How to become a licensed practical nurse in 3 steps

Updated 5 September 2023

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is an entry-level nursing position that involves caring for the sick and injured. LPNs usually follow the directives of a doctor or registered practical nurse (RN) in caring for patients. To start a nursing career within a short period with less financial strain, becoming a licensed practical nurse may be the ideal option. Although some nurses work as LPNs throughout their careers, being an LPN nurse can lead to opportunities in high-level nursing roles. In this article, we discuss the skills to become a licensed practical nurse, how to find jobs as an LPN and how to further your nursing career.

What does a licensed practical nurse do?

Here are some of the day-to-day duties a licensed practical nurse performs:

  • administering medicine, assisting in feeding and cleaning after patients

  • providing first aid treatment for patients

  • taking records of a patient's health progress

  • communicating with families of patients on the treatment procedure and health situation of the patient

  • collaborating with doctors, nurses and other caregivers to provide the best healthcare for their patients

  • bathing and clothing patients

  • monitoring a patient's vital signs, including their heart rate, tolerance to food and medicine and their all-round comfort levels

  • dressing injuries and changing dressings on patients

  • keeping a record of a patient's medical history


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How to become a licensed practical nurse

When you're looking into a new profession, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Follow these tips to find out how to become a licensed practical nurse:

1. Develop empathy for the sick

Here are tips for having empathy:

  • Love to help: The sick and the elderly may require constant help to perform simple tasks, including taking their medicine, eating or putting on their robe. Being a licensed practical nurse can be rewarding when you love to help people.

  • Understand the pain points of patients: Sometimes, patients can hardly explain the source or extent of their pain. It may take some time and a deeper understanding of patients to know when they are hurt.

  • Have a keenness to see patients recover: Seeing a patient recover after fighting an illness can be rewarding for both the patient and the caregiver. Being keen to see patients get better can help you put more effort into caring for them.

2. Earn an LPN diploma

A GCSE certificate may be necessary to apply for LPN training. You may only be required to complete a short nursing course accredited by the governing bodies, which typically lasts 12 months. Some of these courses cover health topics in biology, nursing and practical training, including CPR and vital signs monitoring. These courses can be taken online or in local colleges. You earn a practical nursing diploma or practice certificate upon completing the training.

3. Look for practical nursing jobs

After completing LPN training, you are awarded the certifications to practice nursing in the UK. You can begin to look for LPN jobs in the UK upon receiving your certificate or diploma. A licensed practical nurse can work in many organisations to provide care for sick or injured patients. These are some of the places where a licensed practical nurse in the UK can get a job:


Many practical nurses work in hospitals. In a hospital, a licensed practical nurse works with or under registered nurses and doctors to provide health care for patients. Their duties include providing healthcare for patients and updating their families on their health progress.

Related: What are the skills and qualities of a good nurse?

Nursing homes

An LPN cares for patients while making sure that they adhere to the instructions of their doctors on medication, sleeping and eating habits. They also help the elderly with their exercise routines and monitor their vital signs. Practical nurses report the patients' medical condition to doctors or superior medical professionals in charge of a patient's treatment.


The military has healthcare jobs for LPNs. You can apply to join the military as an LPN to provide care for the troops on their mission. Your duties may involve treating severe injuries and burns.

Rehabilitation facilities

Patients who undergo rehabilitation from certain habits require constant medical care and observation. LPNs provide medical assistance by administering medicine to patients as directed by a superior medical professional while monitoring their vital signs. This can enable patients to get timely medical aid in times of trauma or illness.

Correctional centres

Correctional facilities have dedicated LPNs who ensure that they receive timely care. These LPNs are called correctional nurses. A correctional nurse can treat injuries, dress wounds and administer medicine to patients or inmates as directed by an RN or a doctor.

Home care

AN LPN can work as a private caregiver in homes or offices. They do this under the guidance of a doctor, and they follow doctors' orders on administering medicine, feeding and caring for patients. Practical nurses who offer exclusive care to patients are called private duty nurses.

Related: How to become a nurse

Skills to become a licensed practical nurse

It takes a combination of the following skills to become an LPN:

  • Communication: Good communication skills can make it easier to convey information to patients from doctors or RNs. When the families of patients make enquiries, excellent communication skills can help LPNs provide information.

  • Attention to detail: LPNs administer medicine and monitor vitals at specific periods as instructed by a doctor. That is why attention to detail is an essential skill for an LPN.

  • Organisational skills: An LPN can juggle multiple duties at once, including filing, addressing the family of a patient and tending to patients. Organisational skills are essential to remain composed and avoid mixing up patients' information.

  • Ethics: LPNs have access to patients' medical records like doctors and registered nurses. Confidentiality and ethics are skills that can help an LPN keep patient and hospital information private.

  • Basic knowledge of healthcare and nursing practices: The LPN training covers the basic aspects of healthcare, similar to those offered to registered nurses. This is why an LPN can administer medication, care for patients with injuries and assist registered nurses with most of their duties.

  • CPR skills: CPR knowledge can help revive a patient with a weak pulse or in a state of shock long enough for a doctor to arrive.

Related: Nursing Skills: Definitions and Examples

Salary for a licensed practical nurse in the UK

Salaries depend on the employer, education and experience levels of an LPN. This means that an LPN can earn more than some RNs. The average yearly salary of a licensed practical nurse in the UK is £16,652.

There are other means of earning significantly more as an LPN. Requesting to work overtime is a common way to earn more. Your ability to convince management that you can handle extra shifts can help you get a favourable response. Taking a step towards becoming an RN or specialising in a discipline can increase your earnings.

Career advancement for a licensed practical nurse

Advancing your nursing career can bring better job opportunities in nursing. Here are the steps you can take to further your career:

Take on more responsibilities

Seek opportunities to care for more patients and volunteer to assist nurses and doctors during advanced procedures. It can help you become more versatile, reliable and knowledgeable. Taking on more responsibilities can also equip you with additional skills, experience and the privilege to partake in advanced procedures. Also, taking more responsibility can help you in choosing an advanced career path in healthcare.

Earn speciality certificates

There are many benefits of having a nursing degree. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is vital to a nursing career development. You may consider adding to your professional qualification by earning speciality certifications for LPNs. Also, you may look at certain advanced nursing disciplines like; paediatric LPN, oncology LPN or ER LPN. A speciality certification can make a transition to other branches of nursing possible. It can afford you the knowledge and tools to specialise in more advanced nursing roles.

Become a registered nurse

Making the transition from LPN to RN is a move that can take you from entry-level to senior-level nursing. Consider becoming an RN to advance your career. Since LPN training takes approximately half the time it takes to become an RN, the transition can be attainable within a relatively short period. Instead of spending four years in the university to earn a BSN, you can earn a Nursing Diploma to become an RN. This way, you may build on your experience as an LPN, and it can take one or two years to complete the training.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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