4 False Assumptions About an LPN Career
You’ve always wanted to work in the medical field—of that much you’re certain. This stems from your passion for caring for people and your knack for details and multitasking. You’re considering becoming a nurse, but there are so many different nursing careers and credentials.
If jumping right into a career as a registered nurse (RN) sounds a bit daunting, don’t worry! Becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) may be the perfect first step for you. An LPN nurse practices many of the same duties as an RN, but are generally under the supervision of RNs as well as physicians.
An LPN career will not only grant you the job security you’re seeking, but it will help equip you with the valuable skills and experience needed to advance your nursing career down the road if you so choose.
But many nursing hopefuls avoid the LPN route because of some common misconceptions about the position. If you’re one of those skeptics, then this article is for you. We’re here to set the record straight about four fallacies that may be deterring you from pursuing an LPN career. But first, let’s take a quick look at the role of an LPN nurse.
What is an LPN, exactly?
Researching the LPN definition will inform you that licensed practical nurses are sometimes referred to as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). But beyond the job title, what role do these healthcare professionals play in the medical field?
LPN nurses provide care for the sick or injured. They work alongside RNs to follow a care plan for each patient. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), LPNs are typically responsible for the following tasks:1
- Monitoring basic patient health such as vital signs and overall condition
- Providing personal care, such as helping with bathing and toileting
- Taking patient histories and maintaining documentation
- Changing dressings or inserting catheters
- Assisting with tests or procedures
- Consulting with RNs on care plans
As you can see from the list above, an LPN role involves a combination of patient care and administrative tasks. If this blend of duties appeals to you, don’t let any misconceptions you’ve heard keep you from pursuing this profession.
4 Misconceptions about LPN nurses
Before eliminating the option of becoming an LPN, let us help you clear up any confusion that may be keeping you from considering this career path.
1. They really just want to be RNs
While an LPN career is a great way to get started on your dream to become an RN, not all licensed practical nurses view it as a transitional role. For individuals who just want an opportunity to help others while supporting their family, it’s a fast and fulfilling option.
Most LPN programs can be completed in as few as 12 months.2 What's even more exciting is that the median annual salary in 2017 was $45,030, as reported by the BLS.1 For many who choose this route, it provides an ideal work-life balance, saving time and money that can be reallocated to family.
2. LPN jobs are drying up
You may have heard claims that the healthcare industry is beginning to phase out positions for LPN nurses. The truth is that as long as there is still a nursing shortage, there will be a need for licensed practical nurses. In fact, the BLS projects LPN employment will increase at the faster-than-average rate of 12 percent through 2026.1
It’s true that LPN employment has decreased in the hospital setting, but there are still plenty of opportunities elsewhere. The BLS reports that in 2016, most LPN nurses (38 percent) were working in nursing and residential care facilities.1
As the baby boomer population continues to age, many LPNs are nearing the age of retirement, leaving vacant positions for future nurses. LPNs will also be needed to help provide care for older patients in home health environments and long-term care facilities.
3. An LPN is not a “real” nurse
While they have different titles, it’s important to recognize that both RNs and LPNs fall under the umbrella of nursing. It’s true that there are certain RN duties that LPNs are not permitted to do on their own, such as administering IV drugs or completing a health assessment. But as you learned above, LPN nurses still have their fair share of responsibilities.
From taking vitals and recording medical histories to inserting catheters and collecting specimens, it’s clear that LPNs are more than just helpers in the exam rooms. The bottom line is that LPNs are most definitely “real” nurses. (After all, that’s what the “N” stands for!)
4. It’s inferior to an RN
Just because you can complete your LPN training in as few as 12 months doesn’t mean it’s an easy or lesser path.2 You’ll need to pass the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) test, pass Nursing school and sit for the NCLEX-PN® exam to qualify as a licensed practical nurse. We haven’t even reached the part about finding a job.
Needless to say, becoming an LPN is no easy feat. In fact, it’s quite an accomplishment—the fact that it takes less time than becoming an RN or an MD does not take away from the dedication and achievement of launching an LPN career.
Longing to be an LPN?
Becoming an LPN nurse is a great option to get your foot in the door of the growing healthcare industry. What’s more is that you’ll be making a living doing what you love—caring for others.
Don’t let others convince you that an LPN career is “less than” other medical careers. It’s a fantastic option for those looking to enter the nursing field in a fast and flexible manner.
Are you convinced this is the nursing career path for you? Learn how you can get started in our article, “How to Become an LPN: 5 Steps to Earning Your Scrubs.”
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed September 13, 2018]. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and include workers at all levels of education and experience. Ranges do not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Time to completion is dependent on the number of transfer credits accepted and courses completed each term.
NCLEX-PN® is a registered trademark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in July 2014. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2018.