What Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses Do
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care.
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses work in many settings, including nursing homes and extended care facilities, hospitals, physicians’ offices, and private homes. Most work full time.
How to Become a Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses must complete a state-approved educational program, which typically takes about 1 year to complete. They must be licensed.
The median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses was $47,480 in May 2019.
Employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is projected to grow 9 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the baby-boom population ages, the overall need for healthcare services is expected to increase. LPNs and LVNs will be needed in residential care facilities and in home health environments to care for older patients.
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic medical care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses typically do the following:
- Monitor patients’ health—for example, by checking their blood pressure
- Administer basic patient care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters
- Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as helping them bathe or dress
- Discuss the care they are providing with patients and listen to their concerns
- Report patients’ status and concerns to registered nurses and doctors
- Keep records on patients’ health
Duties of LPNs and LVNs vary, depending on their work setting and the state in which they work. For example, they may reinforce teaching done by registered nurses regarding how family members should care for a relative; help to deliver, care for, and feed infants; collect samples for testing and do routine laboratory tests; or feed patients who need help eating.
LPNs and LVNs may be limited to doing certain tasks, depending on the state where they work. For example, in some states, LPNs with proper training can give medication or start intravenous (IV) drips, but in other states LPNs cannot perform these tasks. State regulations also govern the extent to which LPNs and LVNs must be directly supervised. For example, an LPN may provide certain forms of care only with instructions from a registered nurse.
In some states, experienced licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses supervise and direct other LPNs or LVNs and unlicensed medical staff.
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses held about 721,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses were as follows:
|Nursing and residential care facilities||38%|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||15|
|Offices of physicians||13|
|Home healthcare services||13|
Nurses must often be on their feet for much of the day. They are vulnerable to back injuries, because they may have to lift patients who have trouble moving in bed, standing, or walking. These duties can be stressful, as can dealing with ill and injured people.
Most licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs) work full time. Many work nights, weekends, and holidays, because medical care takes place at all hours. They may be required to work shifts of longer than 8 hours.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses.
For more information about licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses, visit
For more information about the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) and a list of individual state boards of nursing, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/licensed-practical-and-licensed-vocational-nurses.htm (visited ).