patient's status, manage basic care, and keep up-to-date medical records. An LPN is often a patient's primary point of contact and can relay the patient's concerns to the rest of the care team.

What Do LPNs Do?

An LPN performs tasks such as taking vital signs, administering medication, placing catheters, dressing wounds, and carrying out health care instructions created by the RN, physician, and other care team members. An LPN typically works under an RN's direct supervision and assists patients in daily routines like eating, dressing, and bathing.

The Difference Between an LPN and LVN

Licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) perform similar job functions and have the same education requirements. The main distinction is the title based on the state where they work. California and Texas use the term LVN while all other states refer to these entry-level nurses as LPNs.

The Difference Between an LPN and RN

RNs receive more training than LPNs and, as a result, have more responsibilities. A registered nurse works with physicians, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and a team of specialists to develop a patient care plan that the LPN helps to execute.

LPN Schooling and Training Requirements

An LPN in green scrubs is sitting beside an elderly patient in a waiting area, both wearing masks. The nurse is holding a clipboard and attentively discussing the information with the patient, who is gesturing towards the clipboard and appears to be actively involved in the conversation.

Becoming a licensed practical nurse is a relatively quick way to start a nursing career. The general LPN requirements include the following:

  • Earning a high school diploma or GED
  • Completing a vocational training course
  • Passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN)

Before beginning your studies or employment, you may need to pass a background check or basic skills test. LPN education covers theoretical training and various practical skills for nurses. The licensing exam ensures you have the skills and knowledge to work safely as a nurse.

How Long Does It Take to Become an LPN?

The process to become an LPN takes at least a year. An LPN training program through a community college or technical school typically runs for about twelve months. You'll then need to pass the NCLEX-PN, so thoroughly prepare for the exam and check for testing dates and locations in your area. If you don't pass the NCLEX-PN exam, don't worry, you'll be able to retake the test after 45 days.


Images sourced from Getty Images

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