How To Become an LPN (Including Frequently Asked Questions)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're empathetic and enjoy taking care of people, a job in healthcare may be the right choice for you. Knowing more about different roles in healthcare, such as a licensed practical nurse, can help you choose a career path suited to your skills and experience. In this article, we look at what a licensed practical nurse (LPN) does, their average salary, working conditions, how to become an LPN, and answer frequently asked questions you may have about the process.

Related: How To Choose a Career Path in 10 Easy Steps

What is a licensed practical nurse?

A licensed practical nurse is a healthcare professional who works with doctors and registered nurses to provide patient care. They attend to a patient's basic needs by completing the following tasks:

  • Helping patients with their hygiene activities, such as bathing or teeth brushing

  • Monitoring patients' vitals and progress

  • Updating patients' families about their condition and how to care for them

  • Assisting doctors and registered nurses with implementing treatment plans

  • Updating patient charts with observations about their condition to communicate with the doctors and registered nurses

  • Performing routine tests such as collecting blood for the lab to run tests on

  • Dressing wounds and applying bandages

Average salary for an LPN

The national average salary for licensed practical nurses is $54,339 per year. Many licensed practical nurses work overtime, nights and weekends to care for their patients, with many employers offering shift differentials based on when you work, so the average annual salary can vary significantly. The salary of LPNs may also vary based on their location, experience, and employer.

Related: How To Negotiate Salary (With Examples)

What are an LPN's working conditions?

A licensed practical nurse can work in any healthcare facility, such as hospitals, rehabilitation centres, doctors' offices, nursing homes, or even in patients' homes. They often work irregular hours, such as morning shifts one week and overnight shifts the next, to ensure patients are being taken care of at all times. It's common for LPNs to see multiple patients per day, so they spend a lot of time on their feet visiting patients' rooms and performing routine care.

LPNs work closely with registered nurses and doctors to assist them and implement treatment plans. They may act as a liaison between doctors and the patient's family to help family members understand diagnoses or treatment plans, so excellent communication skills are a must.

How to become an LPN

If you're considering becoming a licensed practical nurse, here are the steps you can take to do so:

1. Get a high school diploma or GED

To get into a licensed practical nursing program, you must earn a high school diploma or GED first. Try to take relevant courses in high school, such as biology or chemistry, and focus on getting good grades in these subjects. This may help you earn acceptance into a nursing program. If you can, volunteering while you're in high school can also improve your chances. Consider volunteering at nursing homes or hospitals to get some experience in the industry.

2. Complete a licensed practical nursing program

In your final year of high school, you can start applying to licensed practical nursing programs. Most colleges across the country offer the program, which typically takes a year and a half to two years to complete. In the program, you'll likely have a mix of theoretical instruction and clinical or lab experience. This gives you the foundational and practical knowledge you need to succeed as a licensed practical nurse.

3. Register with your province or territory's regulatory board

Once you complete a licensed practical nursing program, you can register with your province or territory's regulatory board. This makes you a licensed practical nurse, allowing you to move on to the next step. Every regulatory body's exact requirements vary, so be sure to research the specifics for the province or territory in which you want to work.

4. Pass the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Examination

Once you register with your province or territory's regulatory board, they will send you an authorization to test email. This allows you to schedule an appointment to take the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Examination (CPRNE). The examination occurs at set times of the year in examination centres across the country, so it's important you register for one near you as soon as you can to ensure you have a spot.

The CRNE consists of up to 170 multiple-choice questions and you usually have four hours to answer them all. If you don't pass, you must wait at least 60 days to complete the exam again. Consider studying and planning ahead of time so you can have the best chance of passing the exam the first time you attempt it.

5. Consider pursuing a specialty

Licensed practical nurses typically work in general medicine, but you can specialize in a certain category as well. Enhance your knowledge and clinical practice with a certificate program in areas such as mental health, palliative care, wound care, or chronic disease management. This can make you a more appealing candidate to employers, helping you differentiate yourself from others applying for the same positions.

6. Create your resume

To apply for licensed practical nurse jobs, consider creating an updated resume with your new credentials. As your educational background is one of the first things employers check for, and is often a requirement for the positions, include your credentials at the top of your resume to highlight them. Then, include your work experience and skills you learned in the program.

Look through licensed practical nurse job postings to see what skills or attributes employers mention a lot. If you have them, highlight those skills or attributes in your resume. It's best to create a unique resume for every job so you can cater your resume to the specific position you're applying for. This also allows you to include specific keywords that employers are looking for, improving your chances of getting an interview.

Related: How To Write a Nursing Resume (With Tips and Example)

7. Apply for openings

With your updated resume you can now apply for openings in your area. Look through job boards or on specific healthcare facility websites for openings. Ensure you include everything the employer is looking for in your application. For example, some may want you to include a resume and cover letter, while others want you to fill out an application form. This improves your chances of hiring managers considering your application, as it shows you can follow direction.

8. Do well in your interview

If your applications are successful, you may start receiving interview requests. Prepare for your interview beforehand by considering common and role-specific interview questions. Interviewers want to get to know you, but they also want to test your technical knowledge to ensure you can take care of patients properly. Preparing potential answers ahead of time helps you feel more confident in the interview. Ensure you arrive early and dress professionally as well. This shows employers you have good time-management skills and can represent the company well.

Related: 13 Nursing Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

Frequently asked questions about becoming a licensed practical nurse

To help you determine if becoming an LPN is the right choice for you, here are some answers to frequently asked questions you may have:

What skills does a licensed practical nurse need?

A successful licensed practical nurse should have the following skills and attributes:

  • Compassion: To take care of patients properly, you must be compassionate. Being compassionate allows you to understand your patients better, build trusting relationships with patients, and determine the best way to care for your patients.

  • Communication: You may need to be in constant communication with doctors, other nurses, patients, and families, so excellent communication skills are a must. Written communication skills also help you write detailed reports and update patient files.

  • Stamina: You spend most of your shift as a licensed practical nurse on your feet, which can be as long as 10 or 12 hours. You may also have to lift or transport patients too, and physical stamina can help you perform these tasks.

  • Attention to detail: To follow a doctor's treatment plan carefully, you must have good attention to detail. Being detail-oriented can help ensure that doctors and other healthcare professionals have the most accurate information about the patient so they can perform their own tasks.

  • Ability to work well under pressure: A healthcare facility is a high-pressure environment, as physicians must be quick to care for patients.

Related: How To Improve Your Skill Set and Keep Skills Current

What is the difference between a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and a Registered Nurse (RN)?

Licensed practical nurses and registered nurses are similar, as they both care for patients, but LPNs receive less training so they provide more basic and foundational nursing care. LPNs focus more on keeping patients comfortable and assisting doctors or registered nurses. RNs have more responsibilities and independence as they complete tasks, such as administering medication, performing diagnostic tests, and overseeing the work of LPNs.

Explore more articles