LPN Responsibilities & Challenges

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LPNs care for patients in a variety of settings.

Working as a licensed practical nurse, also known as LPN or LVN (licensed vocational nurse) can be both rewarding and stressful. The responsibilities of an LPN are usually carried out under the supervision of a registered nurse, nurse practitioner or physician. These responsibilities can vary from one state to another, and may also vary considerably from one place of employment to another.

  1. Job Description and Responsibilities

    • The main responsibilities of a licensed practical nurse involve direct patient care. This can include helping patients with eating, bathing and dressing, and it can include measuring vital signs such as pulse or blood pressure. These nurses may dress wounds, monitor catheters and dispense medication. LPNs are responsible for observing signs and symptoms of patients assigned to them, and for reporting any abnormalities to the doctor or registered nurse. Licensed practical nurses often record information about patients on their charts. Practical nurses may be involved in educating family members regarding care of their loved ones, particularly patients who suffer from long-term disabilities. Experienced LPNs may serve as charge nurses and may supervise nursing assistants.

    Physical Challenges

    • Practical nursing can be a physically challenging job. LPNs are often expected to work long hours, and the job usually requires long periods of walking and standing. Patients sometimes need to be lifted and repositioned, which can lead to back injuries. Practical nurses may be exposed to infectious diseases.

    Mental Challenges

    • Working as an LPN can be mentally challenging at times. Nurses who work in chronic care settings may develop relationships with patients who eventually become more and more disabled or eventually die. LPNs who work in emergency rooms may be exposed to traumatic injuries. Licensed practical nurses may also feel stressed by heavy workloads or by patients who are confused, difficult or uncooperative.


    • LPNs can work in a variety of setting. The responsibilities of practical nurses who work in a specialized setting may be very different from LPNs who work in a generalized setting. For example, an LPN who works for patients in a home care setting would be able to give care that is much more individualized than an LPN in a nursing home setting is able to give. Practical nurses may be employed in any part of a hospital, including emergency departments, psychiatric units and pediatric units, and they may also work in clinics and doctor's offices. Tasks may vary considerably based on setting and specialty.

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