Licensed practical nurses (NOC 3233)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) provide nursing care. They may work as part of a team, taking direction from doctors or registered nurses. They can also make certain nursing decisions on their own. This group includes operating room technicians, who are LPNs with additional training.

Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a licensed practical nurse is like.

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Licensed practical nurse


Common job titles
  • CNA (certified nursing assistant)
  • LPN (licensed practical nurse)
  • nursing assistant (registered - Québec)
  • operating room technician - nursing
  • RNA (registered nursing assistant)
  • RPN (registered practical nurse)

Duties

Licensed practical nurses:

  • Provide nursing care to stable patients
  • Take vital signs
  • Collect specimens
  • Take steps to control infection
  • Manage patient diets
  • Give medication and record its effects
  • Apply sterile dressings
  • Provide care before and after an operation
  • Check on respiratory and intravenous therapy
  • Monitor patient progress
  • Consult with doctors and registered nurses

Operating room technicians:

  • Wash and sterilize patients’ skin to prepare them for surgery
  • Prepare operating rooms by laying out instruments, setting up equipment and sterilizing instruments and equipment
  • Help surgical teams with gowns and gloves

Work environment

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) may work in hospitals, long-term care homes, doctors’ offices, clinics, extended care facilities, acute care centres, community hospices or private homes. They usually work eight- to 12-hour shifts on rotation, including weekends, evenings and holidays.

LPNs can be exposed to infectious diseases, radiation and chemicals, so they must follow strict rules to prevent infection and injury. They can become fatigued from long shifts and lengthy periods of standing and walking. They may get back injuries from lifting or moving patients, although electric beds and lifts have greatly reduced this risk. They may also have to deal with violent patients.

In addition, LPNs must cope with the emotional aspects of working with the sick, injured and terminally ill, as well as with patients’ families.

Insights from industry

B.C. faces a shortage of licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and too few new graduates to fill the demand. As the province’s population grows and ages, this demand is increasing.

Demand is greatest in areas with many extended care and long-term care facilities and larger acute care hospitals. Specialty areas, such as emergency and pediatric wards and operating rooms, will also have high demand. LPNs with more education, like an immunization certification course or a leadership post-certificate course, tend to have especially good job prospects.

In recent years, the scope of LPNs’ duties has expanded. Their work now includes areas such as mental health, community and pharmacology studies.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Some people work as health-care aides before becoming licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

Once licensed, LPNs can broaden their options through additional training and experience. Some LPNs become operating room technicians. Others specialize in areas such as emergency care, intensive care, maternity, pediatrics or community health. LPNs with experience in specialty areas may choose self-employment, offering services such as foot care, health consultation, or skin and wound care.

LPNs with the Provincial Instructor Diploma can work in colleges that teach home support, resident care attendants and practical nurses. With leadership training, LPNs may move into management roles such as director of care, site leader, shift co-ordinator or supervisor of unregulated care providers. LPNs can also study to become registered nurses.

Educational bridging programs make it easier for workers to advance to higher-level positions. Bridging allows resident care aides to take a shorter practical nursing program. Bridging also offers LPNs a one-year advanced credit for bachelor of nursing programs.

Additional resources