Practical Nursing License and Credential Information

Sep 16, 2019

Practical nurses assist with basic care and help bathe, feed, and move patients. They may also be required to collect blood or urine samples and record health information. They work under the supervision of doctors and registered nurses.

Essential Information

Training programs for entry-level nurses, also known as practical nurses, are offered by hospitals, vocational schools and community colleges. All practical nurses must secure a state license , which can be obtained by completing an approved education program and passing a national exam. Licensed nurses can also become certified in a specialty area, such as geriatric care.

Education Certificate or diploma program in practical nursing
Exam Requirements Passage of the National Council Licensure Exam for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN)
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses
Mean Annual Salary (2018)* $46,240 for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Practical Nursing License Information

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) assists with basic care, such as bathing, feeding or moving patients. Under the supervision of doctors and registered nurses, LPNs also might record health information or collect blood and urine samples.

Practical nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for practical nurses (NCLEX-PN) in order to be licensed by their states. The NCLEX-PN exam is computerized and covers the knowledge and skills necessary to attend to patient needs.

Education Requirements for Licensure

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all states require LPNs to complete a training program before becoming licensed. A certificate or diploma program in practical nursing typically can be completed in a year. Coursework generally covers subjects like math, anatomy and physiology, nursing theory and pharmacology. Programs usually include a clinical practicum that provides real-world experience, such as training in surgical nursing at a hospital.

Credential Information for Practical Nurses

After a practical nurse obtains a license, he or she can seek certification to demonstrate competency in a particular specialty. The National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service (NAPNES) administers a certification exam in pharmacology that is required by many employers. Additionally, the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses (NFLPN) awards certification in IV (intravenous) therapy to LPNs upon successful completion of an exam. The BLS reports that some states allow licensed nurses to dispense drugs, including administering them intravenously.

LPNs who care for elderly patients can apply for certification in gerontology from the NFLPN. Additionally, NAPNES offers certification for nurses involved in the long-term care of patients with chronic illnesses. As with other certifications, candidates must pass an exam in order to be awarded the gerontology or long-term care credentials. Certified nurses usually are required to take continuing education courses in their field of specialization in order to maintain certification.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information for Practical Nurses

Licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses are expected to see a growth much faster than the national average through 2028. The BLS also projects the field will add 78,100 new jobs over that decade. In May 2018, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $62,160 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $33,680 or less per year.

A certificate or diploma in nursing is required to be a practical nurse. Practical nurses must also pass the National Council Licensure Exam for practical nurses (NCLEX-PN) to fulfill state licensing requirements. It is also possible for licensed practical nurses to pursue certification in a specialization, such as gerontology or chronic illness.

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