LPN Employment Outlook: 2018 to Future

Licensed Practical Nurses, or LPNs, are nurses who perform direct patient care in a variety of healthcare settings. Nurses have always been in demand, but especially so during wartime.  Towards the end of WWII, nurses were in such high demand that accelerated educational programs were developed to churn nurses out quickly into the workforce and official licensing of nurses began soon after.

Today, to some it may seem that LPNs numbers are dwindling. This may be because LPNs are being shifted out of the hospital setting. In fact, there was a 47% reduction of LPNs in the hospital setting between 1984 and 2005. This decline is due to several reasons. First, there were overall staffing cuts to hospitals which affected many types of staff (including RNs and LPNs). Also, hospitals shifted from a “team nursing” model where RNs, LPNs, and nurse’s aides are assigned to a group of patients, to a primary care model. Rather than a team of nurses assigned to a group of patients, one nurse is assigned and responsible for all care. Primary care nurses, based on scope of practice, needed to be RNs.

Due to the transition from team to primary care, LPNs were shifted to the outpatient setting. So, while not prevalent in hospitals, they are very prominent in skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, home health, and retirement communities.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the highest level of employment for LPNs is in Nursing Care Facilities (38%) compared to the hospital setting (16%).

Some prospective nursing students find out that LPNs are rarely hired into the hospital setting. This can be discouraging for some. New nurses are often drawn to the excitement and higher acuity in the hospital setting, and therefore may choose to go straight for an RN degree.

However, even to this day, the demand for nurses including LPNs is ongoing The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there is an expected 12% growth of LPNs until 2026, a growth that is faster than average. The BLS also reports the states with the highest employment levels are:

The U.S. still faces a nursing shortage, primarily due to increased demand for services coupled with a large number of nurses retiring from the workforce.  Existing nurses are overworked and getting burned out. LPNs are a quick, cost-effective solution to meet the growing need for nurses in the United States. Those who have been in the nursing field for many years know that everything is cyclic-LPNs may make a comeback in hospitals again in the future as more and more RNs retire, and the general population continues to age.

There are still plenty of leadership roles for LPN's and countless reason to continue striving to become an LPN.