Career Options for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)
Updated February 22, 2023
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can work in a variety of specialties and in different settings, allowing for flexibility when it comes to finding the right job. While many LPNs spend their careers working at elder care facilities, they also work at hospitals, clinics, schools, theme parks and homes, and they also have the background to pursue other career paths as well.
In this article, we explain the role of LPNs and discuss some of the places LPNs work, plus we take a look at a few career options for LPNs if they wish to transition at some point in their career.
The role of LPNs
A licensed practical nurses, or LPN, also known as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), is a type of nurse who helps patients with eating, mobility and other activities to take care of themselves. They also take vital signs, monitor patients' health, update records and administer medication.
LPNs complete a one- or two-year college program and fulfill the licensing requirements for their state to qualify to work as nurses. Some LPNs also have optional certificates in specialty areas if they've decided they want to focus their career in a particular direction.
Some of the most common places for an LPN to work are at a nursing home, assisted living facility or retirement home to assist elderly people with their care. There are other workplaces where many LPNs can find work, including facilities that require a medical professional like an LPN to be present. LPNs can also use their knowledge and experience to pursue other positions in health care management or education.
Read more: Learn How to Become an LPN
Where can LPNs and LVNs work?
Here are some places where an LPN can find work:
Caring for elderly or disabled people in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or retirement homes can be common work for an LPN. These are facilities that often require a lot of nursing help for patients requiring anything from regular check-ups to around-the-clock care. It's possible for an LPN to even get a certificate in gerontology, or elderly care if that's a field in which they want to specialize.
Read More: 22 Specialty Certifications for LPNs
Hospice involves end-of-life care for terminally ill patients. LPNs working in hospice help ease patients' symptoms, monitor their condition and offer comfort to patients and their loved ones. Some elder care facilities may have a hospice area or LPNs interested in working in hospice can work at hospice-only facilities. They may also provide at-home hospice care for patients who require it.
Doctors' offices of all types can use the help of LPNs with patients and behind the scenes. LPNs working at a practice like this can give medications, take vitals and assist with testing or handle patient-facing clerical duties. A few benefits of an LPN working at a doctor's office include consistent schedules and opportunities for specialization.
Many hospitals utilize LPNs in a variety of departments, but the emergency room (ER) is an area in which hospitals frequently place LPNs. ER nurses provide care to patients in critical condition facing time-sensitive or severe issues.
It's a fast-paced environment, and the schedule may include overnight shifts. Wound care would be a particular area of focus for LPNs working in the ER. Other hospital departments that LPNs can work in include labor and delivery, oncology and pediatrics.
Forensic health facilities
When a victim incurs injuries during a crime, a forensic nurse may treat and evaluate the victim. An LPN in this field may help collect evidence from a victim's body, document and analyze injuries and assist a coroner in their investigation. LPNs with an interest in criminal justice and victim advocacy might take interest in this specific role.
Related: How To Become a Forensic Nurse
Home health services
There are many people who require the assistance of an LPN at home. Home health LPNs assist these patients with routine health care activities, like administering medication, taking blood pressure, evaluating their health and caring for their mental health. LPNs interested in working with fewer patients on more of a one-on-one basis could work with a home health care agency, which may place them with patients.
Related: 10 Tips for Home Health Nurses
Occupational health services
Companies with a high risk of injury among employees, like factories, employ nurses to care for employees who face injuries on the job. These nurses may also educate employees on workplace safety to reduce the likelihood of injury. In this type of environment, the LPN may work independently, and they might refer employees to other providers and specialists if more advanced care is necessary.
Insurance companies often keep LPNs on staff to help assess claims that involve medical records. For instance, a health insurance or worker's compensation insurance firm might have a department of LPNs who review the records to assist the claims adjusters in deciding on claims.
Administration or management departments at facilities
LPNs can work in clerical and administrative roles at hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities. They may update patient records and prepare patients to see the physician. LPNs who want to exercise their leadership skills and use their knowledge of medical conditions to improve health care facilities might enjoy working in administration or management.
All theme parks have a first aid station, and LPNs can be among the staff there dedicated to treating guests' medical needs. Most of these injuries are mild and require minimal care, but it's important to have a licensed care provider to handle any unexpected medical issues. LPNs can help park guests feel safe and comfortable during their time at the park and ensure parks protect themselves legally.
Mental health facilities
Mental health facilities, including psychiatric wards in hospitals, addiction centers and psychiatric hospitals, provide medical care to their patients. For this reason, these facilities often hire LPNs to assist with the care of psychiatric patients, particularly those with physical ailments, and the mental health care they require. LPNs in this role collaborate with psychiatrists to assess and care for patients with mild to severe mental health conditions.
School systems often have a nurse who cares for students if they require medical assistants while at school. A large part of this job includes assessing if a student can return to class or if it's better for them to go home or seek additional medical care. An LPN in this position treats minor medical issues, dresses small wounds and performs regular tests on hearing and sight as needed.
Related: How To Become a School Nurse
Universities typically have a student health department where students can seek accessible medical care in a doctor's office provided by the university. The work of an LPN in this type of clinic is typically similar to the work of an LPN at an urgent care or family medicine clinic. These LPNs take vitals, administer medications and assist doctors in the overall care of patients.
Dialysis centers are facilities where patients with kidney disease receive dialysis treatment, which removes toxins and waste from the blood for patients with kidney conditions. Some LPNs work in a dialysis center, while others may assist with dialysis in a hospital or the patient's home.
They focus on readying patients for dialysis, care for them during treatment, monitoring them and preparing them to leave after treatment. To ensure they have the proper qualifications for this role, LPNs can get a certification in intravenous (IV) therapy, as dialysis requires an IV.
Travel nursing companies
Travel nurses work at facilities all over the world, as there is great demand for nurses working temporarily to assist at understaffed hospitals and clinics. LPNs who work as travel nurses can expect to change locations every few months, though some assignments only last about two weeks.
For international work, LPNs might stay in one location for up to a year, while domestic travel nurses work at one facility for about 13 weeks. For LPNs who want to travel, this is a great option.
Jails and other correctional facilities require healthcare staff to treat incarcerated people. Some conditions may require outside assistance at a medical facility, but most correctional facilities have doctors and nurses on-site to treat common issues. For juvenile detention facilities, LPNs can earn certification in pediatrics to best care for these younger incarcerated patients.
3 career options for LPNs
Below are three positions you might consider pursuing if you're an LPN who wants to expand or transition your career:
National average salary: $69,015 per year
Primary duties: Medical writers draft and edit content about health care and medicine for publications like scholarly journals, textbooks, websites and brochures. They might also write content for government agencies explaining policies, instructions and recommendations for public health. Their duties typically include performing research, working with editors and fact-checking information.
National average salary: $78,092 per year
Primary duties: A nurse educator teaches vital nursing skills to nursing students in an educational environment. They're typically responsible for a mixture of classroom instructions like lectures, tests and assignments, and clinical instruction for hands-on practice in a health care setting. Nurse educators make lesson plans, set learning objectives, give targeted feedback to students and grade student work.
Read more: Learn About Being a Nurse Educator
National average salary: $84,474 per year
Primary duties: A nurse manager oversees teams of nurses and strategies to optimize operations for a health care facility. They can work for clinics, hospitals, private practices and rehab centers. They might hire and train staff, manage budgets, respond to patient feedback and implement measures to ensure high-quality and safe care.
For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link(s) provided.
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